These days, every organisation worth its salt has a website. To take advantage of the opportunity to streamline overheads, many companies have opted to sell products online too. However, some websites work better than others. So when it comes to successful web design there are three main areas that need to be addressed: design, construction and content.
The starting point with for any good design will be the home page. This creates the first impression of the site. When visitors land on the home page there is around three seconds to capture the audience before they lose interest and click off to another site. Therefore, work with your designer to ensure it looks attractive and compels potential customers to stick around.
Slow uploading, illegible fonts and failing to specify precisely what the company does for example, can contribute negatively to retaining site visitors. The home page should also provide one click links to the most important information on the site. More clicks and visitors may dismiss it as ‘too much hassle’, so navigation also has to be clear and straightforward.
Simple navigation is also achieved throughconsistency in appearance and placement of links and buttons on every page. In addition, each page should have a link to take visitors back to the home page.
For main menu buttons, HyperText Markup Language (HTML) should be used instead of images. HTML is the authoring software language used for creating web pages and means text renders faster, is searchable and therefore more accessible for users.
Visual impact is also key to attracting customers and encouraging buying behaviour. The layout of pages, particularly of the home page must be clear and appealing. Much of this can be achieved with quality imagery. Striking photography combined with easy navigation encourages purchasing and makes it an easy, painless experience.
In addition to the layout and quality of imagery it is essential to ensure the site appeals to the life-style choice of the potential buyer. Show the products being used, show where they come from, build a picture that indicates that by buying the product the customer is purchasing an aspirational lifestyle choice.
The way the website is constructed is also important for updating information and dynamic content which is a key element for web optimisation (pushing the site up the search engine rankings).
The ability to update a website initially comes from constructing it according to “web standards” guidelines and using valid HTML and cascading style sheets (CSS). CSS enables the web developer to separate the appearance or style of a web page from its structure and content. In addition to making the site easier and more cost effective to update and CSS also significantly improves the download time.
For online buyers payment safety and security are also key and a suitable payment method needs to be incorporated usually when the site is constructed. Use and advertise a well-known payment gateway such as WorldPay. Or if you choose to handle payments in-house use a secure SSL server which encrypts data transferred from the site. Consumers are now wise to the padlock icon that denotes the use of a secure server and are put off if it is not in evidence or a well-known payment gateway is not used.
In addition, ensure the checkout process is clear with a prominent ‘next’ button on display and in addition, include the functionality to ‘save details’ to make it easy for returning customers.
At a basic level most websites should include about us, contact us, services and products sections. However, if you are selling online the way the products are displayed is the most critical area and they should be merchandised properly.
Customers are more likely to move through a website site where the merchandise is on show at the start. Therefore, include a selection of products or a product offer on the home page that will grab attention immediately. A ‘straight to buy’ button will allow customers to purchase quickly as well as encouraging impulse decisions.
The products and offers on display on the home page should also be updated regularly. This keeps the site looking interesting, moves it up the search engine listings and again encourages impulse purchases.
Endorsement is also a useful element of content to include. Quotes from other satisfied customers are a powerful sales tool and people often read these to help them make a buying decision. Similarly, awards and trade association memberships endorse the quality of the company’s offering so should be displayed prominently. Logo’s for awards should appear on the home page.
On the whole, website design should focus the requirements of potential and existing customers as this is where the revenue will come from. Companies that have put careful consideration into the design, construction and content of their website will find that it attracts customers and, most importantly, generates the sales and enquiries they are looking for