The proliferation of drag and drop style website design platforms has made creating a website accessible to everyone. No longer do you have to write hours of code to create a functional site.
But creating a website that is easy to find online, engages visitors, and motivates them to buy your products or services takes some skill. It also requires time and a keen awareness of what works in different industries, for different demographics and across different platforms and devices.
We’ve put together some of our top tips, based on years of website building, project management, and design.
Tell your brand story
Some businesses make the mistake of designing a website that is entirely functional. Their website does all the basics, but it fails to capture the imagination of users and drive sales.
A successful site tells your brand story and communicates your point of difference. It articulates what you believe in and brings fellow believers along for the ride. If it’s truly great, it helps to create brand champions who go out of their way to tell others just how wonderful your brand is.
The website for Packaworld International is a prime example of a site that does this well. From its tagline of “Bring the game” to its brand messaging of “We’re obsessed with making the joy of sport real to more people”, Packaworld clearly demonstrates that its products are about more than just making money. They are about democratising sport and making it possible for people to play wherever and wherever they want.
Who wrote that magical content you ask? It’s not too bold a claim to say Last Word played an important part .
Make it easy to navigate
Beauty is more than skin deep. It’s one thing for a website to look pretty, but if visitors can’t find what they are looking for it’s not doing its job. High quality websites are designed with the user experience (also known as ‘UX’) in mind. Consider what your users are likely to be looking for when they come to your website, and design with them in mind. This can involve user testing to gather feedback and refine your website’s design.
It’s also valuable to know what it is you want users to do while they are on your site so you can set it up to gently guide them in that direction. For example, if your site is about generating donations and funding for a community group, you may want to ensure a “Donate now” or “Support us” button is front and centre, and you have plenty of case studies, showing the difference your group makes, displayed in a prominent location.
Always consider how you will structure the information on your website, and try to keep dropdowns on your navigation bar to a user-friendly number. You can also use flyout or mega menus, as we did when designing a site for Te Puke engineering company Fraser Gear.
Remember that many of your users will be visiting your website on mobile devices, so make sure to consider how it will appear and function on smartphones and tablets, as well as on laptops and desktop PCs.
Design an online store that converts
If your website’s primary purpose is to drive sales, then it’s vital to get the online store right. Make sure your products or online store are front and centre on your home page and make it easy for people to get to what they want to buy in just a few clicks.
Don’t forget to include stunning product photos and product descriptions that evoke a feeling for buyers – selling is about much more than just reeling off product features and technical specifications.
A good example of this is the online shop on the New Zealand Hemp Brokers website. When we put this together we worked closely with the client to make sure it was easy to use and made secure payment via credit card simple. Since going live it has shown its effectiveness as converting website visitors into buyers. It helps that it has some good digital marketing behind it in the form of carefully targeted Google display and search advertising.
Give it the ‘wow’ factor
These days a lot of websites are created using a cookie-cutter approach. This can result in generic sites that look much like any other.
Make sure your website reflects your brand and has enough personality to stand out from the pack. It should demonstrate that your product or service has a point of difference and isn’t the same as all of your competitors. Don’t be afraid to use vibrant colours. If you can afford to, get your own photos or videos shot, rather than using stock footage.
An example of this is the website we developed for automotive mechanic and heavy vehicle specialists Northern Automotive, based in the Western Bay of Plenty. This site includes images of their workshop and a colour scheme that matches the business’ branding and helps to emphasise their personality, professionalism and friendly service.
Make it easy to find on search engines
Search engine optimisation is the art of making your website look attractive to the automated tools search engines like Google use when deciding how to rank the order of the websites they show in search results.
Some of the key factors that influence search rankings include the age of the website, the originality of the content and how it aligns with search terms people are using, where the website is hosted and how fast it loads, and the number and links to the site from popular external websites.
When designing websites, we are provide advice on all of these areas. We also help clients to keep file sizes of images to a minimum (Google considers the loading speed of websites when ranking its search results) and suggest they set up useful meta descriptions for all their pages. It’s worth entering alternative text for any images too, as Google uses this to determine what they are and whether to consider them when ranking search results.
When designing the Esi-Clean Waste Trap website for Kimberley Tool and Design, we took care to ensure words potential customers would use were included. The term “waste trap” might be popular in the plumbing industry and used for the product name, but we also ensured there was a generous sprinkling of “shower drain” and other similar terms that everyday consumers would use. This is just one example of how keywords on your site can be optimised for what humans are actually searching for.
Make it easy for customers to get in touch
There are few things more frustrating than not being able to find contact details when you need them. You’ve just found that perfect wine tour, but you’ve got a couple of questions you need answered before you can go ahead and make a booking. Unfortunately, they only have an email listed, and you really want to make that purchase decision today. You give up and go elsewhere.
Including a phone number in a prominent location can make a big difference to conversions. Not only does it make it easy for people to get in touch – it also adds credibility by showing customers there are people at the other end of the phone line ready and waiting to answer any questions.
When we design websites we will often put the phone number in a prominent location, as can be seen from the websites we designed for Northern Automotive and Waihi Beach Physiotherapy.
This makes it easy for people to take action if they like what they see.