A company’s website is the gateway through which customers interact with said company. It’s the doorman, basically, bringing them into the company, telling them about it, showing off its wares - and everyone knows that a good-looking, friendly doorman is way, way better than some slouch who’s hard to understand and even harder to look at.
This is why every business must make serious strides toward enhancing their website’s image, functionality, and communicative transparency. In layman’s terms, a website should be geared toward the audience that uses it, making it easier for them to find what they want, buy what they want, and learn what they want.
The year of 2013 brought to the digital marketplace a wealth of website changes and innovations, and it’s time to look back at what changed and what worked. (And more importantly, if someone hasn’t followed through on these changes, now is the time to read about them and see why they are worthwhile investments.)
1. Responsive Layouts
In the past, web designers and developers had to build two different website templates, one for desktop monitors and one for mobile devices. This essentially doubled the cost of a website, and it increased the risk of a problem occurring.
Instead, responsive websites change according to whatever device is used to view them. (Sounds like magic, right? It’s really not that complicated.) No matter what device is used, the website adjusts to the customer. This allows designers and developers to optimize the site according to essentially every device on the market, and thus making it easy for every customer to see and use the website.
If you have yet to join the responsive bandwagon, it’s time. This is crucial, especially considering how many people now use mobile devices to access sites.
2. Interactive Elements
The idea of inviting a customer into the website has long been a discussed topic, but only now, in 2013, has it become an explosive idea. With the advent of QR code technology, customers all around the globe have been scanning information and using it to access a company’s information. There are even some websites that allow customers to complete transactions using QR codes - a brilliant step for bringing together the offline and online worlds.
The more complicated things get, the more confused customers get. But 2013 saw a bunch of developers and designers opting for minimalistic websites, ensuring that customers stayed on the site and never got overwhelmed enough to leave.
Some websites even adopted the idea of approaching landing pages as “elevator pitches,” creating sales pitches meant to be read in 30- to 60-second spans. This provides customers with a quick, succinct message and doesn’t cause them to sit around too long to get bored. This kind of minimalism is vital for today’s gotta-have-it-now world.
4. Unique Layouts
For some companies, creating a unique layout was the best way to market to new customers, as it made a memorable impression. Too often there are businesses wanting to play it safe, going for what has been proven to work. But this can be boring and dull for customers looking for a fresh new concept - a fresh new way of interacting with a company. Instead, companies have been looking at infinite scrolling, typography across a full screen, vertical navigation, and other such experimental ideas.
Being the one to step outside the norm can be a scary thought, but it can also prove to be a lucrative one. It’s about taking one the mantle of being new, exciting, and refreshing, rather than going down the same old path that has been tread to death. Everyone likes a little excitement now and again, and the online world is no different.
This is one of those evergreen categories that keeps coming back year after year, as sites are always striving to achieve the next attention-grabbing design or element. Still, 2013 saw the dawn of a whole slew of sites fitting this exact criteria.
Many incorporated videos or photography to keep people on the site long enough to read their text, while others provided interactive elements or unique layouts - both previous elements prominent this year - to invite customers into the company’s site.
If possible, one of the most effective means of keeping customers around are illustrations and short video clips. Both of these create intrigue and suspense as customers wait to see if the content is worth viewing. Of these two means, a successful way to keep customers around is scribe videos, also known as whiteboard videos, which illustrate how a company creates their product or service. It’s both transparent and interesting, and customers eat it up.
While “attention-grabbing” may seem like a vague term that holds no real meaning, it’s in fact something that everyone works to achieve. It’s the one thing that makes a website truly successful. But it’s hard to describe what about a site is truly “attention-grabbing,” because for some customers, it’s the information, whereas for others, it’s the visuals. It all comes down understanding your customer audience and what they would consider “attention-grabbing.”
Surviving in the digital age can seem like an impossible task, but there are so many customers - so many sales opportunities - waiting for someone with the right marketing combination. Take the time to understand the people approaching your company and their website. Try to see a trend in who goes where on the site, and how long they stay on a specific page. Is there a video on a page that receives a lot of views? Photos? Text? This information is vital.
And remember, these are only the trends seen throughout the year of 2013. These are not necessarily going to be the same trends seen throughout the coming year. (Who knows, maybe websites will be replaced by some newfangled electronic gateway.) But they are what worked in the past, and starting here can give a company a solid foundation for advancing into the year of 2014.