While it's almost indisputable that businesses need a website today, many business owners are unsure what their site needs to include. Of course, there are a myriad of aspects to consider before embarking on the design and development of your business website, but the best place to start is with knowing which elements are absolutely essential to make your website successful. As in any business, the key is to keep an eye on your customers or clients, understand their needs, goals and desires, and then attempt to meet them. Likewise, there are specific features that are proven to convert traffic into paying customers, as well as return traffic and thus repeat customers.
If you're wondering what pages or features you need on your business website, here's the 7 crucial elements customers need to see on your website to make it a success.
Who You Are and What You're Selling
If you've ever heard the marketing rhyme "Tell me quick, tell me true," you know that it's absolutely imperative that one of the first things (if not the very first thing) a visitor to your website sees is who you are and what you're selling. Don't make the visitor wander around your site; your homepage should accomplish a short-and-sweet version of this and your "About Us" page should fill in the details. This can include bios for your management team and your story. A big mistake with small business websites is underestimating the importance of a well-written and informative "About Us" page, as this is where your prospective customers build their first impression of who you are and what your online identity is.
Likewise, don't just tell the visitor who you are and why you're awesome; make sure they know what you're selling and how they can buy it, using additional pages as necessary. What your business is is a huge part of who your business is, and it shouldn't be left out of the picture. Make sure that it's easy for a visitor to know where they are; there's nothing worse that having a site whose identity is so obscure that a visitor who was looking for you leaves and goes elsewhere.
One of the easiest ways to frustrate a visitor to your site, and ensure they don't return, is to make it difficult for them to find what they're looking for. The best copy and design in the world won't help you sell a product or service if no one can find that page. Carefully consider who will be using their site and how. If you know which pages or what information visitors are seeking, don't make them work for it. This includes having a functional menu and search bar that will allow visitors to quickly retrieve their information.
If you aren't sure how intuitive your site navigation is, consult a user-experience expert or try out one of the many tools to find out just how well your visitors fare on your site.
Contact Information with a Place to Give Feedback
This is quite likely one of the most important pages on your website, as visitors will almost surely need to retrieve your contact information at some point, especially the ones serious about buying your product or service. Not only does giving your contact information allow your visitors to interact with you more, it's a way to build trust with them and show that you are, indeed, a legitimate business with a physical location and working hours. Likewise, be sure not to leave out your phone number and email.
Another excellent element to include with your contact information is an invitation to receive feedback about your products or services. If anything has gone astray with your business--or if anything has worked marvelously--you'll want to know about it.
From a customer's point of view, few things are worse than wondering what the specific procedure is for a service or what the protocol is for buying an unusual or new product. They don't want to embarrass themselves by using the wrong terminology or buying the wrong product. Take the worry and concern out of your visitors by providing, in detail, the important things they need to know, including what to do should something unexpected occur. Include such information as where customers should go for complaints and comments, any guarantees, return procedures, reservation information, user policies and any legal information. Also, if you use SSL when processing customer information, make sure they are aware of it and know that you're doing your part to help protect their privacy. Let them know you're a trustworthy business.
One of the most effective ways of ensuring your customers can find this relevant information is through an FAQ page. Develop this content thoroughly to save yourself time in the future. Including sections on these topics will help your visitors be more confident in doing business with you, as well as take a strain off your customer service department.
Validation comes in many forms, but is strongest as customer reviews and testimonials, case studies, client lists, awards and recognition, and news articles. These show your visitors that you have done business before successfully, helping to build the framework for trust. Now, an important addition to traditional validation is through social media as well. Be sure to include links to your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages. Maintaining a blog is highly recommended for this purpose because it allows you to connect with your visitors and share industry information. A little effort can go a long way to providing the validation your customers need to see before interacting with you; there's power in numbers.
Apparent Call to Action(s)
As with all manner of clarity on your business website, your call to actions should always be apparent. Let the visitor know why they're on that page and what you want them to do. Make it obvious and simple. Call to actions can take the form of links, buttons, headers or forms within the body of your copy. However you choose to manifest them, they should be presented clearly and with the right balance of frequency. Call to actions can make or break a sell, especially when leaving a website is so easy.
Rememberable Branding and Design
This is a big one, but it's critical to a company's online identity. Customers need to see your brand to help build recognition. Similarly, all text should be readable and balanced, without being overcrowded with advertisements and links. A poor choice in design or an outdated and less-than-functional website will drive away visitors because it represents the quality of your work. Be sure to consider the overall theme to your website and test how well it retains your customers. Do they take one look at it and leave? Is it frustrating, with multiple hits to error pages? Find out through Analytics and change accordingly.
Those are the 7 things we've experienced customers needing to see on a business website. Have more? Leave them in the comments below!