Several years ago, we were working with a company who insisted (against our advice) that we use an image of a bridge and a construction worker as the main image on the homepage of their website. What was the problem? The image looked great, and was very impressive, BUT the company’s messaging was all marketing-ese. Any users coming to the site would have no idea what the company did. (They didn’t build bridges or have anything to do with construction.) This company let the design of the website get in the way of the function of the website. What can you do to prevent that?
Why are people coming to your site?
Your website’s success hinges upon being able to step out of your own shoes, and into those of your customers. Identify who your customers are, and what they’re looking for. Then, compare how that matches up with your objectives for the website. Do you need to make any adjustments in your thinking?
Now that you’ve identified why people are coming to your website, your messaging needs to address those objectives. While you might have a tagline that grabs the user’s attention, you will also need a short description of what your company does. This confirms to user the user that they are in the right place. Any imagery or design on the website should be secondary elements. They should reinforce the messaging that you’ve written to make the design have a much bigger impact.
“But Jessica,” you say, “IBM and Apple don’t have those descriptions on their websites! Why should I?” Well, chances are that your company is not nearly as well known as IBM and Apple. Those are household names. Think of it this way: When McDonald’s first started out, they were known as McDonald’s Hamburgers. That helped people quickly identify what they were selling. Of course as the company became more and more well known, they could drop the “Hamburgers” portion. Everybody already knew that.
While still thinking about your customers’ objectives, you can start to plan your website’s navigation or reorganize it. Here are some important questions to consider:
- Are you making it easy for users to find the detailed information they’re looking for? Or is it buried under layers and layers of irrelevant information?
- If customers’ have questions, can they easily contact you?
- Are you using common naming conventions for pages? Would anyone outside your company know what that page is about?
Focusing on the purpose of the website, and what people really want from your company is going to make a much more effective website.
A footnote: Whatever happened to the company with the bridge and a construction worker as the main image? Well about 6 months after launching the site, they came back to us, and said that their homepage had a high bounce rate (which means that people were getting to the homepage and immediately leaving). We helped the tweak their messaging and imagery to something much more appropriate to the business they were in.
Is your website just a pretty face? You might want to find another designer. And if you are in the market to replace your designer, have you considered eMagine for your next B2B website?