By Guest Blogger Brian Batchelor
When the Internet arrived in the 1990s, the initial belief among organizations was simply to establish their web presence. Put up a page or two with brief information, usually including your contact numbers and addresses, and you were set. People could find you online and follow up with you as needed based on what you presented.
That scenario has changed drastically. Right now, the emphasis for all businesses online is to have a web purpose rather than just a web presence. This means creating a website that is an effective visual representation of a company’s overall brand and mission, is easy to navigate and allows for interactivity by visitors. You want to captivate the attention of anyone who lands on your home page so that they will linger on what is presented, explore the site and hopefully be inspired enough to pursue business opportunities with your organization, or further secure relationships already in place.
This is a big requirement to fulfill. Luckily, there are some basic guidelines which when followed will make this process relatively painless to undergo and will provide your association with excellent results.
First Steps to Take
Start out by determining your goals for your website. What do you want a first-time visitor to learn about you and your organization when they first arrive on your home page? Base everything you are envisioning for both content and design from that decision.
Regarding graphics and overall navigation, think about how to best direct users to see the most important parts of your website. For example, for a client that was a beer distribution company, we revamped the website to have a glass or bottle image appear on the home page when a guest clicked on which brand they wanted to see. Another click on that brand leads people to more information about the product, which is what the company wants for guests to associate with its business. Additionally, the website has tabs for staff bios, the company’s history, its efforts to promote sustainability, and its charitable activities, all areas that leaders agreed were important to emphasize on the home page.
Whatever sort of appearance and navigation you choose to have people click to other pages in your website, make sure it is appropriate and flows with what you want to reflect regarding your organization. If your audience is primarily business leaders and CEOs, you want a website that looks professional and logically laid out, the same way they would expect to do business with you.
What About Mobile Devices?
The growth of smartphones and tablets to access the Internet has led to concerns about how best to present websites on such devices, as the screens typically are smaller than those of desk computers. To accommodate this growth, there is a trend toward responsive design, a development approach that has a website respond automatically to the requirements of every screen size, so that no different mobile versions are necessary. With responsive design, you have almost “future proofed” your website so you can make future adjustments when needed, no matter the screen size.
If responsive design exceeds your website revamp budget, or you just prefer having separate mobile versions of your website, keep in mind that with smartphones, people are generally accessing websites to obtain information they need quickly, such as your association’s upcoming events. In contrast, tablets are graphic heavy to appeal to those users. These considerations should apply to how you design and should include items on your home page for each format.
Similarly, if someone is visiting your website on a tablet, check that he or she is not forced automatically to view the mobile smartphone version. Viewers prefer seeing the site look as much as possible as to what exists on a laptop or desktop model. As stated previously, this problem can be avoided if you employ responsive design.
Other Basics to Remember
While having a Flash introduction or movie clip play at the start of your website may sound interactive, most people ignore and even dislike them, as they interrupt time and flow to reach what they want in your website. Graphics can be dazzling, but they need to be used to help a visitor learn more about you.
While the present trend is for brighter images and graphics on home pages, employ them wisely. An excessive amount can slow down the time to load your site on any device and discourage use by impatient visitors.
For your home page to have strong Search Engine Optimization (SEO), research the keywords and most searched terms associated with your organization, as well as ones you want connected to your group. Utilize what you have found, and incorporate it into your home page content in a coherent and uncluttered fashion – in other words, make their use sound natural and appropriate in describing your association.
Regarding how much text to include on a home page, while there is no set standard word count limit, you want to have people learn the basics about you in the least amount of space. Say who your organization is, what sort of services or products it provides, and what needs it fulfills. Links and tabs to the rest of the website can offer more details from there.
For links and tabs, a basic rule is to have all essential information on your website accessible within three clicks. Users like to find what they want as soon as possible, and you will lose them if your website is haphazardly organized.
A powerful and attention-grabbing website, with proper navigation and layout, is worth the investment for any organization seeking to stay ahead of the competition. Newcomers will appreciate how inviting you have made the visit, while your returning followers will feel confident in knowing your quality online presence is a reflection of the high standards you observe. Make it a priority for your association to take this action as we begin a new year of opportunity for everyone.
Brian Batchelor is co-founder and creative director for Brasco Design + Marketing, which helps companies design and implement creative strategies to springboard their growth. Armed with a client base in a variety of industries, Brasco Design + Marketing specializes in marketing strategy, creative brand design, web development, online/SEO marketing and comprehensive marketing management services. The company, located in the heart of downtown Raleigh, N.C., maintains a prestigious client base, and is a one-stop shop for all aspects of design and marketing creation and management. The agency has been providing services to clients since 2007 and delivers passion, energy, creativity and experience.