With consumers wanting information and products quicker than ever before, the web design industry has had to react, inventing more intuitive ways for customers to find business that sell what they need.
To compete in these new and ever-shifting digital channels, it's tempting to think that an ultra-sophisticated website with cutting-edge technology behind it is needed. The truth is, however, that an SME does NOT need a website with all the bells and whistles. While a voice-recognition search bar and 4K video backgrounds are very cool, they aren't always realistic, affordable or - more crucially - wanted by the end customer.
As an SME, your website needs to be a smart investment that works for your customers and your budget. Here are our top tips on what SMEs can do without breaking the bank, while still building an impressive, future-friendly website.
The KISS method is often applicable to most areas of life and work, and web design is one of them. When discussing what you want your website to feature, prioritise what your customer journey is. This can be broken down into two questions:
What goal does your customer have when they go on your website?
How can you make it as easy as possible for them to achieve this goal?
According to Adobe, two-thirds of people would rather read something that is beautifully designed than something plain, if they only had a 15-minute window to access the internet.
However, research from KoMarketing reports that a staggering 51% of customers think thorough contact information is the most important element of a website. So, how do you balance the desire for good aesthetics with the need for a logical customer journey?
The answer is to keep it simple. As long as a website has a clear structure and hierarchy that leads customers to what they want to know, with an unobtrusive, clean design, it is highly likely to be successful.
Simplicity also really works in your favour regarding the web page speed and responsiveness. If you have a complex site design that looks great but takes too long to load, the investment will be laid to waste.
Your site needs to be optimised for customers to use without issue, whether on a laptop, mobile or any other device. The simpler you keep your layout, the better.
80% of the battle with creating a website is what you say and how you say it. A customer should be able to click on a page blind, read or watch the content and understand your brand and products.
To help with this, when planning your sitemap, make sure each page you create has a purpose. Ensure the content on your most important pages does the job first. KoMarketing’s study on the web user’s journey showed that 86% of visitors prefer brand/product information to be present on the homepage.
64% of them also wanted to see contact information on the homepage, and 52% preferred business websites that had an About Us section. If this is the content that customers want, make sure they can find it with ease.
As for the content itself, it’s a smart idea to keep a balance of words, imagery and videos on your site to keep visitors engaged, but make sure every piece of content is relevant to your business and reinforces your brand. Smart content helps you rank higher in search engines, encourages word-of- mouth promotion and improves brand reputation. With this in mind, you want to make sure your content is thorough, easy to follow and uses phrases and keywords that customers will use to search for you, in the language that they will use.
Smart content also uses proof to back up its claims. Good marketing isn’t all about catchy slogans and saying the right thing, but having the expertise and evidence to back up your claims. Testimonials, tutorials and a blog are all things you can include on your website to help boost your brand’s reputation and credibility.
Test with real users
What’s the best way of finding out if your website answers the needs of your customers? Get real-life customers to test it and give you feedback.
You don’t need a big budget to set up such tests. Setting up a feedback form on your site or simply picking up the phone and going through your customer database to ask their opinion works just as well.
Likewise, using Google Analytics Content Experiments, you can also set up A/B split tests, to see if a specific call-to- action button can improve conversions in real-time. While this is more time-consuming, it’s a cost-effective way of checking if your site is up to scratch and helps you to maintain a connection with past and potential customers. After all, people like businesses who put in the effort and show that they care.
Trust your agency
Bringing in outside help instead of going DIY has multiple benefits.
Good digital agencies are well versed in the dos and don’ts of web design that go beyond creating an effective, original design itself, from ensuring your site has the right security certifications, to cross- checking your content against other sites to avoid Fair Use or intellectual property issues. In such cases, investing in an agency’s services to perform due diligence could spare you a lot of expense and headaches later.
An agency can also recommend the best CMS (Content Management System) to use for the type of website you want and the goals you want to achieve with it. No CMS is exactly like another, with some being better than others for specific sites and needs. For example, if you would like to use your site mainly for online bookings and enquiries, you would want a different system to a business that sells products directly online and accepts tender. My colleague Gareth has written in more detail about this elsewhere, and you can read about this here.
The main takeaways for SMEs when building a website is to make sure it does what you need it to do.
Any given visitor to your site should be able to understand your brand and make a clear journey through it towards making contact. Following our four main tips should ensure that you keep expenditure as low as possible, not just while you build but in the future too.
Matt Gibson is the Chief Production Officer at Cyber-Duck, a full service digital agency with offices in both Hertfordshire and London. His role is to oversee Cyber-Duck’s branding, design and UX components of client projects. You can contact Cyber-Duck to discuss the needs of your project here.