As a small business owner, you know how important it is to have a strong online presence: your website is often the first point of contact for your potential customers and it's crucial that it makes a good and lasting impression.
But how exactly do you achieve this result? Let’s find out
As an experiment, run a quick search on google using your industry (or any of your liking) and have a look at the results (go to the image tab for visuals). You will notice that most of the websites shown in the results are pretty basic: they use the same templates, have similar color themes, use generic images from a database, have similar layouts:
Now click on any of these results and scroll the site. I bet you aren’t getting too excited with what you read (if you are, bookmark the site for future inspiration). Check an other one just to be sure...
Nothing special right? all these sites, they are forgettable and that is where your opportunity to stand out exists
Here are some key elements you can focus on doing better than average and you can reap the benefits of a positive differentiation to boost your traffic, generate leads and ultimately increase your revenues
Focus on your visitors (not you)
It is very tempting to talk about what you know best: You! And get carried away detailing the origins of your business, explaining your logo and all the concepts it embodies (true story) …and forget about your visitors and the reason(s) they are visiting your website…
And yet, your website is the most relevant place to talk about your business... How do you make it about you without focusing on you?
The trick here is to deliver your information while focusing on your visitor interests:
- The problem they want to solve by visiting your website (being entertain can be the problem)
- The questions they have about your solution and if it can work for them
- Whether or not they can trust you to deliver it
As much as possible, you want to give them elements they can relate to so they can envision themselves being successful with your help and be reinsured in your abilities. Here are some common strategies you can use as social proof:
Showing logos of good reputation brands you work with (clients, partners…). It subtly implies that you are a well established company and recognized member of a professional network
Most people don’t like to take risks and be the first at something. A testimonial is a proof that your solution works and that going with you is not so risky
I have a detailed post on this topic coming soon
Pick case studies people can relate to and they will be able to project themselves being successful with you: “It worked for XX who had a problem close to mine, it will work for my case too”
Helpful content to inform your visitor and showcase your expertise: blog, downloadable resources like guides, tools…
Make it super easy & quick to find information
We are touching here one of the most interesting & challenging aspects of web design: User Experience design (UX). When visitors easily find the information they need, they are more likely to engage with your content, and trust you more.
But there is no silver bullet to get this right and it has to be designed to match the audience & business context with a focus on:
How you structure your information - Think about how a book that is organized in part, chapters & paragraphs - You want to make this as intuitive as possible with a bonus: a clear hierarchy gives you SEO bonus points
How your visitor will progress through the different pages & sections of your website without getting lost: links, sitemap, call to actions, breadcrumbs, search & filters are the road signs we use to drive the visitor to his destination
Make it visually unique & supportive of your branding
Remember our little Google search test? The graph images representing the websites in the results were all the same, typically a keyboard on a desk with my “accounting services” search
That is exactly what you want to avoid for your website. You want people remember visiting you
A word of caution here as it is a common mistake: Visual appearance should never come at the cost of the User experience. In others words, having a beautiful website that is impossible to navigate won’t do your business any good.
This being said, there is plenty of room to be creative as long as you stick to these principles:
Always use images and illustrations that fit your brand and the message you are trying to pass
And avoid low quality images and cliches (like an image with 2 shaking hands for your contact page). Yes please, avoid stock photos that looks cheap and unprofessional
There are plenty of resources to find good images: Check my guide to pick the right visuals for your website
Insert branding elements
Can you use your logo or any of your existing assets to create unique patterns that represents your brand?
Let your colors shine
How can you use the colors of your visual identity to ease navigation and information organization?
Let me give you an example of how I did this for one of my client: Confluences is a business consulting company based in Cambodia and offering solutions to research, create and develop your business in the ASEAN region
Here is how I design their home page:
01 - Company logo
I used the white version of the Logo with a blue/black background which is the main color in the visual identity palette. I have tuned down a bit the opacity so you can spot the beautiful image underneath
02 - Company baseline
Sums up what the company does in a simple sentence (optimized for keywords)
03 - Pattern inspired from their logo
I have used the curved lines of the logo to create a new unique "wavy" pattern that I use as a mask: this symbolically embodies the company mission is to open / unveil opportunities in Cambodia (image a curtain or camera shutter opening on a Cambodia landscape)
04 - Unique photo of Phnom Penh skyline where the company is located
I have added a parallax effect when you scroll the image that gives depth and movement
05 - Social media Icons
In white outline and highly visible since the company is really active on social media (first channel of communication)
06 - Hamburger menu
Discrete to give plenty of space for the main image. The most important sections are the services and they are directly accessible by clicking the color cards
07 - Services
Each service has its own color that is consistently used across the website as an identifier. I have reused the logo curve lines with a low opacity to recall the branding (can you spot it?). A click on the color card redirects you to the service page
Optimize, optimize, optimize
This part focuses more on development / building the site
For smaller screens
Here is a fact from gs.statcounter.com. As of November 2022, 60% of all web traffic came through mobile phones. That includes your visitors…
We are all impatient and waiting is rarely our prefer choices, especially when other options are available. There are a couple of things you can do to make sure your website loads fast
Post coming soon
An SSL certificate is essential for securing sensitive information such as login credentials and credit card information, and it can help to build trust with potential customers. And if you don't have one, your user browser will show him a security warning when he lands on your page - definitely not the kind of message you want to pass
If your website is not optimized for search engines, it may be difficult for potential customers to find you in search results. A redesign can help to improve your website's SEO and increase its visibility in search results.
Having a website that stands out will do a lot of goods for your business and your work life balance
Creating a unique experience for your visitors is a challenge, but it is really worth it since most of business don’t do this investment
Teaming us with a professional will help you find and execute the right strategy for your website (find advice to source the best web designer for your project in this post)
Sometimes a simple redesign is enough, check this post to know if your website needs a redesign