One key answer, surprisingly is simply “Perspective”
What matters most is whose shoes you’re wearing when you look at a website. As a business owning a website, you’ll have invested time, effort and money into creating it. That means you’re going to have an emotional attachment to it. If you’ve made decisions like choosing a certain set of colours then after making those decisions, they’re something you want to stick with and proudly call part of your brand.
That can also make it very hard to see your own website through the eyes of a potential customer coming onto it cold, with no preconceived ideas or expectations other than their own requirements. And that’s one of the important things that a good web agency can do for a client is to bring in a fresh set of external eyes with no baggage.
You’ll have spent far more time looking at the finer details of your own website than any other person on the planet – invested hours of your time and chunks of your hard earned cash! In your eyes it represents you to your audience, but having made all the decisions to reach an acceptable level, anyone questioning those decisions can immediately put you on the defensive!
The unfortunate truth of the Internet is that the vast majority of your audience couldn’t care less about most of the things you’ve cared so much about – they’re looking to achieve whatever they set out to achieve as their priority, which is usually either to gather information or complete a transaction – they’re known to make impulsive split-second decisions about a website. But as long as things don’t look offensively bad or actively work against them, they’ll usually tolerate a lot more than you’d think with a website in order to find their information or complete the transaction.
1) Great Website Design
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to dismiss design, it’s an important part of a website and we pride ourselves in working hard to produce great looking websites with amazing designs. However all too often, how a website looks becomes the priority for a client – as it’s one of the things that they can have a strong opinion on. Whilst we say that design is subjective, there are still good reasons our experts choose particular design aspects that might not always align with the client’s preconceived design ideas – and it can sometime be fun to have those discussions!
Ultimately the customer is always right – and they’re they ones paying the bill! So making the website meet our clients’ ideas of design means it’s a good website for them – so we always do what the customer wants. But the best jobs for us are the ones where customers hand over more of the creative control to us, give up their preconceptions and work with us to produce the best looking websites that work for both them and their audience.
All that said. Whilst design is one important aspect of a website, the remaining two other aspects are the ones that tend to matter as much, if not even more to the people visiting the website than design.
2) Great Website Content
If the words, pictures and videos of a website are unique, easy to read and help the audience gather the information they need, then your business and its website is going to be the one that’s remembered for helping them achieve that. How they feel about the design still matters, but whether they found what they were looking for or not from your site is probably an even more important consideration to them.
When we’re building websites, we rely heavily on the client to provide great content to us, in order to put it onto the site. Their expertise of knowing their audience and their market and being able to have the details to hand that’s needed and pre-empt common audience questions is one of the most valuable things to publish onto a great website. You could come across the most un-attractive of librarians ever, but if their skill and expertise help you get the book you want, you’re going to walk away happy! For sure an experience with an unhelpful but exceptionally good looking librarian provides a quick thrill, but still leaves you walking away empty handed and looking for a book elsewhere.
Truth be known, all digital agencies will tell you that one of the most difficult tasks for us can be to gather content for a website from business owners. But customers that invest the time and effort to share their knowledge and expertise to publish on their websites are the ones that have the best websites that customers find the most useful.
Fortunately, if clients are struggling to provide us with great content, there’s a new solution out there to help add content to a website and that’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) generated website content – and yes, of course we can offer that service to our clients.
Admittedly, it’s a bit like cheating on your homework, but so long as the content produced offers great relevant and valuable content for a website, then it’s an option we may present if needed.
3) Great Website Functionality
The third aspect of a great website is its functionality. If the features and functions of a website make it easy for the audience to do what they want to do, then they’re more likely to do that with you – this translates into them filling in a form giving you a lead or placing an order giving you the sale.
There’s a whole science behind improving the functionality of websites called Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) and it’s one of the most frequently ignored yet most effective aspects of improving websites. But it’s what turns them from good websites to great ones, as not only does it help the audience more easily achieve what they’re trying to do, but it generates more results for the business.
Understanding the Audience
I can’t stress enough that in order to produce a great website, one of the most important things to do is to better understand what’s going on with a website’s audience.
For most websites that are built in house or created for new businesses, they have an average conversion rate of around just 1% – that means for every 100 people visiting the website, only 1 of them is actually doing what the business wants and expects them to do.
This figure always shocks people, but when you sit down and run through the figures, you find it does generally tend to be true! The next question most people ask is:- does this mean there’s a potential 99% of untapped audience out there?
Well, yes and no – it all starts with the preconception that a website is made to let customers do things the business wants them to do – which are usually either:
Get in touch
Place an order
But that’s where the problem starts because imagination of the customer journey also tends to be limited to those goals.
Although we all know from our own experience that the way we navigate the Internet is more sophisticated than that. Even in the simplest of models there are at least two phases that we all go through when using websites:
1) Research – gathering information first
before then moving on to:
2) Action – taking a more committed step or purchase
But the vast majority of websites are only optimised to deal with an audience that’s in this second phase of being ready to take action.
The secret to a great website is to be optimised for people who are nor just ready to buy, but also those who are researching or visiting for other reasons.
This means adding in additional design, content and functionality elements to accommodate people who are only just in the researching phase. Better still if this is done so that you can carefully re-market to the later on.