This is a guest post from Deborah Fillman, freelance marketing communications and interface design consultant.
But what else does a website need in order to stand out from the competition and provide real marketing value? Here is a list of 10 ideas to consider:
1. Introduce yourself.
Make your brand identity obvious. Your logo, color palette and imagery should be crystal clear as to whose site this is.
2. State your purpose.
Is this site informational, transactional, interactive – as in social networking – or some mixture thereof? Can the end user tell that within a few seconds of visiting the home page?
3. Know your audience.
Make it obvious who your are are talking to. It should be made clear that your site is designated for a specific target audience (or audiences), or for “everyone.”
4. Make it easy.
Clearly identify navigation paths or tasks users can perform while on the site. Don’t make them dig to figure out what they can do, if anything, other than just click and read. An established web mantra is: “Don’t make me think.”
5. Keep it relevant.
Regularly update the site with fresh, audience-relevant, brand-consistent content.
As important as the look and feel of this site is, does it “sound” (words, video, imagery) consistent with the tone and personality of the brand? If there’s a disconnect, it will feel jarring (e.g., no one goes to an industrial site expecting to read slang).
6. Be straightforward.
Include direct, honest calls to action. If you want users to do something, say so, and state it clearly and honestly. Don’t hide it or bait-and-switch (e.g., Offering free shipping on the first purchase, then only AFTER the customer shops and adds to cart, letting them know they first have to provide all manner of personal info other than payment and shipping options in order to get the deal.).
7. Respect people’s time.
This may seem like a given, but some sites still struggle with slow load times and cumbersome process flows. This applies not just to the literal speed of the server and load capabilities, but also the number of clicks it takes to get from start to finish in any processes on the site.
8. Make it findable.
Can users find your site in the first place? Remember that you have two sets of “eyes” reading your content – humans and search engines. Optimize the site to appeal to both.
9. Don’t be annoying.
Be very sure users want a two-way conversation before including them. Limit email blasts, have an opt-out that’s easy to find, make communication to users relevant, personalized, and as infrequent as possible in order to stay top of mind.
10. Be memorable.
This is harder to pin down – and is usually a result of success in all of the above areas – but it’s a tougher nut to crack for industrial sites than you think.
There still has to be that special “something.” Often it’s in the graphic design, but more often it’s the sheer relevance of the content. Even if users just come to your site to read the thought leadership you offer – or refer others to do the same – the more eyes on what you offer, the more likely you’ll achieve your intended purpose.