Would you trust a brick-and-mortar brand if their flagship location had faded paint, beige linoleum, and bathrooms perpetually closed for maintenance? Probably not. But that's exactly what you're asking your B2B customers to accept when your website's design looks cutting edge, circa 2005.
Granted, a well-designed website will cost more than an off-the-shelf template. But then again, what are the chances of a template or plug-and-play solution becoming a lead generating machine and conversion rate dynamo? Not much. So on that note, I want to discuss nine web design tips – along with some useful insights on the importance of growth-driven design – that every company should keep in mind when designing a new website or overhauling an existing one. Trust me, it will be worth your time.
Before We Begin: Growth-Driven Design Keeps You in the Game
What comes to mind when someone mentions a website redesign to you? Costs and time? A neverending to-do list? Or maybe it’s the thought of holding your organization hostage while the massive initiative rolls out.
Honestly, those are all valid concerns, at least in the traditional sense of website design. But therein lies the problem – why hasn’t your website design process evolved like most other components of your marketing strategy? You wouldn’t use outdated thinking for other aspects of your operations, so it doesn’t make much sense to still live in the design mesozoic era. But most companies are still guilty of it in some way.
That’s why growth-driven design (GDD) is so vital in today’s fast-moving, dynamic marketplace and, in turn, either directly or indirectly colors all nine of the design considerations I’m about to discuss. In short, think of GDD as a way to launch your website quicker and with far fewer risks, especially when it comes to your budget.
Rather than undertake a massive, all-encompassing design strategy that absorbs every waking moment for you and your team, growth-driven design uses an iterative approach. As you refine your understanding of your key customer segments as well as the market itself, you can integrate that information into your website design and content, one piece at a time.
As the following graph from Hubspot shows, GDD ensures your website – and, thus, your marketing and sales teams – always stay relevant and engaging by adapting to currents and trends
Simply put, GDD saves you time, money, and frustration versus the traditional approach, while also giving you the flexibility to continually meet constantly shifting expectations from your customer base. Sounds pretty great, right? That’s because it is. So keep GDD in mind as I discuss the following nine website design considerations and how it might help you establish a competitive edge that’s tough to beat.
1. First Things First – What Are You Trying to Accomplish?
Look at your website design project as a journey, going from point A to point B, whether you use a traditional design strategy or a more iterative, GDD-based one. Either way, you have goals in mind that you want to reach. But without a sense of direction as you begin, your chances of success are pretty meager. In other words, just like every road trip you've ever taken, you need a roadmap to guide the way, and in the case of good web design, that means establishing those ever-important goals.
Start by asking what you are trying to accomplish. That could be something as straightforward as improving the aesthetics of your site or the user experience since, after all, 38% of users will jump ship if your content or layout is unattractive. But design is a powerful business tool as well, critical for everything from branding and conveying important information to customer acquisition and sales.
On the technical side, maybe you want to integrate a new CMS or set of features into your website. All of these and countless more could be the motivating forces behind your design and, once you've determined those end goals, they allow you to create a more definitive and precise course of action.
2. Delegate Responsibilities & Assign Tasks
As you probably noticed by now, a website design project is like any other project your company pursues, at least from a planning perspective. And every project, be it your website or something in operations, requires a team-wide effort. Therefore, just like implementing new logistics software or planning a geographical expansion, you'll need to delegate responsibilities across your team to ensure everything stays on schedule and, most importantly, within your budget.
That's not to say that everyone in the company – or even your entire C-suite – should be actively involved. Once again, just like any project, it's absolutely possible to have too many cooks in the kitchen so, unless you're a lean and mean startup with only a handful of employees, my advice is to keep the group small. Of course, you can always collect input from a wider variety of people but, once it's time for the design rubber to hit the road, less is more. Just be sure to designate particular tasks to particular roles with a single person overlooking the design process.
3. Identify Your Audience & Frame Your Content
By this point, you've established specific goals and assembled a team that will help you reach them. Now it's time to take a step back and look at your design project from a bigger-picture perspective, beginning with the identification of your key customer segments and deciding what type, look, and feel of content will engage that audience best.
That's yet another reason why developing your buyer personas is so important to nearly every aspect of your digital marketing, website design included. Since we've spoken at length on personas in the past, I won't take a deep dive into the concept right now but, suffice it to say, you absolutely need thorough personas in place to understand how to communicate and engage with your audience.
If you're still struggling with those essential personas, I recommend using our free buyer persona templates to start fleshing out your target audience segments. Once complete, that's when you can start tailoring your content and design to best engage the segments.
Remember, you're not designing your website to be a giant, hollow, neon billboard simply proclaiming how good your company is. Content informs and engages, progresses your customers down the marketing funnel and buying process, and sets you up for conversion success. Design works together with your content to enable that process, providing an aesthetically pleasing environment and clear direction on how your customers can find the information they need to make fully informed decisions.
4. Less Is More So Make Your Content Count
So here's an intimidating thought – you only have a few seconds to make a meaningful impression on a website visitor and let them know what they'll get out of visiting your page. Even worse, that same visitor will form an opinion about your website within approximately 50 milliseconds. To state the obvious, that's not a lot of time.
As those statistics demonstrate, the margin for error in your website design is razor-thin, meaning you must make the absolute most of those critical early impressions. To put that into context, let's assume you've invested a lot of time and effort into your content strategy, the Google gods are starting to rank your content on the critical first page, and traffic is surging. Unfortunately, it’s all for naught if the user clicks on a link to your website and immediately sees something that looks more like a Rorschach test than an inviting, informative layout and design.
Further, since you intend to both educate and engage, you should also ensure the design makes it easy for users to navigate throughout your content. This requires a balance between white space and information to avoid a cluttered look that only drives up your bounce rates.
Also, think about your content relative to your user personas and identify the most effective and engaging medium. Blogs, infographics, videos, white papers, and the other forms of content all have their niche, and it's up to you to align that content with your audience as best as possible.
For example, 72% of customers prefer to learn about a product or service through video content rather than standard copy. While we're all about the power and impact of a well-written blog here at Creative Cave, the most effective content marketing flexes to both your audience and the information you're conveying, whether that’s a blog, video, or a graphic. No matter what type of content you're providing, however, always make certain to use a clear and concise call-to-action wherever needed, letting those CTAs serve as road signs that guide a customer forward.
5. Pick an Engaging Style and Stick to It
Now you have a pretty firm idea of who you're speaking to and the best type of content to convey your message. The next step is to ensure that your branding and style help transform your website and content into a clear reflection of who you are and what your company is about.
If you don't have a branding or style guide already in place, then I recommend you hit pause for a moment and create one. While it doesn't have to be terribly complicated or ornate, consistency is absolutely critical, making sure the color scheme, fonts, logos, images, and graphics you use are true to your brand and message.
Nothing undermines a customer's trust in your brand as quickly as an unprofessional and muddled look to your design. But that's where a good branding guide shines – it keeps your design elements clean and coherent while preventing you and your team from going astray with logos and images that just don't fit.
Also, remember that it's not just about graphics but photography as well. Stock photos should fit within your branding guide just like other visual assets. And if you’re using a GDD strategy, you maintain the agility you need to keep all of those visuals fresh and impactful. Because nothing will sink your design boat faster than boring, played-out imagery.
6. Make Mobile a Priority
Did you know that over half of worldwide internet traffic stems from mobile devices, up from 16.2% in 2013? Now, I'm not a mathematician, but that appears to be a very significant trend, one that's likely to continue well into the future. Naturally, that means that you must optimize your design for how images, text, logos, and other important elements render on the smaller screens that your customers will view them on.
That's not to say, of course, that desktops are about to go the way of the dinosaurs, but their overall importance in the marketplace has definitely diminished in recent years. Here at Creative Cave, we design with both desktops and mobile devices in mind since traditional workspaces are still extremely relevant for a B2B audience – at least for the time being. Whichever web designer you use, make sure they're just as thorough and give proper attention to different screen sizes and orientations.
7. Plan for the Future
As I said, either building a new website or completely retooling an existing one can be both expensive and time-consuming using a traditional approach. Therefore, you want to avoid having to either revisit or redo the same project just a bit down the road. That’s a notion that rings true even in growth-driven design – there’s nothing efficient about retooling work you’ve already completed.
That isn’t to say that your website must be completely ramped up for those current and future needs as soon as it goes live. In fact, if that's what you're shooting for, there's a good chance you'll never go live in the first place. Using GDD, your website is something that will continue to evolve over time, where you can add new features or design tweaks as needed. Just make sure to look down the road as you’re building the framework, timeline, and overall strategy, making certain you account for future needs and directional shifts without having to rebuild the wheel.
8. Keep Your Content Relevant & Fresh
While some industries are more dynamic than others, insights and technology will always evolve, no matter your space or vertical. However, your homepage isn’t necessarily the best place to present fresh industry content or cutting-edge insights since it can quickly get cluttered and overwhelming to the user. Instead, your homepage is a welcome mat, introduction, and road sign that points the user in the right direction across your website.
But that's where a combination of GDD and a sound inbound marketing strategy can be so powerful, one that includes blog pages, podcasts, and downloadable content offers like e-books, guides, and case studies. All of these are great ways to continue driving organic traffic through SEO while keeping your audience informed and building your thought leadership. And from a GDD perspective, having specific webpages within your site for that type of dynamic content prevents you from having to perpetually retool the look and function of your overall site.
9. Engagement Is a Two-Way Street
As I've said, one of your overarching goals with your company's website is engaging your target audience. However, true engagement isn't just about relaying vital information or progressing a potential customer down the marketing funnel. If you construct your website well with informative, interesting content, there will be a point where the user will want to communicate with you about additional information.
However, if you don't provide convenient ways for the viewer to reach out to you, then you might as well just post your main competitor's phone number on your homepage. While embedding links to your social media channels is a part of this, what I'm really referring to are your contact email address, phone number, and, ideally, a chat box as well. These are all ways for customers to ask pointed questions that your sales team can leverage. Just be sure to adequately define who receives these messages and route them to the proper people.
So that's great web design in a nutshell. These nine website design tips will help you design a brand-new website or retool your existing one to meet your business goals. Just remember, there are going to be change events that trigger the need for website redesigns, ranging from huge macro issues that affect the entire market, to micro drivers like a change in your branding or expanding your footprint.
No matter what's prompting the project, however, growth-driven design and a well-organized approach can seamlessly integrate all of these different triggers without breaking the bank, time constraints, or your spirit. And as always, if it seems like it's too much or you need a bit of guidance, your website design gurus here at Creative Cave are always at the ready.