"Our website is ranking on the front page for more than 50 search queries!"
– Starr Terrell
YMCA Board Member
"Our website is ranking on the front page for more than 50 search queries!"
– Starr Terrell
YMCA Board Member
A high priority for successful websites is to increase customer engagement. We see the Twitter logo on the backs of cereal boxes, urging consumers to "follow us on Twitter," QR codes that appear on packages of underpants linking to the homepage of the company website ... there are examples of weak attepts to engage customers everywhere. So how are the most successful organizations pulling it off?
The website design community has seen a big shift in the competitive landscape over the last few years. Long gone are the days of "Welcome to our homepage!" – users now visit a website with a goal in mind. Website design companies worth their salt know that it's no longer about simply getting tons of visitors to a site. It's about helping those visitors find what they came for, engaging them, and making their experience worthwhile.
Your visitors are probably well aware that you have a product to sell. Beating them across the eyeballs with big, red BUY NOW buttons will not turn them raving fans. But by making your site a hub of conversation with forums providing the opportunity for members of the community to shape the conversation, contribute their own insights, or to return for advice is something that your users will reward you for, by sharing your site with other like-minded community members.
In the example above, monthly photo contests are held, with contest winners being tapped for interviews about their photography techniques. This approach provides a steady stream of content that appeals to new visitors to the site, as it helps them understand the applications of the software, and it keeps regular visitors of the site engaged. This kind of loyalty has the added advantage you signalling Google that your site is relevant and useful.
What are you doing to make your website a hub of conversation?
Designing and maintaining a news site presents an interesting set of challenges for both the web design team and the editorial team. A challenge that is faced by every news site in common is how to display the large amount of content that is required to appear on the homepage, while still creating a pleasant reading experience. This content changes on a frequent basis, creating added layout challenges, and needs to link to full stories on other pages, which adds a layer to the visual hierarchy. Additionally, news sites generally rely on ad revenue to keep the operation up and running, and there is often little control over the appearance of these ads, meaning that their size and position must be well-considered in order to maintain visual balance on the page.
In redesigning the suite of websites for Streetwise Reports, we looked at which content would change daily (feature, or breaking news stories), which content would change only minimally in appearance (stock tickers, video placeholders, and the like), which content would never change (navigation, newsletter sign-up) and which content would pay the bills. We then devised a grid structure for the layout that could house these categories, and provide the right level of flexibility and consistency.
With the ground work of defining the layout complete, we could work on the fun stuff - selecting typefaces and defining styles for headlines, body copy, link text, and other content. This is an area where some best practices need to be followed (using black or dark gray text on a white background, for example, helps legibility) and where creativity is needed to give the publication its own identity.
Designers want to make beautiful, elegant web designs. But what if a site is trying to communicate that it has the lowest prices around? Will an elegant design communicate this? If a website's design looks upscale and expensive, chances are that the site's visitors will perceive the products to likewise be expensive. So then, what approach should be taken to provide a pleasant user experience, while communicating low prices - without resorting to 1997 web standards for design?
This interesting design challenge was one we faced when we were designing the look for BigTray's website, an online low-priced restaurant equipment store. As every desiger learns in design school, a user's perceptions are shaped by many different design elements: color, typography, white space, scale, language, imagery ... and the trick is to manipulate these variables while still focusing on the principles for good design.
Our designers of course, love good typography and were excited when web fonts evolved to offer more choices than the standard Arial and Palatino. But this was the first place where constraint was called for, and we opted for the stock, standard Arial and displayed text links in the tried-and-tested blue with an underline. We chose a simple color palette, making good use of the primaries and kept contrast high.
In the end, we were able to design a website that provided a pleasant user experience while still communicating the company's low-price market position.
When users are browsing your site, they are making a judgement about whether they can trust you. After all, they are not meeting you in person (yet), so they are unable to rely upon the typical set of tools we humans use when we meet each other for the first time - body language, eye contact, personal hygene, a charming personality, and so on. They are reading your site, looking for some indication that they can have a connection with you. This is where your content comes into play. Do you speak their language? Do you understand their pain? Can your visitors relate to the photos of people on your site? All these questions are being answered on a sub-conscious level, and the answers influence whether the user will contact you, or whether they'll click back to the search results and try another site.
Are you beginning to see how content is crucial?
When we were writing content for the Elaine Bell Catering website, we wanted to put readers at ease, assuring them that no matter what the situation, Elaine's 30 years of catering experience put her in a good postition to handle it with grace and charm. We could easily support this message with plenty of photos of delighted guests, along with their bouyant testimonials, because there were so many to choose from.
The site saw a nice improvement in user engagement, as evidenced by the User Flows report in analytics, and this has coincided anecdotally with more calls from prospective clients.
The best website designs make it easy for users to find what they are looking for, and designing a corporate intranet site is no different. For many large organizations, the creation, management and distribution of marketing resources is a time consuming and scattered process, often resulting in duplicated efforts and an excessive burden on the internal team. This was felt by Wells Fargo's Foreign Exchange Services team, so they looked for a solution for cataloging their marketing resources.
There was a group intranet site in place, but it was poorly utilized and seen as a last resort for finding information. Fortunately, we were able to take full advantage of its functionality and use it for an online repository of marketing resources. Materials were organized by department and cross-referenced by type to help different departments leverage the work done by other departments. This greatly increased the utilization of existing marketing resources, cutting down on requests for new pieces. Additionally, we created an interactive scrolling visual catalog of all marketing resouces to allow team members to quickly browse for marketing ideas. Team members could click on a thumbnail to download a template if it was available, or to be put in touch with the piece's owner.
This turned into enormous time savings for the internal marketing team, but it has also made it easy for them to view the entire system of marketing resources, allowing them to see pieces that needed to be retired or updated.
The best digital marketing campaigns create a beginning-to-end experience for the user, never allowing a glitch in the matrix - if Keanu Reeves movie references are the type of reference that would resonate more strongly with you. This means that once a user is first introduced to your campaign, the conversation is never dropped, beyond even the point when your magnificant user either buys your product or leaves the sales funnel.
This is where microsites can really shine, creating a highly specialized interface strictly customized to the task and audience at hand. Users are usually intoduced to the campaign from some external source such as advertisng, email, direct mail, or social media, and delivered to the microsite where a conversion or micro-conversion is more likely. (A micro-conversion might be a user subscribing to an email, downloading a PDF, or going to a deeper page.)
A recent success story is that of Wells Fargo International Cross-Sell. They had been running a purely print-based campaign to educate internal folks, and seeing dismal single-digit response rates. Taking a look at what was being asked of the recipients (fill out a postcard and mail it back in) it was clear that this was an ideal candidate for a microsite, directing users to the site by email and direct mail.
The response rate from this campaign increased from 8% to 42% and the cost went down by $38,000.
Are you operating in a highly competitive marketplace? In very competitive environments, search engine optimization efforts can take you only so far - your website has to provide your visitors with the information they are looking for FAST! Once that is done, the next step is to remove all barriers that might get in the way of your visitors hiring you: Is the contact form too long or buggy? Does your pricing seem too complicated? Is it difficult to find your phone number? If your users are required to work hard to hire you, they won't.
As the mantra for web usabilty goes, "Don't make me think!"
We developed this website for a creative agency representing keynote speakers based on what we know of user search methodologies. By analyzing user pathways through the existing site, we were able to create user scenarios that told us what the site's visitors were looking for. By reconfiguring the site's structure and navigation, we were able to develop a design that aligned with users' goals. The outcome, that we were able to track in Google's Analytics data, was a lower bounce rate and higher engagement levels.
An additional benefit of a lower bounce rate (besides the obvious benefit of losing fewer visitors to the competition) is that Google interprets this information as an indication that your site is more relevant to the search being conducted, and rewards the site by ranking it higher in search results.
So, in a nutshell: better usabilty = lower bounce rate = more leads + better search rankings
Getting a user beyond their concerns and removing any perceived risk thay might have in regards to working with a company should be the number one goal for any business website. This is especially true for wedding planners whose clients are facing one of the biggest, most emotionally-charged events in their lives. A wedding planner's website needs to communicate a level of expertise, confidence and grace by not only showing gorgeous imagery, but also clearly spelling out a solid process.
Fortunately for this wedding planner, describing her process was easy - she does it everyday with her clients. It's part of what makes her stand out, and it's a big reason behind her many successful years planning weddings and upscale events.
We presented the process as a pictorial grid layout so that users could quickly get a glimpse of the sequence, and dig deeper into any aspect they desired. This has helped users understand the multi-faceted nature of Marilyn's business and her ability to coordinate all the details. When arranged in list- or paragraph-form, this information, which is so critical to alleviating prospective clients' concerns, often gets passed over.
The site is still quite new, so we haven't collected enough data yet, but from an anecdotal standpoint, the experience has been very positive for visitors to the site.