When considering Web design, entrepreneurs have a number of different questions on their minds. Does my chosen design represent my brand in the best possible way? Will the website structures and images cause visitors to convert to customers at the highest rate possible?
But there’s another, more important question they need to be asking themselves that often goes unaddressed: Does my website care about my customers?
It might seem like a strange concept, but the reality is that your website is often a visitor’s first introduction to your brand. Even if a website visitor is familiar with your brand in an offline capacity, these crucial first moments of digital interaction can either reinforce positive associations with your company -- or introduce a sense of cognitive dissonance in wary consumers.
Try to imagine the conversation that exists between your website and your visitor whenever the following commonly used website elements are encountered:
Element #1: Pop-up banners
Customer: “Well, this looks like an interesting website. I think I’ll just scroll down this page..."
Pop-up banner: “NOT SO FAST! I know you’re new here and haven’t even had a chance to look around yet, but trust me – you’re going to want to sign up for this exclusive bonus! This free e-book is great! And it can be yours if you’d just sign up below!!!”
Customer: “Wait, what site am I on? This isn’t worth the hassle…”
Element #2: Flash introductions
Customer: “Ooh, according to Google, this website should have all the information I need…”
Flash Intro: “Sorry! I know the information hidden behind this animation is what you’re really after, but I want to dazzle you with the fact that this company spent a lot of money to hire a website designer!”
Customer: “Jeez…I really don’t feel like waiting. I’ll pass.”
Element #3: Excessive advertisements
Customer: “Let’s see, I think this website will have the information I’m looking for…”
Banner Ads: “BUY NOW! Best prices on all the products you need here! Are you tired/rested/fat/skinny/happy/unhappy or all of the above? WELL CLICK HERE NOW!!!”
Customer: “I’m sorry -- I don’t like that you’re more interested in making a sale than treating me like a valuable potential customer. I’m out of here!”
Sure, these examples might seem goofy, but the reality is, customers view websites in vastly different ways than the companies that design them. It doesn’t matter whether or not you love the slick new website some designer or marketing agency sold you on -- what matters is how that design communicates with your customers, and whether or not it leaves them interested in engaging further with your company.
With this in mind, the following are a few things to watch out for when it comes to determining whether or not your website cares for your customers:
- What is the first piece of information made available to website visitors? If new customers see banner advertisements first, they may feel like they’re being oversold before they even have a chance to find the information they were looking for. If the first piece of information on your site is a picture, ask yourself whether or not it’s a welcoming image that encourages new visitors to stay on your site.
- Are your design elements consistent with the first impression you want your site to give? The theory of color psychology posits that different colors create different emotional experiences, making it possible that your website color choices are betraying your intentions. Similarly, using the Comic Sans font will tell visitors that your website is unprofessional and childish -- which likely isn’t the first thought you want to cross their minds!
- Is your site easy to navigate? In general, website visitors arrive on your page because they’re looking for some specific piece of information -- whether they’ve come from Google, a social media website or some other referrer. If that information can’t be found because your site is poorly organized, the conversation that occurs between visitor and website isn’t going to be a positive one!
As a general rule, you want visitors who have first arrived on your website to feel welcomed and cared for -- which is often easier said than done. To truly determine whether or not your current site design creates this accommodating atmosphere, you may need to enlist the support of outside parties who can confirm both the impression your site gives off and whether it’s effectively achieving your business goals.
If their results surprise you, head back to the drawing board until your revised site design meets the guidelines described above!
AJ Kumar is the co-founder of Single Grain, a digital marketing agency based in San Francisco. Single Grain specializes in helping startups and larger companies with search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media and various other marketing strategies.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.
Photo By: Duncan Hull