As part of a business development push, we’ve been reviewing 1,300 companies and grading their sites to see just how clear they’re making their proposition to potential customers.
Here are seven tips on what brands should do / not do to make sure their message lands and survives first contact with the user.
Think about the site from the outside in.
Too many businesses think about what they want their site to do for them (e.g., PR); rather than think about what a potential user wants from it. When you start to think about it as a valuable tool which can help move a customer down the path to purchase; it radically changes what appears above the fold on the homepage.
Use clear language.
Using industry terms and abbreviations is a no-no. You’re looking to get your positioning statement (a simple and clear description of who you are and what you do) out there as quickly as possible. That way the user can quickly determine whether this is the place they want to be, right?
Get out of your own way.
I know there’s the cookie thing that very few of us understand, but it’s tolerated to get to the good stuff. But some organisations think it’s a really good idea (for them) to ask you a whole load of other seemingly irrelevant questions before letting you in, which just builds frustration for the user. What region am I looking for? Am I looking for trade or consumer? What position do I occupy? Really? Come on.
Think carefully before you use video.
Yes, you like it because it looks good, but it can also be a distraction. See point 1. Video can be helpful when you need to provide
supplemental content, but don’t just stick it on your header banner and assume I want to watch it first up. So, if you’ve weighed up the options and decided there’s a role for it on your homepage… think about placement, make sure it’s accessible and responsive, make it succinct rather than trying to ‘tell a story’, and keep load times fast.
Ditch the carousels.
These are the devil’s work and, often, are the result of an internal people-pleasing exercise rather than information your customer will really value. Has anyone ever sat and deliberately clicked through the pages on a carousel out of genuine interest?
And there’s a special place in hell for those organisations who demote their positioning statement to a page in a carousel. So, the fact the org did a sponsored run last month and raised £500 for a local charity is given equal billing to a crisp and clear positioning statement about who the business is and what they do? Not all information is equal. It needs hierarchies.
Don’t buck the conventions.
I know it feels really cool to go against the grain and orientate your navigation horizontally on the left-hand side of the screen…but who’s that for? Certainly not the user who’s left confused and a bit hacked off. There’s a reason navs and menus run along the top or in a stack…because it’s a convention that EVERYONE uses. The rule is: don’t make the user have to think more than they really need to.
Think about imagery and standout.
Of course, I’m going to say this…coming from a branding background…but be careful about the imagery you choose. Stock imagery creates ‘silos of similarity’ for industry sectors. For example, in what I’d describe very generally as a ‘tech/IT’ space, there’s a tendency for organisations to use visual metaphors to create a sense of networks and connectedness. They all tend to be a variation of a globe illustration against a blue background with some dynamic looking lines connecting dots across the world. I lost count of how many firms were using the same imagery. This tells me it’s crystal clear that there’s no quicker way to become one of the many v’s the competition.
That said – stock imagery can be very efficient from a budget point of view. So, if you do need to supplement brand imagery with stock, think about what graphic assets you can incorporate that will help make it a bit more ownable. Simple treatments can be effective if used well.
So, it’s not really rocket science, is it? It mostly comes down to thinking about the customer, keeping things simple, adopting the conventions, and thinking carefully about your imagery. Why do we (seemingly always) need to make it more complicated than that?