Your business website is your storefront, your virtual salesperson, and the cover of the proverbial book by which your business will be judged. It’s also a perpetual work in progress—something you should be updating and making changes to regularly, both for your SEO efforts and for ever-better user experience.
But no matter how many changes you make to your site over time, there are some best practices that aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. So whether you’re just getting started on your business website, or you need a refresher on general best practices as you’re updating yours, here are five tips to keep top-of-mind:
1. Make All Your Copy Prospect-Oriented and Benefit-Driven
From an insider’s perspective, this best practice is particularly easy to forget—especially when it comes to the “About Us” page, which is a real misnomer. (It’s not about you; it’s about your prospects). Generally speaking, prospects and customers only care about your business insofar as they care about what it can do for them—and more specifically, what value it can add to their lives. Remember this reality for each bit of website copy you write.
To that end, it’s valuable to remember the difference between your offering’s features and its benefits. Features are the material facts about your product, and they’re often mistaken as prospect-oriented information. But features are only meaningful insofar as they supply benefits: the value (often in the form of “outcomes”) that customers will experience by virtue of using your product.
Focus on the latter. Your conversions will thank you for it.
2. Offer Social Proof Wherever You Can
Social proof is the social and psychological phenomenon in which people look to others to determine the best way to act in a given situation. When it comes to your business, this means prospects are looking to your customers to determine whether or not they should buy.
Social proof comes in a variety of forms: awards and recognition, press and media mentions, endorsements, logos of professional organizations you belong to, clients’ logos, community service, and so on. Use these on your site where you can. That said, perhaps the most powerful form of social proof you can display is the customer testimonial; and it’s worth sprinkling these throughout your website (even if you also keep a dedicated testimonials page). Position testimonials at friction points: those places where a prospect is likely to encounter resistance to conversion—on your pricing page or checkout page, for example, or by any of your CTA buttons.
3. Make Your Visitors’ Journeys Clear and Their Next Steps Easy
This is typically done with some combination of menus (particularly if users are starting from your homepage) and CTA buttons (especially as visitors move deeper into the purchasing funnel, if you have an ecommerce site). In short, there’s no reason a user should ever get stuck on any page of your website. If you’ve done your research, know your visitor range, and have a keen sense of your ideal customer, you should be able to direct any site visitor through their own personalized journey with clear calls to action. Indeed, they should hardly have to think about it.
Your homepage, for example, may offer more than a main menu to get users started on their buyers’ journeys. Maybe you’ll cater to prospects in the awareness stage by offering a free downloadable report on the industry. You’ll cater to prospects in the consideration stage with a “Learn More about Our Business” CTA, and to prospects in the decision stage with a “Browse our Services” CTA… all on the same page. The point is to offer calls to action for prospects who arrive on the page with different levels of commitment and different levels of readiness to purchase.
And once a visitor is in the purchasing funnel? The CTA to get them on the next page should be the biggest thing on every page they land on.
4. Make Sure Users Can Reach You on the Other Side
This best practice means keeping your business’ contact information (email, phone number, social handles, etc.) on the header or footer of every page on your site, and/or offering features such as live chat. Remember: Regardless of the speed at which business technology advances, people are still drawn to doing business with people, not with interfaces. And the last thing you want is to lose a prospective customer because they had a question and didn’t know where to turn.
5. Go Visual… and Multimedia
We’re a visual people in a remarkably visual age; and that’s worth keeping in mind as you curate every page of your site. This is especially important if your business website is an online shop (in which case, good product photos will be crucial), or if you offer a portfolio of your work.
Multimedia is also essential for helping educate your prospects—on your product, your process, and so on. Concepts (like where you fit in your industry) might be more easily explained through an infographic. Instructions (like how to exchange a product) might be best illustrated through screenshots. Processes (like how your product is made, or how to assemble your product) might be better demonstrated through video.
In other words, take user experience (UX) on the whole into account. This best practice isn’t just about “making a pretty website.” It’s about making your information easily digestible—and even entertaining to learn.