Website design and web development has changed astronomically over the past 20 years. Once a form of online business card, websites now have the capacity to house entire e-commerce businesses and are an essential element of digital marketing strategies.
If you are planning to change your website, or start completely from scratch, it’s important to understand how your new site will work with your marketing strategy. These two key elements must work in tandem to provide your target market with a seamless customer experience that keeps them coming back for more.
So here’s our guide to designing a website fit for your digital marketing strategy…
Begin with your audience
Who is going to be using your site? This is the question that should be present throughout every stage of your website design and development process. It should dictate the style and usability, helping to ensure that it meets the needs and desires of your target market.
If you have created customer personas in your Digital Marketing strategy, use them to guide this stage of the design process. Really think about what it is your target market is searching for and how you are going to fulfil those needs better than your competition.
The ASOS website is a great example of a customer-centric design. Built for shopping, the site’s home screen makes navigating to products and ranges simple. Starting with gender, shoppers can browse by sale items, new ranges or specific items.
64% of the e-commerce giant’s target demographic is people aged from 18-34. This is clearly reflected in the images, graphics and general tone of voice used on the site. It’s relatable to that age group which is a key reason for its success.
Set out your goals
Clear goals are key to a successful website. Once you have mapped out your audience and fully understand who you want to visit your site, think about what they need. What are they looking for when they visit your site? Is there a particular action you would like them to take?
Every website, from blogs to large e-commerce platforms have actions they want visitors to take. Whether that’s subscribing to a newsletter or purchasing products.
Be mindful of your overall company goals too and understand how your website will help you to meet them. If you plan to run large marketing campaigns, make sure that you note down the goals so that you can ensure your website will help to achieve them.
Next, a key fundamental – your company branding. Nowadays, you have multiple points of contact online, from your Instagram profile to your website. If you want your brand to be strong and instantly recognisable, these touch points must all look consistent.
It’s no good building up a beautiful Instagram feed only to lead potential customers to a bland, dated website.
If you haven’t already, create a set of brand guidelines. This should include everything from fonts, logos and colour palettes to tone of voice and image styles. Creating your guidelines will help to ensure that users have a consistent experience across all of your online platforms, starting with your website.
When a potential customer lands on your website, you want to make their journey as streamlined as possible. If your site is overly complex and cumbersome, they’ll likely bounce right off again.
Map out your site before you start to design it so you can ensure every page has its place and is easy to navigate to. Even if you think your site is simple to use, your customers might struggle, so test your site plan out on others first to ensure it’s clear.
Airbnb have nailed functionality. Their site offers an easy to navigate search function which makes finding and booking accommodation simple.
When searching, users aren’t faced with multiple questions and long forms, a destination and dates will quickly generate the desired results. Users can then refine their search and look at nearby experiences and restaurants to visit whilst there.
Keep in mind that people nowadays are busy. They want results and they want them quickly. So, if you run an e-commerce site, the search functionality should be a key focus. Take a leaf from Airbnb’s book and keep things as simple as possible. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and give them the best experience you can imagine.
A study by Kissmetrics revealed that 47% of users expect sites to load in 2 seconds with 40% saying they tend to leave if a site takes longer than 3 seconds. Not long right? But think about it, attention spans are decreasing and competition is increasing. Users know that if they can’t load something, they can easily head elsewhere.
This can be a huge downfall for many businesses. Amazing flash videos, gifs and animations may look great but they can take time to load. Remember that not everyone uses super-fast broadband or the latest technology so test your site on multiple devices before deciding on your content.
High-res images are also a common offender so be sure to resize any large images before uploading them. A slow loading site can seriously harm your digital marketing efforts. You could have an all-singing all-dancing search campaign but if your site takes more than a few seconds to load, you could easily lose those potential clients.
The design of your website is absolutely crucial. This is often one of the first points of contact for your business and reflects heavily on your brand. Beautiful design can really sway a user’s opinion as they tend to judge your business in the first few seconds of browsing.
A well-designed website also helps to build trust and demonstrate that you know what you’re doing as a business. It can also set the tone for the level of customer service people perceive they would get.
Just be mindful than when designing your website from a visual point of view, you must also take into account how the back end looks. Your site’s overall SEO ranking can be affected by certain design elements so make sure this is taken care of by an expert.
It’s not uncommon for businesses to design ‘mobile-first’ websites nowadays thanks to the increase in smartphone use. This is a particularly good example of how digital marketing and website design must intertwine.
If you advertise on social media, the chances of people visiting your website on a smartphone are high. If they then land on a site designed for desktop and have to pinch the screen to zoom in on options, the chance of them taking an action are small.
By using responsive design, you will ensure that everyone who lands on your site, no matter what device, will have a positive experience.
This also ties into your site’s SEO as back in 2015, Google started rewarding sites that adopted a fully responsive website design. Thanks to further algorithm updates, Google now displays mobile-optimised websites higher in search rankings than those designed purely for desktop.
The type of content you plan to include will also dictate your overall design, so think carefully about this too. When writing your website copy, make sure it follows the tone of voice as outlined in your brand guidelines. This will help to ensure that any ad copy feeds through to the text on your website.
It’s also advisable to ensure your site has a blog. You’ve heard the saying ‘content is king’ right? Well written, engaging blogs don’t just positively impact your SEO, they also help to tell your brand story, which also feeds back into your digital marketing strategy.
Don’t just ‘blog to blog’. Have a think about the type of thing your target customer would love to read. What’s going to help them? How can you offer expert industry advice that will help to solve their problem? Remember, you don’t have to just blog about the product or service you offer, you can create what’s called ‘shoulder content’ and talk about wider industry topics.
For example, an estate agent wouldn’t just blog about new homes they have available because this isn’t really what people want to read about. Instead, the estate agent would think long term and work out how they could attract long term business.
So, instead of talking about themselves, they would talk about industry news, share tips on moving, offer advice on interior trends to boost the value of properties and share details on local events. This type of content is far more engaging and likely to help them become the go-to local agent when people come to sell.
You want people to take action when they visit your site, right? Whether that’s picking up the phone and calling you, sending an email or using your map function to find you and drop into your shop.
This all starts by communicating effectively. You need to make the product or service you provide crystal clear so that when people land on your homepage they know what you do. Sounds simple but it’s not always executed as well as it should be.
Yes, you know what you do, so when you land on your website, it’s obvious. But new customers don’t and if it’s not clear in the first few seconds you could easily lose them.
So, by communicating clearly what it is you do and how you can solve a problem, people are far more likely to take action.
Call to action
Any marketing campaign needs a clear call to action, so your website must follow suit. Imagine spending thousands on a Facebook advertising campaign with a clear ‘buy now’ button only to be taken to a web page with no call to action. The budget may as well just be poured away.
So, when running a campaign or just uploading a new blog, always be sure to include a clear call to action. Whether that’s ‘buy now’, ‘learn more’ or ‘call us’, you have to be clear (obvious) about the action you want people to take.
If you are advertising a specific product or offer, it’s often worth creating a separate landing page. This can be designed in line with your overall campaign creative so that everything is streamlined.
Make content easy to share
So, you’ve just finished a 3,000 word ‘ultimate guide’ blog post to upload to your website. It’s an in-depth article that will prove seriously useful for anyone in your niche or industry. Something like this, if shared well, can give your brand great airtime. Not only will it help to climb the Google ranks, but it can also create new relationships, new customers and act as free advertising.
So, make sure your blog has a share feature on the post so people can easily click and share to their preferred social platform. This will help your blog to get the attention it deserves.
Aside from free blog posts and guides, you can offer ‘gated content’ which often requires users to provide their email address in exchange for value. ‘Value’ can be anything from a free product, an ebook, a video or a one-to-one video session. Whatever you can offer that your target market will find genuinely useful.
You don’t have to ‘gate’ the content either – if you’d prefer, you can always just offer no-fuss, free downloads.
The point being here that if you give people something that they value for free, they are more likely to be loyal to you in future. This is the type of thing that will help to set you apart from the competition but only if what you offer is actually of use.
To sum up
When planning a Digital Marketing strategy, your website is essentially your shop window. This is often the first impression people get of your brand so it’s important to make it count. It’s also the place where people usually go to take action, whether that’s contacting you or buying your products.
Whether it’s your own business, or you’re following a career in digital marketing, by taking the above steps into account, you’ll be able to create a customer-centric website designed to complement your marketing efforts.