We all have our favorite websites. But what actually makes a website great? Here are my criteria – I’d love to hear your ideas as well:
Visual appeal. The web can act as the great equalizer. Small companies can look big and legitimate with a quality website. Conversely, large companies that have lousy websites can appear distracted and amateur. There’s no substitute for giving a good first impression.
Powerful messages that speak to your customer’s needs. Nobody likes a long-winded talker. Unless you have an information-based website (like Amazon, which provides full reviews of products, etc.), resist the temptation of generating massive amounts of information, especially on the home page. Keep it short, sharp, and targeted, with a predefined objective (see “Lily pad” marketing for more information on objective-based marketing strategies).
Success stories. Providing case studies of your accomplishments have several benefits. You can demonstrate how effectively your company works with customers, provide concrete examples of success using metrics, share experiences with prominent customers to gain legitimacy and credibility, and strengthen the persuasion process through the use of similar customers in similar industries.
Social Networking. Whether it’s a blog (like this WordPress blog), Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, or social bookmarking, you cannot deny the impact of social networking on today’s marketing strategies. Customers now have an expectation of two-way communication, and social networking facilitates symbiotic connections between a company and its audience.
Logical lead generation paths. It’s frustrating when you have to bounce all over a website to find what you want. A well-designed site understands its target audience and develops well-defined, clearly stated communication paths with the proper Calls To Action (CTA). Typical CTAs are filling out a form, downloading a white paper, signing up for a webinar, contacting a salesperson, and purchasing a product through your ecommerce function.
Just the right amount of “wow” for your audience. Know they audience. If your products and services cater to accountants, don’t use bells and whistles that you’d use for, say, a teenage gamer audience. It’ll just turn them off and make them think you don’t understand them. I bet those accountants would love a virtual Dilbert experience, or a flash-based GAAP search tool.
Web 2.0 look and feel. This means many things to many people. To me, Web 2.0 means dimensional or reflective graphics, modest use of Flash, “push button” navigation (like the simplicity of Redbox’s navigation), and the use of negative (white) space to add airiness.
What do you think? Are there other characteristics that are important for creating a great website?
Quick… when someone is trying to find out about your company’s products and services, what’s the first thing they do? Grab the newspaper? Ask a friend? Pick up the phone?
Nope. Chances are they either Google you, or go directly to your website (which is basically the same thing, if you’re engaging in good Search Engine Optimization practices). Your website is without a doubt the most recognizable and most tangible manifestation of your company’s value. Is it sending the type of message and image that you want it to?
For those that have been reading my posts for a while, you know that I’m a marketing consultant. I focus my consultancy efforts on branding, messaging, lead generation, social networking, and public relations. I designed my website with a specific audience in mind, providing a clean, colorful, sharp, Web 2.0-ish experience. Can you imagine if my website, which is supposed to be a shining example of what I can provide prospective clients, looked like this (yikes!) instead of this? All my credibility would fly out the window, with good reason.
Take a look at your current website and ask yourself these questions:
Is our website sending the right message to our future customers?
Was our target audience the main motivation for its current design?
When was the last time we redesigned our website? (Hint: if it’s been longer than 3 or 4 years, it’s time for a redesign.)
What is our website supposed to do: provide information, sell products, generate leads, develop communities, something else?
If I asked 10 prospects to assess our website, what would they say?
Make your website your strongest sales tool and it will make your life a whole lot easier. If you think it’s time to do something about it, contact us and we’ll be happy to help.