It’s the nearest we marketers are allowed to get to organising corporate structure and expressing your identity, as everything about your organisation is laid bare in a website – so it has to be properly considered and presented. A website throws open the corporate doors to visitors, for whom your website will give access to all your products and services, context, people and ethics, customers, factories, offices, vacancies and more.
There’s never been anything quite like websites in the past. The information in brochures was far too minimalist and highly curated to allow such access to prying eyes. In our age of transparency stakeholders are demanding more info, and the website is where they find it. Whether this is down to cause or effect is above my pay scale, but either way it’s a fact of life now.
They can decide if they like or dislike you, want to engage with you or ignore you, buy from you or engage with you. In fact no stakeholder interaction is ignored on your website: it has become the de facto expression of who you are, what you offer and how to engage with you. Open to all, your website expresses how the whole world of stakeholders sees you.
This means it’s very important how you design your site. It’s not something you can skimp on and leave to a bunch of kids working in their back bedrooms like you might have done 10 years ago. It requires a lot of research and planning, discussion and consideration.
So here are our six key elements to underpin your website design:
It is vital to have a clear understanding of your organisation’s history, SWOT factors and of the competitive environment. You also need to know how you are perceived in the marketplace and what your customers really want from you. Without this information you are really blind and the effectiveness of your new website will be down to chance.
Be clear on your objectives for the new website. Trying to be ‘all things to all people’ results in mixed messages and compromised effectiveness. It may be that you need to have a different set of objectives for each area or page: this is okay, as long as you have taken the time to work them out and then ensure that the area works towards those objectives – this is what user experience (UX) is all about.
This is the really important bit. Why should people ‘buy’ from you, or ‘engage’ with you? Without a clear strategy visitors will not have a compelling reason to do this. Your design needs to promote and reflect your strategy above all else. It’s not just about the picture choice, rather the whole design including all the factors in the UX: style, images, layout, navigation, messages, positioning, content, calls to action, etc.
Analyse what has happened on the old website. What were the most common user journeys? What keywords have bought them to the site? Make sure that the new website is designed to build on the good bits and fix the bad bits. Ensure your UX and content responds to the lessons learnt. But also never forget that ‘if you do what you’ve always done you’ll get back what you’ve always got’.
Your new website can be an active ingredient in your marketing communications, not just a support for your other activities. Even if SEO is not in your strategy, don’t lose sight of it – what have you got to lose? Google changed their algorithms in August 2022 to prioritise ‘page experience’, so make sure you know what this entails and how it effects your design.
A key part of your UX, and never lose sight of the fact that your website is a one-to-one communication. You are talking to an individual, who (in B2B) will have special requirements as a particular part of the Decision Making Unit (DMU). It can help to personalise these elements of the DMU using ‘personas’ who embody their specific needs. How your site navigates will reflect this and it’s important to get it right as a frustrated visitor will not become a customer!
Website design is so important that it really requires the input of many people in an organisation – it’s not just about attractive graphics. If you take the six elements above and factor them in to the design process, you will reap what you sow: an effective, wonderful website that takes you to new levels of success. And vice versa.
If you would like to hear me discuss it in more detail with my ‘learned colleagues’ (really – they’re the best!) please do listen to our podcast on the subject. Alternatively, please do contact me directly and as I said at the start of the article, we can have almost as much fun discussing your new website as…
Written by Mark Baines
Now available – Ask the Experts Episode #04:
Podcast by Marcom: May 2023