A business website design requires certain elements to be successful. If you fail to incorporate at least most of the following design elements, your website will convert traffic to customers poorly—or not at all.
Business Website Design Element #1—KISS
The number one website design element is Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS). This is extremely important on the Web today to increase search engine rank, help convert traffic to customers, and to keep down costs.
• Search engines need to be able to scan your site correctly in order to add your content to their search results. A simple site design helps them do their job.
• Visitors need to use your site in order to become customers. A simple site design gently leads customers in the direction you want them to go. It doesn’t confuse them with too many options at once or force them to go looking around your site for the information they need.
• Your costs today and in the future depend heavily on how complicated your site is. Simple sites with simple themes are easy to build—all you need is a little bit of content and a few buttons and links. Complicated sites with custom themes take more time and more money to build, and they also cost more money to maintain when your Content Management System (such as WordPress or Drupal) gets upgraded or a new standard, like HTML5 comes out.
Take a good look at my simple Genesis WordPress theme that is responsive and HTML 5. It loads fast, it is clean and clear for the customers.
Business Website Design Element #2—Get Permission, Not Sales
Too many businesses build websites focused on only attracting paying customers. Don’t get me wrong—paying customers are great—but you could be missing the opportunity to market to potential customers before they’re ready to buy.
Imagine two business websites in the same industry. One site focuses on getting visitors to buy now. The other site focuses on getting visitors to subscribe to the site’s blog feed or email mailing list, although it also lets visitors buy now too.
Which site will do better in the long term? I suggest testing to find out, but the site which accepts subscribers will probably discover that plenty of people are willing to subscribe to a site when they aren’t yet ready to buy—but as they learn about the company and its products from their subscription, they’ll almost certainly choose that company when it does become time to buy.
I pay something like $29 a month for Aweber and can make $500 from one email message. So is Aweber expensive or unaffordable? I think not.
Business Website Design Element #3—Responsive (Mobile) Design
More and more people are browsing the Web on their mobile phones and tablets rather than on their desktops and laptops. How does your business website look on small devices? If you don’t know the answer, then it almost certainly looks bad.
Responsive Design, also called Mobile Design, is a collection of Web technologies for your business website which restyles your webpages to look their best on all of the most popular screen sizes.
You don’t need responsive design to make a website which looks good on small devices—I’ve been advocating a one-column design with large font sizes for years which works well on any device—but a responsive design will let you maximize your screen real estate on laptops and desktops without making phone and tablet users zoom in and zoom out constantly to read your pages.
With a predicted 50% or more of page views by the end of the year expected to come from tablets and phones, not creating a mobile-friendly site could cost you customers.
(By the way—a KISS design, discussed in point one, is the easiest to make into a responsive website. Some designs are so simple they don’t need any extra work to make them work well on different screen sizes.)
Business Website Design Element #4—Write For People, Not Search Engines
Practically every business website design advice site—including this one—will happily talk your ear off about Search Engine Optimization (SEO). But as much as SEO changes from year to year, one thing remains constant: you should write for people, not search engines.
Effective Search Engine Optimization can send droves of traffic to your site, but if your site isn’t useful to visitors, they’ll leave immediately. What good are visitors to a business if they never become customers?
The key to getting customers is to create content for your ideal customers—content they will like. Then add keyword optimization and other SEO techniques to that content so search engines find it and index it correctly.
Some sites get away with using poor-quality content, but before you emulate their content, you should consider their business model. Most sites with bad content use an advertising model—they don’t care if their visitors leave immediately as long as they see or click on an advertisement before they leave.
If you want customers or subscribers, you will need to prove to visitors that you deserve their attention—and for that you will need quality content.
Business Website Design Element #5—HTML5
If your website is more than a year old, you could be using HTML4 or (more likely) a version of XHTML. There’s nothing wrong with either, but Google and other search engines were the primary architects of HTML5 for a reason—HTML5 helps search engines correctly index pages.
If your site uses an old content management system (CMS), such as older versions of WordPress and Drupal, you can help Google index your site by using HTML5.
HTML5 has other advantages for your site, including the ability to better embed video and other content, plus better menus—but the main reason to upgrade is to help improve your search engine ranking. This is one reason I have moved about 5 of my websites to Geneis 2.
Business Website Design Element #6—Action Colors
The Web was originally designed to host research papers, and links were meant to let one research paper link to other research papers. In short, the Web was designed to work like Wikipedia.
But a business website doesn’t want to send its traffic to other websites. Your site isn’t a research paper—it’s a sales letter—so don’t use links unless you actually want people to click them.
To help you remember this and to help you train your readers, you should use a special link color on one link of every page—the call to action link.
The call to action link is the link you really want your visitors to click next. Maybe it’s a link to subscribe, maybe it’s a link to learn a bit more about you or your products, or maybe it’s a link to buy right now.
Every page should have a call to action link and every single one of these links should be a special color. Google uses big blue buttons for their call to action link; Amazon uses gold buttons; other sites use red. Choosing a color isn’t as important as making sure you clearly communicate to visitors what you want them to do after they read a particular page.
Business Website Design Element #7—Simple Top Nav
Most Web browsers let you press tab to select links on each web page. Take a moment to tab through one of the pages on your site and count every link. (Don’t count multiple links which go to the same location.)
How many links do you have on your pages? Ten, twenty, a hundred?
Most business websites have too many links. This is not a SEO problem—this is a website design problem. You want to convert visitors into customers (or subscribers), which means you should give them a simple and consistent story. Don’t encourage them to jump all over your site by adding unnecessary links—they’ll inevitably wander to the least interesting and most ineffective page on your site, decide that you’re an idiot, and leave.
Instead, provide a single simple navigation bar at the top of your page which includes only the most important pages on your site. For most sites, I recommend you link to the following pages:
• Your home page (you can make your logo link to your home page).
• Your About Us page.
• Your login or shopping cart page, if applicable.
• Your list of products or services if they aren’t displayed on your home page.
• A page which tells potential customers why they should buy from you.
• Your blog if you post high-quality content there.
If you know you have any other really important pages, you can include those too, but don’t link to your entire blog archives or your top ten products or anything else non-essential on every page.
I recommend a top navigation for two reasons:
1. It’s very clear and (if you keep it simple) it works well on all computers and mobile devices.
2. You have limited room, so you’re forced to choose only your most important links.
If you must, you can include a few extra links in your footer—but remember to include them only if you want people to click them. You can get Google to view any page on your site just by including it in an XML sitemap, so don’t link to things for the benefit of search engines. Only include links you want people to read immediately after they read the current page.
Business Website Design Element #8—Create An About Us Page
Nobody will buy from you unless you give them a reason to trust you. An attractive website and good sales writing will help people consider you legitimate—but nothing works as well as actually proving that you’re a real business with real people behind it, and that’s the purpose of the About Us page.
An About Us page requires at least one photo of a real person. It should have a brief description of the people behind your business, where you’re located, and any contact information you care to give away. Addresses and phone numbers will help your users trust you.
Business Website Design Element #9—Use Social Proof (If It Helps)
Lots of businesses include Twitter or Facebook boxes on their websites, but do these really help you turn visitors into customers?
Analyze who follows you or likes you to see who is actually using your social media accounts; if people are only connecting with you after they become customers, it’s unlikely that including social media info on your website is actually improving conversions.
Remember that you only want to put links on each page of your site which you actually want people to click next. If someone is just starting to get interested in your product—and then they see a Tweet you made linking to a movie trailer—you may lose the sale.
Business Website Design Element #10—Use The Web’s Long Tail
Huge businesses—the titans of their industry—can depend on ranking number one or number two for generic search terms. But most readers of this article will be much smaller businesses. Your goal is to rank for specific search terms relating to your business.
Savvy websites which target specific search terms are described as using the long tail of search traffic. Specific search terms get much less traffic individually than generic terms, but they’re easier to rank for and tend to convert visitors into customers more easily.
When you design your business website, keep in mind that you want to add content which targets the long tail searches in your market. Often that means you will need a part of your site where you can frequently add new content—in other words, a blog.
I recommend that all business websites include a blog but that they avoid featuring the blog on the home page. Google doesn’t feature its blogs anywhere near its home page, nor does Amazon.
Instead, use your blog to attract visitors to your site and then link them to the set of webpages you use to turn them into customers or subscribers. This is much less fun than traditional blogging—but it’s much more profitable, and that’s the goal of business website design.
Image source: LBW