Building a website is a very creative process and it’s one we’re constantly refining to help our clients best communicate their products/services and key differentiators to their clients. After all, if we don’t help our clients “grow their businesses online,” we’ve failed (miserably).
We’d love to think that each website we build will follow a very specific (and very structured) set of steps that will help us create a beautiful, functional website. However, that is often not the case as we work in many different industries with different messages. Also, curveballs get thrown at us on each project. (Not to say this is a bad thing; it helps keep the team and I on our toes!)
If you’re building a website with us or thinking about building one with us, we’ll do our best to balance our knowledge of the web with everything we know about your industry. Once we marry those two things, nothing can stop us from building an amazing website with amazing conversion rates. After working with clients for some time now, I’ve compiled a list of the ways we can communicate on a website and how we should (and should not) use them.
Using Content Sparingly
Content (copy/text) is not the only way we communicate to end users on a website. When I am working with clients, I like to share with them the golden rule of website content:
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
(It’s not really “the” golden rule, but it is true.)
Content is just one of the ways we can communicate to users on a website. It’s important to balance copy, imagery, white space, and other graphics to ensure a website’s message is communicated clearly. Copy can be great for SEO, but Google and the other search engines are getting smarter about it. They want websites to be built in a user-friendly way – one that is easy to understand and read. With that, going heavy on the copy is not always the best way to move forward with communicating your services.
Invest in Amazing Photography
Great photography MAKES a great website. When we meet with clients for the first time, we ask them to give us a list of their 3-5 favorite websites. When we review these internally, we see a common theme: great photos. Take these websites as examples:
These websites look fantastic (shameless self-promotion); it’s the photos that help to make them look that way. Keep in mind that we CAN use some great stock photography and your website will still look good, but if you can get a photographer, we highly recommend doing so.
The Sitemap: Choose Wisely
I cannot stress the importance of a great sitemap enough. A great sitemap is one that communicates who you are, what you offer, and what makes you different – clearly. We recommend that you have no more than 9 items in your main navigation. That might sound like plenty of room, but it’s important to be choosy when it comes to your main navigation.
While we always want to appease our clients, we often do recommend cutting certain pages OUT of the main navigation. There is sometimes back/forth with this, but we ask that you trust us – and your users – to know that they will find what they’re looking for even if it’s not front and center.
Your main navigation will also differ slightly based on your industry, but for the most part, a solid sitemap includes:
That’s not to say you can’t include other pages, but these few pages are vital to an easily-understood navigation. Adding consistent content to your website will be important for a successful SEO strategy. For more information on this, you can check out my previous blog about blogging.
The Other Golden Rule: Trust Your Web Design Company
During our sales process, we work to establish a mutually beneficial relationship. We want our clients to trust us to make decisions for their website and we want to trust that our clients will allow us to do our best work. Personally, I’ve helped with 30+ projects at Atilus and a lot of complications arise if a client does not trust our judgment.
While we are not experts in any one of our clients’ industries, we are experts in the one that matters most: our own. We know what works on the web and what doesn’t. We take our knowledge of web design, development, and Internet marketing and marry that with what you’ve shared with us about your industry to create a beautiful, functional, optimized website.
It’s important to keep in mind that how you communicate with other professionals in your industry will be vastly different from how you will communicate on the website to your end-users. As an example, we once worked with a client that provided data to other companies. We ran through the entire website build (sitemap, wireframe, design, development) only to get stopped at the very end because the website was “too big.” (By “too big,” the client meant that it needed to be above the fold.)
While less can be more, it was still important to keep in mind that the content we needed to communicate was not properly handled after the client pulled an Oatmeal on us. We did as the client suggested, but a few months down the road, that same client was at our door asking why traffic wasn’t better. (Well, that is the result of the client taking over the project and not letting us do what we do best.)
All in all, websites are not simple, but they can be simpler when you use the proper tools to communicate to your audience (and when you listen to your web design company!).