website strategy guide

Your 2016 Website Design Strategy Guide

In Advertising, Website Design by @cobblemedia

10 Must-Haves For An Effective Website Strategy

All too often brands see their website like the baseball diamond in Field of Dreams — if they build it, customers will naturally come. But, unlike that mythical baseball field in Iowa, websites aren’t so cut and dry. Without great content, smart engagement strategies and user-friendly design, you’ll likely be scrambling for meaningful traffic from day one on — not ideal from a brand-building perspective.

So what do you need to ensure your website is effective, efficient and maximizes every engagement? Start with these 10 must-haves:

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1. Smart, strategic and relevant content at the core

No matter the nature of your site, chances are it could benefit from quality content. Not only will good content give consumers a reason to come back again and again, but it gives you more touch points than just the transactional ones. Start by building out a strong editorial calendar early on, with wiggle room so you can pivot based on consumer engagement and response. And, equally importantly, be sure to focus on high value content that’s in line with your overarching brand experience. Posting content that doesn’t align with your brand proposition and general tone will likely alienate customers. Likewise, constantly pushing to your products and services doesn’t lend much value and, also, has a good chance of driving people away.

2. Define — and speak to — your audience

Likewise, be sure your entire site is targeted to your core audience or segments. Consumers not only want they expect a relevant experience when they visit a website — an experience that, specifically, speaks to them, their wants and their needs. Miss the mark and there’s a good chance they’ll abandon your site for one that aligns.

3. Don’t be afraid to mix it up

Video, images, text, interactive experiences — they’re all great ways to engage your audience. Don’t be afraid to tap into multiple formats to tell your story. Page after page of text — or long lists of videos or slideshows — can get boring fast, and send consumers running. Mix it up to keep their attention and pull them deeper and deeper into your digital experience.

4. Give a little

While it’s tempting to restrict all the good stuff for registered users, consumers are used to getting what they want when they want it with no strings attached. If you can’t share everything — maybe yours is a paid site or requires some level of authentication — at least give enough to satisfy their immediate needs and encourage registration, signup or membership. Again, it’s easy enough to find content and products everywhere online and, if they can’t at least whet their appetites on your platform, they’ll go elsewhere.

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5. Think like a user

User experience — UX — is key to any website’s success. Often brands focus too much on creative and content, but miss one key detail in their site launch: approaching it like a consumer. It’s great to have amazing experiences, touch points and information, but is the journey from point A to point B intuitive? Can users easily navigate your site and find what they’re looking for now? Attention spans are getting shorter and, more often than not, subpar UX leads to high bounce rates and a drop in repeat visitors — not good. Spend time navigating your site like a customer would. If you find you can’t give an honest assessment, tap friends, family or any of the user testing platforms out there — some start at $100 or less for a basic test.

6. Embrace white space

Apple is the master of white space, and it’s worked out pretty well for them! From a neuromarketing perspective, white space is great. Not only does it prevent the brain from trying to take in too much at once, but it gives consumers some much needed time to pause and digest. Think about how you feel when a site has too much information, media or other calls to action. It’s overwhelming, it’s stressful and it’s likely to push you away from the brand, not deeper in. Don’t feel like you have to cram everything into your site all at once. Embrace the white space and use it to pull consumers further and further into your digital experience to learn more.

7. Keep it simple

While a smart, intuitive, well designed site draws consumers in, there’s also a good chance your audience comes to your site for a specific purpose — to research a certain topic, buy that pair of sneakers or read a specific article. In the UX vein, keep it simple. Make sure visitors can find what they want now and, once they do, make sure it’s easy for them to consume the content, buy the shoes or share the message. Ensure messaging and CTAs are simple and straightforward and keep connecting the dots throughout every stage of their brand journey.

8. Don’t buck common conventions

Americans are consuming content for, on average, 11+ hours per day — and that means your consumers have a pretty solid understanding of how websites and other digital experiences work. Avoid the temptation to pull customers out of their comfort zones too too much and focus more on creating smart, seamless and simple experiences that they can quickly and easily navigate. While you may think you’re taking things to the next level, it’s more likely that you’re driving up the confusion factor — never a good thing.

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9. Strive for consistency and cohesion

Consumers aren’t one dimensional but, instead, bounce from platform to platform, experience to experience, touch point to touch point. Ensure that, no matter how they engage with your brand, there’s a level of consistency and cohesion that enforces your core brand values and attributes. If users are familiar with your stores, for example, but your site feels entirely different they’ll likely be confused and turned off — from your site and, possibly, from your brand in general.

10. Tell readers what to do — they’ll do it!

Believe it or not, people want to be told what to do. Especially in the digital universe, we’re faced with so many choices, options and decisions every second of every day. Having some level of curation — in other words, having the next step laid out for us — is actually a good thing. And that’s why consumers crave clear, specific CTAs.

How to work that to your advantage? Simply tell site visitors what you want them to do next. Click through for a free trial? Just say it — in big, bold letters or a prominent button. Sign up for your eNewsletter? Tell them to do it and create a clear path to completion. The more obvious the path is within your site experience, the better.

While launching your website is, very likely, a critical step in building your brand, it’s important to lay the groundwork first — and that means great content, an emphasis on the user experience and a clear consistency and cohesion with your brand. Given the endless options for content, services and products, consumers need to feel that instant pang of connectivity with your digital destination or they’ll head elsewhere — and, likely, never come back. Focus on creating the best possible experience filled with relevant touch points and clear paths and you’ll not only add a compelling brand extension but, at the same time, cultivate an audience of engaged consumers now and in the future.

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