Knowing where to start can be half the battle for working out a new direction to take. If you're like me, then you've probably experienced the problem of knowing that something needs to change, but you're just not sure what. Well, refill your mechanical pencil, change the batteries in your computer mouse, and turn over a new leaf in your notebook. Here's ten things that you'll definitely need to consider when you're looking at a website redesign for your business. (Or if, like, you think that something is missing from your website but you're not sure what, so you're doing research and hoping something turns up. This will also help you.)
1 - Mobile, Responsive Design
Before we go anywhere, let me ask you something. Does your website have a version for mobile/tablet use? Does the mobile version of your website handle well on mobile phones and tablets? Because if it doesn't, you need to stop sometime close to now and go fix that. Mobile traffic on the internet overtook desktop a significant amount of time ago. If you don't have a mobile-accessible website, you are losing customers, and the customers you are retaining are probably tired of having to put up with what you're offering.
I'm not even talking about a website that can be opened on mobile here. I'm talking about websites that have been built for mobile use from the get go, meaning that they don't just rescale, but that the entire experience is tailored to how we use a handheld device. Scrolling, buttons, menus - the works. You need one of these. Plan for it in your new website, if you haven't already.
2 - Consistent Branding
When you look up a website, can you see its logo? What about its colours? Are the fonts and formatting that they use consistent? They should be. Branding, like correct grammar and spelling, are one of the many tell-tales that customers use to determine whether a business is trustworthy. If your business doesn't have some kind of branding guidelines, you'll be doing yourself a favour if you sit down and define them before launching your new website.
Branding is a subtle way of communicating to your buyers that your business has its stuff together and is able to present itself professionally. Don't underestimate the power in a branding plan.
3 - Crystal Clear Navigation
Navigation fits into having responsive design, but it also factors into a much more down-to-earth consideration. How do you want users to navigate around your website? Is this method of navigation intuitive and clear? Consider how your navigation bar is anchored - whether to the top of the page or as a side bar - and how users will interact with it to get where they want to go. Is your website one where the main navigation is scrolling down? Do users need to click some kind of a 'next page' button to read the rest of the article? Make sure that that's first, something that they will be intuitively drawn to, thanks to the design of your website, and second, something they can clearly see they need to do.
If your users can't navigate easily around your website, they'll likely just leave and find a competitor. Test, test, and test again on the types of navigation that will best suit your users. Observe and follow the standard trends, not to follow the lemming conga line, but because these methods will be how your users are used to navigation, and will therefore find easier to use.
4 - Prominently Display Your Contact Details
Your contact details need to be clearly displayed on your website. The most popular places are either in the top right or down at the bottom of the page, but it's not uncommon for most businesses to use both. Why is this?
Well, having your contact details displayed clearly achieves two goals. The first is that users who want to contact you, right now, don't have to filter through a whole lot of information to find what they're after (see 'navigation'). The second reason relates to another point I'll make shortly, but in summary, having contact details on your website helps confirm that your business exists in reality, as opposed to being some kind of shifty floating internet nomad. Having your contact details visible, especially if your website is an ecommerce one, is a powerful and effective way to reinforce that solving your customers' problems and answering their questions are at the top of your to-do list.
5 - Purposeful Copy
What does your copy achieve for your business? To clarify, copy is any text on your website. So, it's your contact details and how you label them. It's your page headline and sub-headers. It's your main chunks of text, your promise of value to be gained by the customer, the benefits and the features of your product or service that you list. Copy is a large and important thing to consider with your website. Here's three things you need for your copy.
Clarity. If your newest blog post reads kind of like the terms and conditions for the last piece of software you purchased, give it an overhaul. Users need to be able to understand what you're talking about in order to do anything with the information.
Direction. Your copy needs to have a purpose. What will your readers and leads be able to do once they read your copy? Will their newfound ability be useful to their needs? It should be, if you want them to take action on it.
Applicability. This follows straight on from the direction your content needs to have. When your intended audience gets to the end of the content they're reading, they need to know how they can apply the newly-discovered information to their current problem, in a real and succinct way. This area of applicability might be something simple, like running a scan to diagnose the speed of your website, or showing a smaller business how to calculate and plan a content release schedule. It doesn't always have to involve the DIY approach, but your content should be applicable for the reader, or it won't draw them in enough to spur them to take action on what you offer.
6 - Vital Information Above The Fold
Chances are, you've heard many things about the fold, and why it is or isn't important anymore for websites. Here's a few things worth considering though.
The information that your intended audience sees first is going to be what will stick in their head. That's why there's a whole trade to be made from crafting headlines (and clickbait). Most websites have a bounce rate of 60-70%, meaning that six or seven out of ten visitors to your website navigate away without doing anything. You want all of the information that your visitors need to know right away to be on the top of your website page, or at least, be visible without having to scroll down or open something else up.
Make it easy for readers to see who you are and what you can do for them to solve their problem.
7 - Use Engaging Visuals
The other thing that sticks in our heads really well (and can keep our attention for hours on end) is the use of engaging visuals in a website. If your point can not only be proven, but strengthened as well with the use of timely, powerful images, why not find some and hook them in? Pick visuals that back up your point and display the sincerity of your message - the age of taking cheesy stock photos seriously is at its end. If you're looking for stock photos, but you're not sure where you can go that doesn't reek of the mid 2000's, try this list of helpful (and free!) stock photo websites.
8 - A Solid Platform For Your Content Marketing
Does your website host content and/or resources for your readers and leads? Content is a good way to build a trust-based relationship with your readers. The basis for content is providing an information base of important, relevant, and helpful information that helps them not only identify their problems, but choose a solution that you can provide for them. If your business decides to walk the path of content marketing (for which there is a lot of positive supporting research), you should work on a plan for writing and publication of content, as well as the type of content you'll produce - whether blog articles, videos, infographics, ebooks, or otherwise.
9 - Compelling Calls To Action
What does your website already have in the way of calls to action? These clever little buttons are usually designed to help your readers, leads, or prospects take the next logical step towards becoming customers. For example, signing up for a mailing list - it's not the mailing list here that makes for the call to action, but the button that executed that order that qualifies as the 'CTA'. In order for a call to action to be successful, it needs to provide a reason for the user to follow through. Not only this, but it needs to stand out, and clearly state what clicking on it is going to do. This way, users will know exactly where they're going, exactly what the button is going to offer them, and exactly what will be required of them at the end. (If you'd like some more information on how to build great calls to action, check out this article I wrote a while ago.)
10 - Powerful Trust Indicators
Remember how I said earlier that your contact details indicated to potential buyers that you were a real business, worthy of trusting in? This is where that also factors in. Trust indicators are things like guarantees, testimonials, and awards given by overseeing organisations. It's the same reason why restaurants that you visit have awards they've won or safety regulations they've passed with flying colours pinned up somewhere near the cash register - it's so you can be reassured that these guys not only know what they're doing, but that they're really, really good at doing it. So you can trust that they're going to make you a delicious and hygienic meal, and as a result, you'll keep coming back.
So back to our business' website - how does that translate across? Well, we can have testimonials of customers available for perusal (pick the shorter ones to work with your audience's attention span), guarantees on returns/shipping (if you maintain an ecommerce website), or state our type of encryption used on customer information, for example. (Fun fact: Security is going to very quickly become a deciding factor for Google when choosing whose website to rank highest in a search result)
This is why things like having an 'about' page that uses images of your staff can be helpful, and why connecting to social media through your LinkedIn or Twitter accounts can be a good idea. Your business could be selling to another business, it could be selling to a direct consumer. Either way, you're still talking to people, and it is these people who you will need to win over to see success in your newly-designed website.