Your website is an incredibly important representation of your business. When people visit your website their experience is assimilated, both consciously and sub consciously, as being highly indicative of your business as a whole, and they will make decisions on whether to engage with your business solely based on that experience alone.
Your website is almost always the first place someone will go to introduce and familiarize themselves with your business and its products or services. So you need to approach your website design in the same way you would an introductory meeting with a potentially high value client - you've got to look good, communicate well and be very organized.
The website's visual presentation, content and user experience are the three main ways through which your prospects will form a first impression of your business.
1. Visual Presentation
If the visual and aesthetic design of your website looks dated or unattractive the visitor has no option but to project that impression onto your business itself and its products or services.
Your web design needs to be professional, modern, clean and aesthetically pleasing. When something looks good people feel confident and reassured, and they naturally feel like they want be a part of what they're experiencing. When addressing the design of your website make sure you work with an experienced and talented web designer and be aware that web design trends change quite quickly, be prepared to redesign the look of your website every two years.
2. User Experience
If your website is designed in such a way that it's hard to navigate, difficult to find information and it loads slowly your visitors will intuitively assume that dealing with your business is going to be frustrating and difficult.
The website navigation needs to be clear, logical and intuitive. Information should be easy to find and easily understood. Ideally you are aiming to present the visitor with the information they need before they even know they need it. The website must load fast and display well on every browser and any device. With such a huge, and growing, number of internet users using mobile devices your website absolutely must be mobile friendly.
If your website content is vague, long winded and unhelpful you will not connect with your visitors and they will perceive your business as one that doesn't really understand their needs.
Your content needs to be concise, to the point and delivered in easily digestible amounts. A great starting point is a carefully crafted 200 word business pitch which is often perfect for your home page. In addition to the information about your business and services your website needs to be rich in valuable content that is focused on fulfilling the intrinsic needs of your target market above and beyond the promotion of your own business. You need to provide helpful information that establishes you as a credible resource and trusted leader in your industry.
The impact that a website design has on a business is a lot more significant than the majority of business owners realize. It's essential to know what the most important elements of a website are, or to work with an experienced website designer that does. This article, The 8 Essentials of Successful Web Design, is a great reference document.
The great news is that if you get the basics right your website can operate as a highly effective, efficient and influential communication tool that, on its own, can elevate you above your competition and project your business as an industry leader.