The Myth of Build It and They Will Come

Developing and Designing for the Web, Not Just a Website

by Krista Medlock

INTRODUCTION: “Things” of the Internet {Pun Intended}

Today, the internet is a critical tool for creating, transacting, and retaining sales. Websites are the power cords to “all things internet”.

“In a crowded market, having a website that simply serves as a brochure is no longer competitive.”

— 2016 Small Business Marketing Trends Report

The tactical execution of web development and design has become a critical science requiring a sound strategic foundation. As such, the internet “ecosystem” is probably the most powerful strategy and marketing weapon available to organizations today, yet marketers oftentimes treat web development and the internet tactically as mutually exclusive “events”. Quite frankly, a website is the tool that is used least effectively by most marketing departments.

This erroneous thinking sounds much like “if we build it they will come..because it is on the web.” The first fatality here is that many notable organizations have websites that are poorly designed, hard to navigate, impractical, and impossible for search engines to find. Secondly, a website does not work alone.

There must be “extension cords”, if you will, that lead to the digital channels that drive connectivity and traffic to and from your website for optimal customer experience and connectivity.

The key takeaway – The “internet of things” has challenged how we develop and design for web. Purposeful assessment, planning, implementation and growth nurturing is vital to maintain competitive relevance. While our basic marketing processes have not changed, the focus has shifted to hyper-customer engagement involving a collaboration of carefully curated sales and marketing activities that require a very dynamic execution.

This transition has raised the bar for effective web design and closed the gap between development and holistic digital strategy.

  • 94% of people cited web design as the reason they mistrusted or rejected a website.
  • 62% of companies which designed their website(s) for mobile platforms increased their sales and 64% of companies that designed their website for tablets increased sales.
  • Once your page loads, users form an opinion in .05 seconds. — Kinesis Inc.
  • Content marketing generates 3 times as many leads as traditional outbound marketing, but costs 62% less. — Hubspot, January 2015
  • A study of Fortune 500 websites showed that 63% have content above the fold, 50% feature a scrolling content window of some kind, 63% use high quality images that connect with their users, and the average loading time is 6.5 seconds. (Source: Go-Globe.com)
  • More than 9 out of 10 respondents (95%) agreed with the statement that “good user experience just makes sense.” (Source: Econsultancy)

ASSESS: The Tough Questions

Preparation is vital. First things first, are all your bases covered? Resource management is underestimated for an undertaking of this nature. Some key operational questions that are often unanswered prior to development include:

  • Do you provide website hosting?
  • Do you have on-going support?
  • Do you have a designer?
  • Are you able to provide a copywriter?
  • Will you be able to help optimize for search engines?

Did you answer the same person for multiple questions? Many companies assign one point person to manage and drive the entire process. Beware. Web development and design that truly drives conversion requires dedicated, specialized skill-sets in the following areas:

  • Project Management
  • Content
  • Graphic Design
  • HTML
  • Programming
  • SEO

Furthermore, all should be aligned with the entire initiative, meaning they need to be driving towards a common goal(s).

Next, take inventory of your website objectives. What do you want to accomplish through your website? These objectives will have an impact on the way a system is built, what tools are used and what features will impact the design.

Grade yourself on efficacy and/or readiness as it relates to each quality metric below. Refer to grid below for specific metrics within each category.

1. Content

Content reflects quality, completeness, degree of specialization or generalization and reliability of information included in the website. Content also relates to the responsiveness of a website to satisfy a user inquiry and to the trustfulness about the information

2. Navigation

Navigation reflects the support provided to the user when moving in and around the site. Elements of navigation include: easiness of moving around, easiness in understanding site structure, and availability and validity of links

3. Structure and Design

Structure and Design incorporates aspects that affect the order of presentation, speed and browser. For example, existence of a site map enhances website value because it supports differentiation between information categories included in the site.

4. Appearance and multimedia

Appearance and Multimedia captures aspects that relate to site’s “look and feel” with special emphasis in state of the art graphics and multimedia assets.

5. Uniqueness

Uniqueness refers to user’s perception that the site carries something that makes it different in a world full of sites. Site distinctiveness is judged according to content, aesthetics and design characteristics.

If we all answer honestly, we would not want to publish that grade publicly. The rules have changes and will continue to change more rapidly. It is difficult for even the most skilled marketing professional to keep up. If you are following this article, we have assigned our team, documented our objectives and identified the areas of strength and weakness related to website effectiveness criterion list. Now, it is time to plan accordingly.

PLAN: Anticipate Your Success

Planning a website is no small task. Understanding and simplifying the process can help lend clarity to a complicated picture.

Your organization’s website isn’t just a repository of connected information that happens to reside somewhere on the Internet. It’s the primary vehicle by which new audiences will find you, learn about your mission, and engage with your brand. There must be a pathway to that ultimate goal.

Develop Visitor Profiles

First, build audience personas or profiles to individualize their journey through their site visit. Become an expert on your customer. Talk to them. Talk to your sales people when possible. Find out what your customers need to know. Understand how purchasing decisions are made.

Through this exercise, you are building the business case to justify investment of the key decision maker(s). Utilizing a Visitor Profile and Navigation Planner is very helpful in prioritizing your persona buying needs and calls to action.

Develop Content & Context

Defining your buyer personas will also help to solidify your content strategy and development. The more you define your content strategy, the more prepared you will be in laying out web pages that are unified and cohesive.

Remember, customer engagement is THE priority. Focus on the information your potential customers want and need. Keep your text customer-oriented. Discuss their problems, their needs, their concerns, and how you solve them. They want to know… what can you do for me?

Do not limit your engagement through mere website copy. Offer your customers and potential customers reasons to keep coming back for more. Content should include everything that a visitor can take in as information, which is more than just copy on the page and quite a bit more valuable in cultivating relationship.

Examples of content that exists within a website include:

  • Blog Posts
  • Documents
  • Videos
  • Images
  • Slideshows
  • Embedded Feeds

As you move through this process, there’s one critical consideration often overlooked – ensuring people can find you or Search Engine Optimization. Include in your informational text keywords that people normally use when searching for your type of product or service. Use the most obvious ones and any common variations. Take the time to learn and use title, description and keyword metatags.

Content creation is ranked the single most effective SEO technique by 53%. (Source – www.vivial.net)

One of the most common mistakes is to embed key text and information in graphics or Flash animation. Search engines cannot read text that is embedded into pictures.

All of this content should be planned and compiled at this point in time, before any design work is started.

Develop Structure & Navigation

Face it, articulating your business can be complex. You may have an extensive product line or service portfolio with many options or many different types of customers or industries that you serve. Effectively directing the customer and channeling them to the products and services they need is vital. Before you start or re-do your website, work out your navigation in advance. Customers should be able to glance at your home page and see exactly where they need to go. That brings us to the charm of effective website build, Structure & Navigation.

Decide what pages your website needs and lay them out in a flow chart or another visual medium. We recommend no more than five or six options at the top level for simple, user experience.

When laying out the site map, you will also be creating conversion paths to generate leads and close sales. Clean and simple direction with one option on each page is the best way to make this happen and guide effective decision making.

IMPLEMENT: Cut Through the Digital Noise With Design

As it relates to websites, individuals DO judge a book by its cover. A well-designed website instantly communicates that you are successful and care about quality. Good design requires a designer who has strong competence in digital design.

94% of people cite design as a reason they don’t trust certain websites. (Source – Instantshift.com)

It is said that visual hierarchy is one of the most important principles behind a successful website design. Visual hierarchy is where the human eye perceives what it sees.

Exercise: Please rank the squares in order of importance:

Clearly, these squares can be easily ranked. This is visual hierarchy. Since specific sections of your website are more important than others, you need to ask yourself, where should the users go when they click throughout the website? Depending on the answer, make those links prominent.

With all of this in mind, incorporate an effective landing page. A landing page is a standalone web page distinct from your main website that has been designed for a single focused objective either Click Through or Lead Generation.

There are definite design tenets to effective website. Implement the following:

  • Use whitespace to minimize clutter and create a visual hierarchy
  • Make sure you are utilizing small design cues efficiently- they need to visually tell your story
  • Keep your page structured
  • Focus on what’s important
  • Choose the right color scheme
  • Keep it simple
  • Optimize your load times

Design meet Technology Integration

The latter stages of development and design begin to prep for performance enhancing activities. Website development should not be devoid of integration of the following mechanisms:

  • CRM
  • Visitor Tracking Tools
  • Social Media
  • Banner Remarketing Ads
  • Mobile / Tablet Responsiveness

Test, Test…Are You Being Heard?

A/B Split Testing is a method used to test which version of your website element works best with your target audience. You will want to observe how users will react to your design and the navigation. This is done by designing two template options and run a test to see which of the two is preferred across all digital platforms.

  • Ensure that you have a mobile-optimized site as consumers will visit your site 6x in the purchasing process. (Source – Google Think Insights)
  • Mobile-friendly websites have seen a 10.8% increase since Google’s Mobile-Friendly algorithm update. (Source – Searchengineland.com)
  • 61% of people have a better opinion of brands when they have a good mobile experience.

GROW: Keep the Momentum

Reality Check: Not everyone who visits your website is ready to buy.

Websites require nurturing. Consistently enhance and boost their buying journey by cultivating an online community through social media and blog postings. Provide a forum where your customers can interact with you and other customers and share knowledge. Post press releases on your website and/or blog, then link to them on Facebook, LinkedIn, and/or Twitter. Make sure your website includes “share” buttons so that visitors can easily share your content.

Offer a newsletter with industry information, product announcements and tips. Continue to provide reasons for them to contact you and give you their contact details through contact forms and downloads. This all helps to build your brand and your positioning as an industry leader. More importantly, it incites credibility, awareness and ultimately customer adoption.

Does this seem a bit to handle?

Adopt a process to update your website happenings and communications frequently. Don’t fall into complacency with your website. Investing time and resources has been the master key of game changing digital players. In today’s relentless digital world, it could also save your business.

Key Website Essentials:

1. Succinct strategic communication

2. Call to action – Always ask for the sale.

3. Develop processes and channels for customer feedback

4. Coordinate customer responsiveness programs

5. Focused activity for continuous improvement

6. Stay abreast of competitive behavior online and adjust your competitive strategies to retain your competitive edge.

Author

Krista Medlock

Director of Strategy | Flobile

A visionary who leads with vast brand and customer marketing experience. Highly accomplished in strategic planning, integrated marketing, product/promotional marketing, commercialization, digital marketing, brand development, large-scale events, product development and operations.

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