The Five Elements of Effective Website Design for Any Business
You want to help your clients design a website that is unique and perfectly tailored to what they do. While each business should strive to find their own vibe and voice for their website, there are some key elements that each site must have for it to be effective.
Today we’ll take a look at the five elements of effective website design for any business, and what you can do to help your clients achieve the best results.
1. A Clear Purpose
Before you dive into picking images, color schemes, and fonts, you want to get really clear on what it is that you want to achieve with your client’s website. And of course that needs to be more specific than “make them more money” or “tell visitors what the business does.”
If your client doesn’t already have a defined value proposition. You’ll want to start there. What is it that makes their business truly stand out from the crowd? Ask their current customers what it is that keeps them coming back, and go from there. Sometimes the answers will surprise you, and then it’s up to you to pivot your approach to meet customers where they are. It’s possible that the differentiator is not even something directly related to the business model.
For example, if your client is a landscaping business, they might think that it’s the quality of their lawn care work that attracts customers. But if you survey their customers and find that what they most appreciate is the ease and flexibility of booking an appointment through their online scheduling and payment portal, then that can be the differentiator you focus on. Every landscaping business can cut your lawn; these guys make the booking and payment process completely hassle-free.
2. A Tone That Matches
Once you understand what makes your client’s business special, you want to hone in on a tone that allows you to tell their unique story. This tone will not only inform your written content, it will inform the design choices as well.
Color scheme, fonts, and images all play a role in setting a brand’s tone. A website with bright neon colors and comic sans font might be right for an online toy retailer but would not be the appropriate choice for a four-star restaurant.
When discussing color scheme, it can be helpful to use a tool like Picular to help you narrow down your options and find colors that work together. Picular is unique in that it allows you to search color schemes based on keywords. Similarly, different fonts have different feels. Google Font provides an overview of the process of picking the best font for each client.
The most important thing with tone is consistency. Making sure that all of the visual and written assets on the website are aligned, and that the brand’s representation on other online platforms (emails, newsletters, social media) conveys the same tone.
3. A Simple Layout
When a business is excited about the great work that they do, they might feel tempted to talk about all of their work, experience, offerings, and success stories on their homepage. But a cluttered site is a major faux pas and can actually drive visitors away.
Before you start creating pages, you’ll want to build a site map. That might sound daunting to a non-website developer, but a site map doesn’t need to be overly complicated. It’s basically an illustration of how the various pages on a website will come together, and it can be a document that’s drawn by hand or one that you create using a site mapping software.
The point of undertaking a site mapping exercise is to understand how all of the individual pages come together to be part of the larger website whole. You want to structure your client’s site with their user in mind. How would you want to navigate the website if you were coming there knowing nothing about the company?
Starting with a homepage that is clear, concise, and has one broad call to action is the way to go. From there, include navigation up at the top that makes it simple for visitors to learn more about specific products, the team, and any other relevant information. Contact information should be included at the footer of each page so that it’s easy for users to get in touch.
Try to keep information on each individual product grouped to one page, rather than spreading it out, so that visitors have all of the information they need in the same place. If a business’s products are complex or have multiple parts that require various pages, consider including breadcrumb navigation at the top of the page so that it’s easy for users to get back to wherever they came from.
4. A Clear Way to Get in Touch
The entire purpose of your client’s website is to generate solid leads and prospects. This means that you need to give visitors a variety of ways to get in touch with the business.
The first step is including contact information on the footer for each page. There’s nothing that’s more frustrating to a visitor than having to scour a website just to find a phone number or email address.
Incorporating chat features has become increasingly popular, and they’re a great way to reduce friction in personally connecting with prospects. There are a number of platforms that allow you to incorporate Facebook messenger into your website, or you can consider a more advanced chatbot option that uses machine learning and AI to guide visitors through a conversation and direct them to their desired information without having to hire a full-time customer service staff to watch for incoming chat questions in real time.
You should also consider incorporating call to action buttons that are specific to each page. The home page should have the most general call to action to entice the broadest number of visitors to the site, but once you get down into more specific content on subpages, you can be more targeted about your CTA offers. For example, the site of a marketing firm might have a general “sign up for our newsletter to learn more about our unique marketing approach” CTA on their homepage, but then on a page about their SEO products and services they might have a CTA that asks visitors to “request a free copy of our SEO guide.”
5. An Embrace of A/B Testing
Once you have your client’s website up and running, things don’t stop there. You’ve put in the legwork to give the site its best chance at success, but even when you start with a value proposition and keep the focus on storytelling and tone, there are going to be some elements of the website that are less successful than others.
This is why A/B testing is a critical element of any website design or redesign. There are a number of free tools that make it easy for you to test different configurations of pages and see what drives the highest number of conversions. Once you understand what’s working and what’s not, you’ll want to not only make the changes to that page, but see if you can take what you learned from A/B testing there and apply it to other pages across the site.
An effective website design is based on meeting the customer’s needs and making it as simple as possible for them to move further down the marketing hourglass. No matter what kind of business you’re designing a website for, sticking to these elements and approaches will allow you to generate better leads and more conversions.
If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Website Design.