In any economy, it's crucial for companies to strategically engage their audiences.
Even companies that have traditionally thrived in the brick-and-mortar world are addressing their audiences online. Many, however, are quickly learning that Web sites, like homes, tend to accumulate too much stuff over time and grow stale.
Here are some basic guidelines to follow for engaging new customers and keeping existing ones interested in your products and services.
1. Define your brand at first sight: In an era where access to information is possible anytime, anywhere and anyplace, a Web site has about six seconds or less to make an impression when someone visits. As a result, do the following:
- Make sure the main brand stands out in a clear, consistent fashion. By clearly defining the company’s products and services from the start, the Web site helps create a strong brand voice while also differentiating your brand from the competition.A
- sk this question: What is it the Web site needs and wants to do for people to feel when they first arrive at the site? For most good sites, the purpose is to quickly and effectively convey the message through crisp design and copy (color palette, imagery, tone of voice and more).
2. Know your elevator pitch: The work begins on the site’s homepage, where information is culled to include only the most essential messaging. Here are some key ways to make sure a site contains only key information:
- Create concise and specific headlines with clear subheads. This will help visitors easily find the information they want.
- Provide content that’s descriptive yet straightforward. Also, make sure the content works with the imagery on the page to lead visitors to products and services that match their needs.
- Don’t clutter the homepage with too much content. Sure, this may mean saying no to a lot of stakeholders in the organization, but be strong. On the homepage, smarter and simpler is the way to go.
3. Create a seamless user experience: The new design should be applied to each top-level page of the remodeled Web site. While this may not work within the company’s budget, it presented a user experience challenge to ensure that the remainder of the site wouldn’t feel disparate. Here are some ways to create a seamless user experience:
- Give precedence to top-level pages as user-friendly places from which visitors can jump into more-specific content.
- Create a look and feel for top-level pages that seamlessly blend into deeper sections by using similar color schemes, content outlines and typography.
- Make minor revisions to second-level pages to close the disparity gap. Remember the 80/20 rule, and resist the urge to rethink everything.
4. Simplify site navigation: The Web site’s navigation should be restructured to allow visitors to quickly and easily orient themselves and find exactly what they want. It can seem like such a mundane component without the coolness factor of a redesign; however, the most cost-effective fix is often just providing easier-to-understand pathways through your site. The following are a few ways to do this:
- Keep navigation nomenclature simple, providing clear access to key content.
- For top-level navigation, place your most important and heavily trafficked sections to the far left. On Minwax.com, “products” occupies that prime real estate.
- Lay out the remaining navigation in a way that makes sense for your company and its visitors. With Minwax, a natural progression occurs: products come first, followed by learning, then inspiration, application and general information.
By establishing a strong brand presence and employing consistent, recognizable site navigation, it is possible to increase recognition among the company’s core audience and even tap into other audiences. Follow these key steps, and you’ll be well on your way to doing the same.
This article was adapted from a presentation of Rebecca A. Lyman who is principal and co-founder of The Garrigan Lyman Group, a Seattle-based digital marketing and advertising agency. Reach Rebecca at firstname.lastname@example.org.