Your website should do a lot for your business, if it doesn’t, it should be updated. From customer support to automating business tasks to processing transactions, websites are used for a number of business purposes. If you have customers, your website should provide a level of customer support to provide answers to issues, problems or general questions about your products or services. If you sell a product or service, your website is your “online sales rep” and it is the first point of contact between a customer or prospect and your business, product or service.
A successful website should be built to sell the business’s products or services and provide customers with online support without interaction from an employee. Your website should be developed and designed with the same business principles used in sales and customer service to provide customer support and to make online sales that drive revenue into your business.
As you may know, not all website are created equally. If you spend a few minutes searching for various businesses online you will find websites that are well developed and dozens of other websites that flat out fail to leave a positive impression. So what are the most important aspects to include with your website? We have narrowed them down to five important factors. We call these website development and design factors “the five pillars of a successful website.” They are: Appearance, Content, Functionality, Perception and Marketing.
The Five Pillars of a Successful Website
When building a new website or modifying an existing website, one of our first questions we ask any client or prospect is “Could you describe your ideal website?” Too often we have clients and customers provide only a physical description of what their ideal website should “look like.” Normally their answer leaves out some of the most important details like: how users would interact with pages, how users would perceive their business and what content would be listed on the web pages. An answer that only provides details about the website’s appearance is a red flag to us that this individual is highly caught up on graphics and imagery. While the graphics and imagery are important factors in a website, they do not directly create sales, customers or clients. The imagery and graphics serve to beautify the appearance of a website and allow for better presentation of your content.
Websites do not need to look like a masterpiece of artwork to be successful for your business. It is very important that a balanced budget is achieved to include the websites appearance, content, functionality, perception and marketing. The majority of businesses that do not succeed online, fail to generate revenue because they spend the bulk of their website budget on the appearance of the site and neglect the other pillars of success.
The five pillars of a successful website were premised from our findings over the years from numerous development and design projects as well as several in-house brands we have created. When building or revising an existing site we put each page of the website through the five pillars of a successful website. Our process is briefly outlined below.
The appearance of a website is most commonly found in the Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). The appearance includes: the background color scheme, article background color, article size, font selection, font style, font colors, font size, URL link colors, images selection, image sizes, graphics, graphic sizes, navigation location, navigation font, navigation size, navigation color, navigation images, button colors, button sizes, button shapes, list layouts, item positioning, margins, padding, gradients, content placement, social icons or widget placements, search box placement, on page link placement and so on.
The best way to isolate the appearance of your website is to print a page of your website on paper. This ensures the other pillars are not confused with appearance. Looking at the website on a piece of paper can be quite a helpful way to capture exactly how the website is displayed. Additionally, printing a page of the site also takes away any different color tones that might be caused from different filtered presets on different computer monitors.
If you do not have an existing website, you could sketch what you hope the appearance of the site would include. You can do this either by hand or by using computer software such as Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. This can be a great way to create the appearance you would like the website to have.
The main purpose of these appearance exercises are to focus on the details of the website that have the largest visual impact on the visitor. Many questions can be populated for each design aspect to ensure the site has been designed using the correct appearance.
For example, are the right colors used? If your company has a branded color scheme, then these colors should be used on the website and additional colors should be left out of the website (unless they are only found inside of images). Another common question can be, are the colors used in the same way on every page? Using the colors in the same fashion throughout the website creates a seamless appearance of proper color styling. Another example would be, are the colors used in the same style on each page? It is important that the colors are not used one way on some pages then used differently on similar pages and the style of the colors are consistent on each page.
Your content is one of the most important factors on your website. Content is consumed by visitors and search engine robots. This means your content is directly responsible for the number of visits your website receives from the search engines and the number of leads and sales your website receives. Poorly written content does not rank well in the search engines and poorly written content does not turn visitors into conversions.
How your website functions can make or break a successful website. For example, load time thresholds are now set to under 1 second in load time. What that means, is if your website loads slower than 1 second across all devices, you have a website that is performing below industry standards. If you do not have a website, the newly developed website will load in under 1 second if it is developed by AOM Services.
Incorporating appearance, content and functionality gives the user a perception of your business online as portrayed on your website. The better your perception, the more leads, sales and revenue your business will have. It is important that appearance, content and functionality align on the site to give your audience the correct perception of your business. Failure to do so can result in poor website performance.
Often perception of a website will differ from those who work within your business and the customers visiting the website for the first time.
This is why we created perception polling. It is a process we implement toward the end of the development and design process to test how people within your organization as well as people who have never seen your business before will perceive your business website. The perception poll allows for a true market perception of your business online based on the appearance of your website, the content of your website and the functionality of your website. The poll ranges from 15-50 questions and is based on each unique project.
The most important pillar of success for any website to drive leads, sales or revenue is marketing. However, marketing should only be performed on a website that adheres to the previous pillars: appearance, content, functionality and perception. Marketing a website that does not follow the pillars of success will prove to be a waste of budget dollars. For example, paying $5,000 a month in click traffic to only have the traffic visit the site for 2 seconds then leave is an ineffective approach to growing any business. This is why it is crucial that the other 4 pillars are concentrated on heavily before marketing a business website begins.
Process for New Sites or Existing Sites
Once we have an understanding of your business expectations for the project, we will begin drafting the website wireframes, content placements and image placements. We will then send these files for your approval or revisions.
Once approved, we begin adding appearance to the wireframes and provide an image draft of the website for approval or revisions. After the image draft has been approved, we will code the website for the required functionality then submit for your approval or revisions.
When the website functionality has been approved, we will enter the website content and submit for your approval or revisions. After the website content and functionality have been approved we will start our perception poll.
Upon conclusion of the perception poll, we will make final modifications and submit for your approval or revisions. Once everything has been approved, the new website will be published to the public in a live state and we start our 6 months of free support.
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