Nowadays, having a brand or business without a website is like throwing a party without actually inviting anyone: unless you’re really well-known already (and have free beer), no one is going to be showing up.
The first place that potential clients go to look for a particular service or solution is online and, if they can’t find you, you can be pretty confident that they’ll be spending their money elsewhere, probably with one of your competitors.
Of course, just having a company website isn’t a guarantee of success.
Let’s return to the party analogy for a moment. Say you sent invites to a hundred million people and the majority of them show up, but there’s no music or, exponentially worse, no beer pong, chances are memories of your little soiree will live on only in infamy.
Similarly, if your company website has a poor layout or elements that annoy or distract visitors, chances of actually turning leads into conversions are pretty slim.
aMuseInk founder and CEO Jamie Engelbrecht knows a thing or two about designing company websites, and the design agency that he proudly captains has created countless bespoke sites for some major brands.
I asked Jamie, who runs AMI from his pecan nut farm located in the shadow of the picturesque Magaliesberg mountains, what makes for a great company website.
He identifies user-friendliness, or rather a lack thereof, as the number one thing that most companies get wrong with regards to their websites.
“[Business owners] get side-tracked by various things such as aesthetics, company politics, or even laziness, et cetera” says Engelbrecht. “Keep in mind that the goal is to inform your target audience. It can be about your product, service, and your thoughts by means of a blog”
Asked what the trademarks are of a truly great company website, Engelbrecht says that making it easy for the user to find what she needs should be the main consideration, and cites an article from the Time website in saying that one only has 15 seconds in which to grab a person’s attention.
“If [the visitors] are not finding what they’re looking for, they’re out of there, and Google takes note of this. The well thought-out color schemes and catchy key phrases will be useless”.
The designer, who has a degree in visual communications from the esteemed Open Window design school, lists the following criteria of a good company website:
- Relevant – Make sure the content is applicable to the link it came from. It happens that a client does not know where to place content and adds it under a random heading just so that it appears on the site. If it is not contributing to the page, rather remove it
- Easy to find – Don’t make use of complicated menu structures. Also think about adding a search function
- Well laid-out – Make use of items such as bullet points (that the reader can quickly scan though and see if the article is relevant), images, headings. The viewer and a search engine can then easily see and index the article correctly
- Easy – Keep it short and sweet, nobody is going to read through a thousand-word article. Rather break the article into sections and interlink them if you would like to expand on a topic
I also asked Jamie what pages are crucial to have on a business-orientated website, to which he responded by saying that “it varies from company to company, and depends on what the objective is with regards to the website.
“The first thing we do with a client is ask what they want to achieve with the site, be it sales, generating more lead, educating them on a product, and so on. Secondly, how do we measure the ‘goal’? It happens too often that we have to create a site because the marketing department was instructed to revamp or create one. If you do not have a set objective the site will have no impact on your business. But, gun against my head, you need a contact page. The minimum a browser needs to be able to do is get hold of you”.
In recent times, it has become a necessity for websites to include a combination of text and rich media such as imagery and video content.
“The more rich media you have, the better” explains Engelbrecht. “As I mentioned before, content needs to be relevant. An old design philosophy you could use when looking at your site is KISS, Keep It Simple, Simon. If the video is not contributing to the page, remove it. Same for images, tools, et cetera”.
Finally, I asked Jamie what, in his professional experience, are some of the best ways of attracting traffic to a business website.
“There are two main ways of attracting traffic, namely:
Earned Media – This involves publishing content such as blogs, answering questions on Quora, being featured in a local magazine. The tactic behind this is twofold. One, being seen as an industry leader, every time someone searches for a particular problem, an answer with your name pops up. This tells people that you know really know your shit and can be trusted to help them with their problem (for a fee, of course). Second, all roads lead to Rome. The more links you have out there, the greater the chances are that they will go to your site. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t bombard people with only products and services. They will find this irritating. Try to keep posts informative with the solution being your product or service. People do not like being “hard-sold” to.
Paid Media – If you do not have the time or patience to earn the media, you can buy it. You can take out an advert on social media, search engines and traditional media (traditional is not recommended). This does have a faster turnaround time but could be unrewarding if the campaign is not correctly targeted. Make sure that you are attracting the right audience and offering them the solution they need.
But a combination of paid- and earned media is a good strategy, diversification”.
You can check out Jamie’s work at the aMuseInk website: www.amuseink.co.