Welcome to the Website BluePrint!
In this guide, we will show you everything you need to know about the importance of website design, and how you can leverage certain principles to turn your website into one of your business’ biggest assets, and the online marketing strategies and activities you can undertake to help grow and expand your business.
We have consulted with some of the leading online marketing and design experts in the industry to provide us with leading and easy to implement best practices of website design, and successful digital marketing practices that you can easily adopt in your daily marketing activities.
The guidelines are written to be easily understandable and follow and can be applied to all types of businesses.
By reading this blueprint, you will learn all about, and find out:
- Why your website’s branding and design is so important across all the platforms your business appears on online
- Why quality images and content will help your business succeed
- How you can make your website stand out amongst the rest
- How to make Google part of your success, and how to successfully apply Search Engine Optimisation, Pay-Per-Click and other online marketing tools.
- How to keep your website current, and running smoothly.
The above is just the start of what you’re about to learn!
What will this guide help you with?
This guide will teach you how to take a critical look at your website and your online marketing activities and discover how you can implement best practices and design choices that will help your website, and by extension, your business get more and better leads, grow your online presence and get the customers you need.
No matter what type of industry you find yourself operating in, any business can benefit from better design and content, and a more effective online presence.
Why have a website?
Before we look at how you can optimise your website’s branding and design consistency, it’s important to ask yourself the question: ‘What is the point of having a website?’
This might seem like an obvious question, with an even more obvious answer, but the problem is that so many business owners, even website designers, believe the point of having a website is only to have a ‘professional’ presence on the web. This means that they design a website that looks good but is ultimately, just an expensive online brochure or business card.
If your website is just an online brochure of your services, you may see that it will get a few inquiries and sales here and there, but probably won’t generate enough income to justify the small fortune you have paid to have it created.
You may also find that you don’t know how much traffic your website receives in the first place, how well it functions as a sales tool, or how Google is ranking it for specific keywords.
The good news is, even though you might not know all the details, we will show you what to look for, and where to find and interpret the information you need to turn your website into a marketing tool that works 24/7, showing your business to the entire world in the best possible way, generate sales and get you customers.
So, in short, what’s the point of having a website?
The point of having a website is to have a platform from which you can generate leads and sell your products and services to customers via the internet. Your site does need to look professional, but its primary goal should be to generate leads and sales.
Chapter 1: The importance of online Branding and Design Consistency
Why Consistency is key
Your brand is the one thing that your current and potential customers will notice and remember you by. It will also trigger feelings of trust, happiness and security, or if badly managed, the opposite.
For this reason alone, it is incredibly important to keep the message your brand communicates uniform, and consistent, meaning it doesn’t change every time you apply it to a new marketing medium.
By providing your customers and everyone else coming into contact with your brand with a consistent image and marketing message, you will begin to foster a sense of brand loyalty in them, and it’s brand loyalty that turns customers into repeat customers.
How to be consistent
When we look at how your website appears online, it’s important to keep the following points in mind, when you want it to show the same consistency as the rest of your brand:
Don’t change it
It doesn’t matter if you have a new business that you’re building an online presence for, or an existing one you want to take online, it’s incredibly important that you finalise your brand look and message, before you begin.
One of the easiest ways that people identify brands is by their consistency, and as such, familiarity over time.
What does this mean? Whether your customers or visitors see your business, or read about it on a social media post, pamphlet or a billboard, it must look and sound consistent.
In short, you need to ensure the following elements of your brand stay the same, no matter where they are found:
- Colours schemes
- Logo designs
- The voice of your content
However, change can be a good thing
If you look at some of the most famous brands, you’ll see that they do change over time, even if they keep to similar colours and shapes. This means, that if you feel it’s time to give your brand a facelift, be sure to apply your change across your whole business, and to do it in such a way that the change is consistent. As an example a social media manager might create a variation of the company logo to fit into a square allocated logo area, however the style does not fit with the brand standards or guidelines.
Brand and design consistency, and the internet
In light of our look at why you should have a website, and what you should expect it to do on page [x], the goal of your website should be to gain new customers, attract visitors and grow your brand’s presence, and in effect your business.
This means that your brand should be able to stand out from the noise of your competitors, and one of the best ways you can do that, is to have a strong brand look and feel, and message that is the same, wherever your customers and visitors find you online.
That will allow them to understand that they are talking to the same business, that provides the products and services they’ve come to expect, and that it is available on various platforms, keeping you top of mind when it comes to purchasing time.
Why Social Media is so important in terms of brand and design consistency
Wherever your visitors find you online, it’s become clear that your brand and design should appear consistent, but what about when you start talking to your customers?
That’s right, social media and its transformation of the business/customer dynamic has been immense. In the past, you would be talking at your customers through offline methods, be they billboards, pamphlets or radio ads.
Now, on social media, you can have a conversation with your customers. Even more, interestingly, people can have a discussion about your business that has the potential to reach thousands of people.
For these above reasons, you should also make sure that your brand provides a look and feel that looks the same and provides a consistent brand message that helps to build positive relationships with your followers online, which will, in turn,spread that same message within their social circles, in turn growing your visibility and impact on many people.
A consistent design and branding approach to your online marketing activities will go a long way to help you gain the trust of your customers, creating brand loyalty and ultimately customers who are happy to use your products and services.
Furthermore, a consistent brand presence on social media will help you to build positive relationships with your customers, which can have far-reaching benefits for its growth, in turn also increasing brand awareness and loyalty.
Now that you understand why consistency is so important with regards to your online presence, we’ll take the next step: making sure that your customers have a great time while browsing and interacting with your brand online.
Chapter 2: The importance of User Experience, Quality Images, and Quality Content
Now that you have a better idea why it’s so important for all your marketing efforts to be consistent, we’ll be looking at the steps you can take to ensure that your online visitors have a great time when visiting your business online.
It’s no secret that in today’s digitally-driven world, your website can have an incredibly positive impact on your business, if your website has been developed to provide a great user experience to everyone visiting it.
To help ensure that your website becomes one of your most valued business assets, we’ll take a look at the three most important factors that will determine whether your website will help, or hinder you: User Experience, Imagery, and Content.
A great user experience (UX) is based on providing your visitors with all the information they will need as quickly and efficiently as possible. This is because there is such an incredible wealth of information available to the average user, if they don’t get what they want on your website, they’ll simply move on to the next site.
If you want to make sure that your visitors stay on your website, you have to ensure that it ticks the boxes of the following key elements of a user-friendly site:
Remember that your website should first be designed with your users in mind. This means that the most relevant content to them should be easily accessible, and logically ordered.
Some basic but very effective navigation choices you can make, include thinking about using a simpler menu system than a multi-layered one, and also including a search bar on your site, so that users can search and access the content they want directly.
Seeing as most visitors to your site will want to get the information they want quickly and efficiently, you should make sure that the content on your page is structured in such a way as to make scanning it easy.
Be sure to provide content in short paragraphs, with enough space between paragraphs. Your content should be structured using subheaderss, bullet points and numbered lists to help visitors quickly scan over the info.
On a more practical level, you will also have to make sure that the contrast of your background and text colour doesn’t impede reading, and that the font type you use on your website is sans serif, as they read better than serif fonts, which are more suited to printed media.
Make your site mobile friendly
More and more internet users are turning to their mobiles to access the internet. This isn’t a problem, but it does mean that your website should have a mobile-friendly version that will display optimally on these types of devices.
If your website isn’t designed to accommodate mobile browsers, your content will be difficult to read, and you will definitely start seeing less traffic. This means that seeing as mobile internet browsing has become so widespread, you simply have to ensure that mobile optimisation is part of your website design
Your Site’s Load Time
The load time of your site has never been as important as it is in today’s online world. Not only will most users abandon your site outright if your loading time is too slow, but the speed at which your site loads also affects your Google search rankings. To get a better load speed, make sure that your images are compressed and resized, and optimised for mobile browsers.
While your images need to be optimised to help with your site’s loading times, this does not mean that their quality should be anything but stellar. It’s human nature that we’re so attracted to images, and it is definitely one of the most important factors online visitors’ take into account when they’re deciding whether your website is trustworthy or even worth their time.
Here are some considerations you can make when it comes to your website’s imagery, whether you’re showcasing your products, or just giving visitors something great to look at:
Get a professional
Your images need to visualise your products and services in an impactful way. If you cannot provide images that will help convince your visitors to use your business, consider getting a professional who will know how and what to showcase so that it gives the client a holistic view of your business, enticing them to stay.
Stock can help
Stock photography doesn’t need to be the cringe-inducing faux pas that some of us have seen online. In fact, stock photography can be incredibly efficient in providing your visitors with relevant and impactful images, if used correctly. If you’re unsure, take some time to browse other sites that are similar to yours to see what is and isn’t working.
Remember that you don’t have to choose one path and stick to it. Choose a mix of professional and stock photography as your budget allows, to get the best possible results.
If you want your website to succeed, you have to make sure that the written content on it is of the highest quality. Great content helps your website rank better, turns site visitors into loyal customers, and helps to sell your products and services.
Here are some of the most important considerations you can make regarding your website’s content:
Quantity will help you, but first, Quality
Yes, many online resources will tell you that producing new content is a great way to get your site to rank, but what you should consider is that whatever you publish on your website, should be well written and researched.
Remember, your website’s first aim is to provide your users with a trusted and authentic user experience, which, by the way, Google rewards. So whatever you do, make sure that the content you post sets you up to become a trusted resource of knowledge to your visitors, who may start linking your content on other sites and platforms online, which only helps to boost your online presence.
Like we said above, constantly updating your content is very important to your search rankings. Luckily the posting of frequent content that’s of high quality dovetails excellently, and helps to ensure that your visitors are happy to read through your content, and even recommend you.
This does not mean that you have to update your website content every two weeks. A blog is an easy addition to any website, and is an excellent tool to host newly written articles, and give your customers a place to chat to you.
Use keywords responsibly
Keywords are one of the main ways in which a search engine knows to provide your details to someone searching for products or services related to your offering.
These days Google is pretty smart when it comes to keyword use, and actually penalises keyword stuffing, which is the overuse of keywords throughout your website or blog post. Instead, keywords can now be used in a wider context, and only have to appear in your Meta description and title, and your first paragraph for Google, to help understand what your business is about.
This is where constant, quality content comes in. Providing Google with a constant flow of newly written, unique posts only helps to boost your ranking and helps to index your services in various ways, making you all the more relevant when someone searches for goods and services related to your business.
Now that we’ve taken a broad look at the three biggest factors of website success, we’ll move on to focused approaches for your website’s user experience, imagery and content.
Chapter 3: Make your website user-friendly
In the previous chapter, we had a look at some broad changes you can make to your website’s user experience, imagery and content to help your website perform better, and be an asset to your business. Now, we’ll take a quick look at some of the more practical changes you can make today.
As you’ve no doubt by now realised, a website is a combined product of your business offerings, but it can’t just be a straight-forward sales tool. It also has to make sense to the reader, and as such you should think about the following when it’s time to relook or build a new site
Make a plan
Don’t just populate a website with elements you think will help you sell more of your products or services. Instead, map out the journey a prospective customer will take when they visit your website, to the point where they’ll be happy to buy your products.
If you start to better understand what pages they are most likely to visit, and what content they will take in, you can start implementing changes that will have a huge effect on the success of your business.
If you are unsure, you can always try to talk to one of your repeating online customers, and ask them what parts of the website helped them make their decision to support you.
Work towards creating a personality
It’s no longer viable to sound like a faceless corporation in a world where brands are in constant contact and conversation with their customers. Instead, look at being more personable, and move away from words like ‘we’, or ‘our’, which only creates distance between you and your prospective clients.
However, this will also need some planning. Sit down and find a voice and way of speaking to your customers that fits within your brand objectives and the way you want to communicate with your customers.
Your website has to be intuitive, otherwise your visitors will simply move on to another site if they’re struggling to get to the info they want. Here are some practical implementations you can make for your website
Make your website social
If you’re website is not allowing visitors to get quick access to your social media platforms, you should think about getting share buttons implemented as soon as possible. If you have a blog, social share buttons could open your website up to a wealth of social media traffic, as well as making your brand appear more trustworthy to other potential customers.
Another thing to keep in mind, is that if a potential customer is browsing your website and wants to ask you a quick question without sending a mail, giving them the ability to quickly access your social media pages will not only make them happy, as they can communicate with you on the platform of their choice, but also goes a long way in showing that you want to talk with your customers.
Get your Calls to action on point
So when a visitor lands on a specific page on your website, how will they know where to go next to learn about your products and services? If you leave them wondering, they might just wander off to the next website.
Implementing strong call to action isn’t just relegating it to the bottom of your page, which might come across as spammy.
Instead, think about implementing call to actions that contribute to solving your visitor’s needs, throughout your website.
For example, if they are browsing web content about a particular product, a great call to action might be to link them to a blog post about the product in action that’s also on your website. By using clearly written, well-designed calls to actions, you can create a holistic experience for your website visitors, which will make them all the more likely to purchase your goods or services.
Help visitors find you
Apart from social media share buttons, you should also make it easy for your website visitors to find other information about the business. This normally means creating a clear space where they can see your telephone number, address, and even your physical location, if its pertinent to the way you conduct your business.
This also means that if you use lead or contact forms on your website, you should ensure that they require the least amount of effort from your visitors, and not long, protracted information requirements that might cause them to leave.
Also, be sure to clearly indicate which fields in the form are required to be filled in before a submission can be made.
If you design your forms to be quick and easy to fill out, you’re sure to start seeing them used more often.
The way your website is designed will also have an impact on its success. Here are some more practical considerations to make when it comes to the way your website works.
Forget about the fold
It’s no longer proven practice to shove as much info as possible above the fold of your website pages. If you provide visitors with short, impactful content and great imagery that flows easily from one subject or website page to another, creates a flowing browsing experience that will see your visitors coming back for more.
Find broken links
If your website has been around for some time, or depending on how large it is, you might have a couple of pages that don’t work, and when someone lands on them, the dreaded 404 error is the only thing they see.
The worst thing is, the average visitor will just move on, and chalk your website up to one that’s not being maintained, and if you’re not maintaining your website, what does that say about your business. So take some time to identify which pages are not doing their job, and fix or get rid of them.
These first three chapters should have given you some great practical insights on how you can make your website more accessible to your visitors, and help convert them into clients. In the next couple of chapters, we’ll look at how you can get even more visitors by harnessing the power of Search Engine Optimisation. Our section on search engine optmisation is being written. For more information on SEO, you can read our ebook.
Chapter 4: How to get your website seen
Google quality and structure landing pages including service and product pages.
How to make your website work with SEO, PPC etc online marketing.