This page outlines some key points that will help you to specify and design an effective business website.
The Landing Page
Users need to know that they have reached the right site. There is strong evidence that users need to orient themselves quickly when they land on a web page. Users may take as little as 50 ms to formulate an impression of a website. Consider that your pages will be visible on Google and shareable by social media. This means that users may enter the site through any of your pages – not just your homepage.
The site should also match your user’s expectations – which will have been generated from the referring site or a personal recommendation. The site should clearly demonstrate it’s purpose at a glance, without requiring the user to scroll down. The site mission might be included in tagline format with the header logo. All pages of the site should communicate the business mission or purpose of the site, and this should be supported with a well-crafted “About Us” page.
Your site should convey your purpose in a clear and straightforward way – you should not leave your user guessing. Grab your users attention by clearly stating who you are and what it is that you do. “Qualified” users – people who might be interested in your services – will orient themselves quickly and hence be more likely to remain on the site.
Think about your tag line, which will usually be closely associated with your company name. Consider adding a few sentences to your home page that explain what your organisation does.
If your site looks dull, is visually cluttered, hard to navigate or just plain irritating you will lose qualified users in the blink of an eye. You probably have less than two seconds to capture your users attention – so make those seconds count.
Research carried out by Google suggests that users typically value sites which are simple and designed with a familiar layout. If the visual complexity of a website is high, users perceive it as less beautiful, even if the design is familiar. If the design is unfamiliar users judge it as uglier, even if the site is simple. Users love sites with simple and familiar designs.
It is important that your content can be easily read by your users. Font style, size alignment and column structure all influence readability. The font and typography should be web-safe (compliant) and easily read by most users.
There should be sufficient contrast between text and background to make the site content easily readable.
What is the Purpose of Your Site?
This may seem like a strange question but a website can serve a number of purposes. Your website might do one or more of the following:
- Demonstrate your credibility to potential clients
- Showcase your work and achievements
- Sell goods or services
- Provide an educational resource
- Act as a brochure that informs people about your organisation
Who is Your Site For?
Customer profiling is essential. Think about the likely age, educational background, likes and dislikes of qualified users/potential customers.
Talk to your colleagues and come up with some imaginary customers, based on your real-life business experience. Give these users names and personalities, and create detailed profiles for them. Imagine how these people might use your site.
The profiles you create will have direct implications on your site design. For example, if your typical qualified user is over 40 years old, they may well have trouble viewing small font sizes.
Remember you are not your user – so work out who your user is, and tailor your site for them.
Make Life Easy For Your User
Your website is a way for you to connect with qualified users. It should allow you to inform them and provoke a response from them. Users might call to hire your services or they sign up to your newsletter.
It must be easy for your user to get the information they need – your contact details should be easily accessible on all pages. If your individual “Project” page has succeeded in demonstrating organisational credibility, you should be easily contactable from that page – while your user is primed and ready.
Don’t assume that users will necessarily navigate through your site. Requiring unnecessary extra clicks may place barriers between your user and the site goal.
Site navigation should be simple, intuitive and standard. Certain terms like “About Us” have become normalised and site owners should resist the temptation to use non-standard descriptions. If the site navigation does not follow the standard top menu, sidebars, and footer format it should be easily discovered by users – who do not want to search for navigation buttons. Where necessary breadcrumbs should be included so that users can see their current location within the overall site structure.
Good site navigation is essential. Your user will expect to control their own journey through your website so navigation should be straightforward, easy to use and use standard terminology.
What Do You Want Your User To Do?
The site content should clearly and concisely communicate the business goals. The site should have a purpose: to sign-up new leads, to generate credibility by providing information, etc. Where possible, calls to action should be limited: users should not be bombarded with choice.
Do you want your user to:
- Contact you to discuss their project
- Share your brilliant content with their friends
- Sign up for your newsletter
- Buy your services
- Learn about stuff
Decide what you want your user to do, and create clear “Calls-to-Action”. Use phrases such as: “Call us to discuss your project”, “Share this with your friends”, “Follow us on LinkedIn” etc. Don’t overdo the number of calls to action – keep them focused and specific to your objectives. Too many calls to action will only irritate your user.
Your contact details should be clearly visible on every page and easy to use – consider using a custom “contact us” form on your site.
Calls-to-Action will have design implications – and they should be considered at an early stage of the design process.
Is the Site Copywriting Optimised for Human Users?
Content should be presented in a web-friendly way – fairly short, staccato-style paragraphs that are well-spaced. Sentences should be relatively short and readable.
Users tend to scan web pages – short paragraphs and bullet point lists help to keep users on the page and can help to draw them in to explore the site further.
This should be borne in mind when laying out dummy text during the design process. Ideally, we recommend laying out your content types with real content.
Future Proof Your Site
Going back over your site to constantly change things may become costly and stressful. Future proof your site from the beginning. A few things to consider:
- Will your website information change significantly or be added to over time?
- Are you planning any major events in the near future such as re-branding or a merger?
- Will your colour scheme stand the test of time or quickly become old fashioned?
- Will you be adding content regularly?
- Will you use a blog regularly?
Think about these issues before you build your site and let your designer & developer know.
Your developer will typically build a range of page templates for your site, which allows you to easily add content in the future. For example, if you have a page template called “Project”, which showcases individual projects, you’ll be able to add new “Project” pages as often as you like.
It is important to specify which page templates will be required at an early stage of the design process. It’s also important to decide what kind of content you’d like to include on these page templates. Your developer should be able to build content types into the content management system, to make it easier for you to maintain the site and to ensure a consistent style sitewide.
Typical page templates include:
The most visited and hence most important page of your site. Possible content for this page:
- A brief, strong introduction to your company/brand
- Links to featured content – projects, blog articles, the about us page
- Strong imagery
Usually the second most visited page of any site, and hence very important. The content on this page should typically outline the following:
- Who – who are the key people behind the business?
- What your core competencies/specialisations are
- Where you are based
- Why you do what you do
- When your company was founded
Contact Us Page
This typically will include a contact form, a map and directions. It might also include opening hours and individual contacts.
An opportunity to highlight your services. A clear statement of your specialities, and the services that you sell.
Individual Project Pages
Showcasing individual projects. Links to other projects can be built into this template – so that related projects are selected from a list in the content management system, and displayed in the final project page. In a similar way, “Project” pages can be linked to “People” pages, and vice versa. Content on these pages might include:
- The client
- Completion date
- Project description (text)
- One key “featured” image that will be used as a project teaser throughout the site
- Further project images
- A company contact (for further info)
- Key personnel involved with the project
- Links to related projects
- Downloadable files relating to the project
- Social sharing capacity
Project Portfolio Page
A page which showcases many project excerpts (“teasers”). Clicking on an excerpt, which can be an image, text or both, usually brings the user through to an individual “Project” page.
Project images usually form a strong component of the teaser. A brief descriptive excerpt can also be included, as can the project title. In some cases, the Title and text excerpt can display alongside the project image. It is also possible to have the project excerpt and/or title become visible when the user hovers on the project image. This can help to save space and avoid clutter on the page, but still provides information to the user when they need it.
The project teasers on this page can be filterable. If necessary, we can add buttons that hide and display projects according to their category. You can see such a filter in action here at the UCL Drawing Gym.
Another option is to have separate pages for separate project categories. This gives a bit more versatility in terms of presenting content, as you could have separate introductory text for each sub-category. You can see this in action at the following URLs:
Individual Biographical Pages
A biographical page that might also link to projects that the person has been involved with. Content on these pages might include:
- Job Title
- Biographical info
- A featured image
- Links to projects that the person has been involved with
- A downloadable CV
A page that introduces your team collectively, and links to individual “Person” pages. You might decide to include links to individual people on the “About” page, in which case, you might not require a “People” page.
If you require a company blog, you’ll need a blog page template that introduces the blog and links to individual blog posts.
Blog post templates usually include text content and at least one featured image. Blog post content tends to be less structured than other content types – which allows you to post in a variety of different ways. Blog posts should include social sharing buttons that will allow your users to share your content. We can build in the capacity to add extra images and video if necessary.
Other Content Types
There might be other custom content types that you require – feel free to discuss your requirements with us and we’d be happy to advise.
Headers & Footers
Some content is displayed on most (if not all) pages of your website. This is usually incorporated into “Header” and “Footer” elements that are common to all pages throughout the site.
The site header might include:
- The main site navigation menu
- A company logo/site title that links back to the homepage
- A tagline that introduces your company
- Links to your social media channels
The site footer might include:
- Comprehensive contact details
- A copyright notice
- Your (short) mission statement
- Links to your social media channels (if these are not included in the header)
- Links to your sister companies