Navigating Your Website
Your company’s website can draw in new prospects and keep current customers happy just as easily as it can drive them away. “If you build it, they will come” may work in a baseball movie, but it’s a shaky strategy for your organization’s online presence. The key is to build it well. Is the site inviting, knowledgeable and aesthetically pleasing? Here are eight ways to help the process along.
1. Make it memorable
With the amount of registered host names on the Internet reaching nearly one billion in 2015, according to Internet Live Stats, it’s important to settle on something that ensures your business stands out. In other words, keep it simple. “Your customers need to easily remember and comprehend [your] domain name or else you could easily lose them before you even have the chance to acquire their business,” said Rob Giannone, website developer and designer, global marketing for BravoSolution, Malvern, Pa., and creative director and brand manager for Cross Brand Consulting, Philadelphia. “Make your domain easy to type, and make it easy to remember.” Doing so also makes the domain more recognizable in your digital and print marketing collateral.
Of course you’ll want to include your business name in your new domain, assuming it’s available, and from an SEO standpoint, Giannone suggested incorporating a keyword (or buzzword) associated with your industry. “Do not use hyphens or numerals in your domain either, as that goes against the cardinal rule of simplicity,” he added.
In terms of domain extension, “.com” wins for popularity, though Giannone mentioned other options, like “.co,” “.info,” “.us,” “.guru,” and “.xyz.” An “.org” extension, he said, is generally reserved for nonprofits. “And if you’re interested in maintaining online credibility, stay away from the ‘.net’ extension, too,” Giannone warned.
2. Put others first
The goals of your company’s site have to be evaluated before the visual design process can begin. Who is your end-user audience? Has all necessary functionality been investigated? Is content written and organized? “By designing for the content, you focus on what’s most important—the things that are actually of value to your customers, and the things that actually help your site show up in results,” explained Jaron Hendrix, Web aesthetics developer, LaunchPad – Marketing & Technology Services, Austell, Ga. “You wouldn’t start to write the next Great American Novel by designing the cover, and you wouldn’t plan your entire business by designing your office first, so why would you expect this approach to work with one of the most important, efficient and cost-effective advertising and informational tools available to you?”
Giannone agreed, and said that failure to understand the target demographic or the types of professionals navigating its site can be a company’s biggest downfall. “If you know who is coming to your site, you can design your site, the user experience, the navigation structure and the content strategy around them,” he remarked.
In addition to the “who,” you should also know the “where,” meaning where the traffic comes from. “Are they getting to your website via an email your marketing team sent? Are they getting to your website via an article you shared to a group on LinkedIn? Or are they landing on your website via an organic search on Google, Bing or Yahoo!?” Giannone asked. “Ideally, you want a healthy mix of all three.” The “who” and “where” can then be used to inform the “why,” the “what” and the “how,” when it comes to design, he said.
3. Streamline navigation
Your website doesn’t exist to appease you—the purpose of a customer-centric design is to provide a great user experience for clients and prospects. And, a website is only useful if it’s usable. “Regardless of our level of Web expertise, we’ve all been to websites and thought to ourselves, ‘Who designed that?’ You don’t want that to be your website,” Giannone said.
Hendrix pointed to the idea of the “scent of information.” Rather than assigning a top-level navigation link (the immediate option in your menu bar) to every section or page of the site, the content should be laid out in a way that the user can always catch the “scent” of what he or she is trying to find, he said. “In the past, it has been recommended that all information contained on a website be accessible by clicking on no more than three links consecutively, but as the depth and breadth of websites have expanded, this advice has given way to simply making sure that the user always knows where they’re going next,” Hendrix shared.
Giannone encouraged companies to research how some of the bigger names out there are conducting themselves online. “Take a look at what the Silicon Valley giants are doing and check out both B2B and B2C websites across as many different industries as possible,” he instructed. “A simple Google search for ‘best corporate sites’ will yield 172,000,000-plus results and can give you some great insight.” Then, perform a competitor analysis. What do they do well? Where do they miss the mark?