Visiting a website is like entering a room: the space envelops you, giving you a subconscious experience. Enter a church or a court of law, and you feel small — in the Church in the presence of a mystical power and in a courtroom, in the presence of societal law. The creation of that feeling is intentional, of course. The people in charge of building those structures designed them to confer certain emotions. As the person in charge of building your website, it is your responsibility to create the right emotional setting for your customers – potential and actual – as well as your employees, partners, and press.
Here are the 7 tenets of web design that is designed to get visitors to take a specific action, whether that action is making a purchase or expressing interest in joining your organization:
1. Match the look and feel of the website to your industry. The moment a visitor lays eyes on your website, before a single word is read, an impression occurs in that visitor’s mind. Do they see a light green and black page with a faded yellow grid on top of it, on which a small, crisp font resides? Do they see a large silver metallic ball rolling through a modern-looking maze? Do they see a stuffed moose head with a crooked smile? Each image will put the visitor in a different mood. That’s why the background image, font choice, use of color, use of space, and other basic design choices matter so much.
An architectural firm that wishes to convey a cutting-edge feel might have a smaller sized, technical-looking font, and sharp lines, while also incorporating some traditional architectural colors such as blue and black. In contrast, a medical website would probably want to feature warm reds, medical blues, plenty of calming white, and pictures of smiling, healthy patients. There are endless possibilities, which is why you need a top-notch web design team like the one we have at First Page Sage.
2. Make navigation clear and simple. People have gotten used to certain ways of navigating websites. Among the most common expectations are a navigation bar at the top of the site, a Home button on the left side of that bar, a Contact button on the right side of the bar, and a clickable logo inside the main banner which brings you back to the home page. There should be plenty of spacing around all buttons in the top navigation bar, and neat little icons next to important items like telephone numbers. Putting a physical address somewhere on every page, even if it’s just at the way bottom of the site, is also a good idea because it conveys legitimacy to most people.
3. Inspire trust. People begin to feel this vague but hugely important feeling – trust – for your brand when you show them things that impress them or put their mind at ease. One common way of earning trust is by featuring logos of major clients your company works with, press it has been featured in, awards it has won, and associations it is involved in (e.g. The Better Business Bureau). Note that you need permission to use other companies’ logos. Another way of earning trust is to feature a photograph of your office as well as your team members. When people can see the human beings that make up an organization, they can often picture themselves working with that organization. Finally, telling the story of your company – how it started, why it was founded, and even some of the challenges it has faced and overcome – creates a more personal connection with website visitors.
4. Appeal to the specific needs of your customers. People don’t come to your website seeking out general things; they want specific things. If you sell apples, they don’t just want a bunch of apples – they want golden delicious apples or macintosh apples or granny smith apples. Maybe they want to make a delicious apple pie with cinnamon on it! (Okay, that has nothing to do with this article – I’m just distracted now.) And so, whatever the products or services your company offers, make sure to describe each one separately, preferably with a different page dedicated to each item. That way, when a customer arrives looking for one of the twenty things you sell, they can easily find the page dedicated to that specific thing and read about why you specialize in serving customers exactly like them. You will sell a lot more if you pay attention to this tenet.
5. Use large, clear photographs. It amazes me how much companies still use stock photos on their website. Do they think people will believe that that 18 year-old model wearing a business suit and crossing her arms with a big smile on her face actually works for your company? Instead of turning to cheap stock photos, have a photographer come to your office and photograph the team individually and together, so you can put larger pictures that feel authentic on your site. Visitors will notice. I find it particularly fascinating how engaging large, clear photographs of people from the shoulders up can be. We conducted an experiment on Facebook a few years ago where we tested thousands of photos to see what the most engaging type of photo was. We weren’t surprised to find that the most clicked-on photos were of scantily-clad hotties. But we were surprised to find that the second most engaging photos were ones of ordinary people where you could clearly see their face. There is a kind of intimacy about the human face that causes people to take greater notice of headshot-type photos, especially when the subject looks sincere and not too posed.
6. Create one great video introducing your company. Most companies spend a lot of money to get the chance to pitch their product or service, feeling that if they could simply get people to listen, those people would surely be convinced of the value their company provides. However, they miss the opportunity to pitch people that are already on their website. A video can be just as good as a voice-to-voice or in-person pitch if done correctly. I am a fan of interview-style videos that feature executives, team members, as well as customers; include hard-hitting statistics; and tell a story about the company that makes potential customers want to partake in what the company has to offer.
7. Share your values. This last tenet is the most simple but oft-overlooked: tell your website visitors why the members of your team wake up each day and do what they do. What is the mission of your company? Why does it exist? What are the principles without which it wouldn’t be the organization that it is today? This type of emotionally-charged information is exceptionally powerful at making potential customers and employees feel that your business is the right investment for them.