Not many businesses in this day and age can survive, let alone thrive, without a website. The URL is typically one of the first things anyone considers when setting up a business. And unless you’re a bricks and mortar business, a business launch often means a new website going live. It’s unsurprising, therefore, that there’s a huge number of websites on the internet — over 1.7 billion in fact.
With such a focus on websites, consumers expect a high quality online experience and the majority are heavily influenced by it when making purchasing decisions. For a business, the challenge is to meet those expectations, while also creating something that stands out from the competition. The challenge is creating a designer website that showcases your business in the best possible light.
In this guide, we’ll look at the fundamentals of what makes a great website, what the key trends are in 2020 that will help you rise above your competitors, and what special considerations businesses in the healthcare and pharmaceuticals industries should take.
The 8 pillars of a great website
Some websites just get it right. They feel good, look good and they deliver just what you need. But it can sometimes seem hard to pinpoint what exactly is so good about them.
Their secret? They’ve covered the 8 pillars of a great website. At Hatch, we offer custom web design services in Northampton and all the websites we build work to these fundamental principles.
1. It gives your audience what they’re looking for
A website has to first and foremost give people what they want. It is no good getting people to visit your site through a great SEO strategy and brilliant digital advertising, if, when they get there, they don’t find what they’re after.
To make sure your website delivers what visitors are looking for, you need to understand your target audience inside out. You need to know what their intent is, take them on a journey and offer them a clear goal or next step so that they feel their need has been fulfilled.
At the heart of understanding intent is knowing your customer. What problems are they looking to solve and what ambitions do they dream of achieving? What gets them out of bed in the morning and what makes them feel good? Do they have a good level of knowledge about your product or service or are they beginners?
Carrying out market research and building up customer personas that describe your key target audiences will enable you to put yourself in their shoes and craft an online experience that meets their needs. Customer insight should inform everything about your website, from the level of information you provide to the user journey and call to action you encourage visitors to take up.
Create a step-by-step map, detailing where users first land on your site and how they’re likely to navigate through it. Place key content at steps in the journey where they’ll be most helpful and most likely to encourage the user to continue. Give them the answers to the questions that will be running through their head as they browse.
2. It’s simple
People’s attention spans are limited and they’re faced with a lot of information on the internet. If your website isn’t simple and doesn’t communicate the value you provide quickly and clearly, it will be less successful. Work out your brand’s core value proposition and make sure it’s delivered with clarity from the word go.
Give your audience one simple and clear call to action on each page: see our products, contact us or buy now, for example. Having more than one call to action on a page will leave a user confused about what they should do next.
3. It’s aligned to your business strategy
Your website needs to be considered at a strategic level. It’s a marketing tool, so you need to consider exactly what you want it to do for your business. Is it to sell products directly to your customers, generate a lead list or encourage consumers with high intent to contact you? Set goals based on your strategy, so you can measure your website’s performance and adjust it if necessary.
Knowing what you want your website to do for your business will focus you during the design phase and ensure you get a website that works as hard as possible for your business.
4. It’s secure and safe
90% of internet users feel concerned about privacy online, so it’s crucial that you ensure your website is trustworthy and secure. Search engines, too, will look for indications that a site isn’t secure and downgrade it if anything suspect is found. Maintain your site so you don’t experience regular downtime and use a trusted payment service if you take money through your site. Make sure your security certificate is up to date, keep your security software up to date and keep passwords secure.
We love great design but we’re also careful about safety. All of the websites we design and build for Hatch customers have rock solid security in place, so you and your visitors can enjoy peace of mind.
5. It offers a great user experience and design
The design of your website is crucial. It needs to be carefully thought through so that your message is communicated clearly and the site delivers a top-notch user experience. Your brand drivers need to be loud and clear so that visitors are left with no doubt about the brand promise you’re committing to deliver.
What makes a great design? That depends on your target audience and the goals you’ve set for your website. The user experience you create needs to align with your website’s goals while being focused on fulfilling user needs.
Your user experience should invoke an emotional response in visitors. Emotions drive decisions, so if visitors don’t feel anything, you’re unlikely to be successful. The emotional response you work to invoke in people will depend on what you sell and who you sell to. If you’re a personal trainer, you might want to leave people feeling fired up and energised. If you provide medical support, you might want to leave people feeling reassured and safe.
As well as the emotional response, you need to pay attention to the user experience basics too. Visitors to your website will get frustrated if text is hard to read, pages are slow to load, or buttons are small and fiddly. Any emotional response you create will be overtaken by frustration if your website is hard to read or navigate.
6. The content is focused on your audience
It can be tempting to see your website solely as an opportunity to tell the world about your business and what you sell. Of course, you need to communicate what you do and the value you offer, but your content should be designed with your audience squarely in mind, not your company. A website that focuses too much on the company will turn people off.
Within the framework of your brand, think about what your audience needs and wants to know, and provide them with it. Consider what content will invoke the emotional response you’re looking for.
Choose the level of information you provide and how you structure it based on customer insight. Your content will craft their customer journey, so it has to be designed with them in mind. This includes both the core content on your site and the fluid content, such as blogs and video explainers.
A simple and easy-to-produce piece of user-centred content is an FAQ page. Place this at the right point in the user journey and you’ll help overcome any objections that might be in your users’ minds.
7. It’s mobile-first
More and more people do most of their internet browsing on a phone or tablet. In fact, it’s predicted that almost 75% of the world’s population will use a smartphone and nothing else to access the internet by 2025.
If your website isn’t designed to work best on a mobile, then Google will downgrade it and fewer users will enjoy using it. Designing for mobile-first means considering the user experience first and foremost from the perspective of someone on a mobile. That means simple navigation, a clear and concise message that can be understood within seconds, quick loading, zero clutter and buttons that are large enough for a small touchscreen.
At Hatch, we work hard to keep on top of trends and have been designing mobile-first for a while now. It makes sense and ensures our clients’ websites are future-proofed.
8. Its content is structured for search engines
Great websites use schema markup, which is a way of structuring content that makes it easy for search engine bots to work out what’s on the website, how good it is and how it should rank in search results.
Schema markup tells a search engine what your content means, rather than what it actually is. It provides guidance on the meaning of elements of your pages. By understanding what different elements are, search engines are able to display content in a way that can be exceptionally helpful for users and enhance your listing’s visibility.
For example, a cinema could use schema formatting to highlight its current film titles in its content. Google would recognise that they’re film titles and list them appropriately in the search listing. The user would be able to see quickly that you’re a cinema and what films you’re showing. It’s an opportunity to create a great user experience for your search engine listing, even before users have got to your website.
A spotlight on healthcare and pharmaceuticals
The 8 pillars apply to all websites. If you’re in the healthcare or pharmaceutical space, you should also pay particular attention to these website elements:
Navigation and simple information architecture
Visitors to a healthcare website may have a lot of questions and be anxious about accessing accurate information. Simple navigation that lets users find the information they need quickly is important. Consider a search function or at the least an index of health conditions you’re able to provide information on.
Consider accessible design if your users are typically elderly or have health conditions. Use large fonts and high contrast, and consider how your content works with text-to-speech technology.
Visitors searching for healthcare information are likely to do a lot of online research and may be reassured by a website that contains a wealth of high-quality and easy-to-digest information. Video is an extremely popular medium online. Consider using video to convey information or tell your brand’s story and how you help provide value to your customers.
Health is not something that many people want to take chances with and testimonials are a great tool to provide additional reassurance and comfort to prospective customers.
3 key trends for 2020
Those are the fundamentals of a great website. Provided you’ve got those foundations in place, you can look to the latest online trends to help your website feel modern and up to date.
We provide web design services in Northampton and work with a range of businesses; these are the current trends we’re finding really bring a website to life:
In an online world that’s become more transparent and where authenticity is valued, the odd imperfection can be a great way to communicate your personality. We don’t mean typos or obvious errors, just elements that aren’t perfectly polished, such as team profile photographs taken on a polaroid rather than by a professional photographer.
3D graphics can be a delight to view and create a wonderful, immersive experience. If they’re done well, they’ll be hard to forget. Until now it’s been expensive, but 3D is becoming more accessible as technology advances.
Mixing photos will illustrations and graphics
A website that successfully mixes photography with illustrations and graphics feels modern. It creates an interesting visual landscape and stands out.