Designing A Website That Actually Works

When you’ve been searching for a product or service online, how many times have you landed on a website that made you say “Ouch!”?

When you look at your own website, what does it make you say?

Your website should be a place where you can build trust and educate potential customers, not the opposite.

If your website doesn’t look or feel right, your audience will leave it without giving it a second thought.

There are far too many ‘options’ out there for people, so once you get them to your site, you need to make sure they stick around.

Design That Works

At this time, there are millions of websites out there, with thousands more popping up every day.

That’s a TON of noise and competition.

As of Janaury 2014 there are around 861,379,000 registered host names.

Seriously, almost 1 Billion domain names registered. Of course all of those are not in use, but that’s still a crazy amount of sites out there.

You would think that we, the builders of the web, would have learned a bit about what works and what doesn’t after creating so many sites…and you are right.

While there are some fundamental ‘layouts’ that most websites follow, more important that the ‘layout’ part of your design is the having the right pieces of the puzzle. Having those pieces will allow you more flexibility in the layout. The most ‘correct’ layout online isn’t going to help you if your content, messaging, and flow isn’t correct.

So what does a design that works look like?

The specifics can depend on your product, service, and industry, but all of them have a few things in common.

  • Easy to validate that I am on the right website for what I’m seeking
  • Guided path¬† to actually finding what I’m looking for
  • Opportunities to be nurtured with helpful information
  • Place where I can learn more about the company
  • Social Proof
  • Ability to contact someone

Bret, this article is about design, shouldn’t you be talking about Graphics and Layouts?

That’s exactly what MOST people think, including other web designers, but that’s the wrong way to approach the designing of your website.

Before you start getting into graphics, colors, layouts, and all of that fun stuff, you HAVE to know exactly what you need and why you need it. If you don’t answer those questions before hand, you’ll end up with another run of the mill website that doesn’t ‘Work For You’.

Let’s dive deeper into those bullets above.

Easy to validate that I am on the right website for what I’m seeking

When I land on your website, how can YOU help me validate that I’m in the right place?

Remember that most people, including you, have extremely short attention spans now, especially on the web. We’ve been conditioned to quickly search through a large amount of content to hone in on what it is we are looking for.

If you are not immediately connecting with your potential customer, they are gone in a flash. Seriously within seconds.

Imagine if someone came walking up to you looking for something specific that you have to offer. You KNOW they need what you have, and you begin talking to them about all the great awards your business has received. You’ve already lost them.

At that point in the relationship, they don’t care what you’ve accomplished or what awards you’ve won. They just want to validate that you have what they need. Once that validation has taken place, they’ll then want to know more about who you are, why you do what you do, what all the bells and whistles are, and why they should trust you.

Start by helping them validate that they are in fact at the right place.

You can do this with your messaging. Whether it’s on your home page or a specific landing page, start with a clear message that lets your visitor know you have what they are looking for.

Guided path to actually finding what I’m looking for

Like I mentioned above, when someone shows up looking for what you have, they just need that validation.

Once you have given them that, it’s time nurture them into trust.

The best solution is a call to action that leads them to learn more about you, your feature set, your business, what other people have said about your company, etc.

Don’t leave your visitor hanging. If they’ve managed to stick around long enough to become a validated user, they are expecting you to show them what the next step is.

Opportunities to be nurtured with helpful information

Not everyone is ready to buy right away. Often people are just doing research so that they can make the best decision when it comes time to buy.

How can you continue to nurture someone that is not ready to buy?

You have to stay in contact with them.

The #1 way to do this is getting them to sign up for your email list and sending them regular emails that continue to help them along the decision making process

As a consumer, I want to know as much as possible about a product, service, or company before I take action.

If you can feed me regular, non-spammy content that educates me, that is going to build my trust. It’s going to let me know that you have a clue, you are the expert, and I should pay attention.

Not only that, but if you’ve managed to turn me into a believe, I’m going to spread the good word to my network which means exponential customer growth for you.

Every business should have an email list, and your website should make it easy and enticing for your users to sign up for it.

Place where I can learn more about the company

If you’ve managed to keep your user on your website for more than 2 and a half seconds, likely they are interested enough to learn more.

Most often people will land on your website from a direct link they’ve found. Maybe it’s a blog post you’ve written, a landing page you created and shared on social media, it could be a number of things.

There are two places they are most likely to go next.

Your Home page or your About page.

Your About page should do a couple of things, hopefully in this order.

  1. Validate that they are in the right place
  2. Provide Social Proof
  3. Tell your story

When someone has made it all the way to your landing page, they are invested. Make sure that you are speaking directly to that customer and the chance of them doing business with you increased.

Social Proof

What is social proof?

Have you ever been to a website and seen a testimonial from a big player in your industry?

I bet that increased the amount of trust you had towards that business. That’s social proof.

There are other ways to show social proof as well. Do you have a ton of followers on your social networks? Share those numbers.

Have you worked with some big name brands? Put their logos on your site.

Ability to contact someone

It’s been proven that having a phone number listed on your website increases trust with potential buyers. They probably will not use it, but just having it there triggers something in the sub conscious mind that your company is legit.

Best case, they do call you and you have a direct connection with a lead. Who doesn’t want that?

While it can be beneficial to have your number on your website, it’s not 100% necessary. You should have at least one easy way for people to contact you though.

My recommendation is a simple for on a page called Contact that let’s a user give you their Name, Email Address, and send you a message. It doesn’t have to be fancy, you do not have to put your email address on the website, just the contact form.

Most often, these forms will just send you an email with the information, and you can then interact with the user via email after that.

Whatever you choose to do, don’t hide behind your website. You want interaction and if someone needs help decided if you are the right choice for them, being able to communicate with them directly is a huge win.

I thought this post was about designs, when will you show us layouts?

In a future post, we’ll look at some actual layouts that are regularly used online.

That will include ways to make sure that your site looks good on desktops, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones.

I’ll show you examples of how people are using the concepts above effectively.

Thanks for reading, I hope this was valuable for you.

If you would like to know more, please Sign Up for my email list and I’ll be sending out some extremely helpful emails that will get you moving quickly.

Can I stay in touch?

Subscribe and I'll send you periodic emails letting you know what I'm up to.