Ed’s note: This post was written by guest editor Tess Robinson of Smack Bang Designs.
When I was in Year Five, I got suspended from my computer class. I’m not entirely sure what I did to deserve this punishment, but it can’t have been too bad because I was still allowed to sit in the back corner of the classroom and watch on as my classmates learned to touch type with red checkerboard tea towels covering their hands.
At the time, I was devastated. Missing out on forming a relationship with a 1999 PC that resembled a small grey bar fridge was nearly as bad as the time I had woken up to find my tooth still under my pillow and Mum telling me that sometimes the Tooth Fairy needed to go on holidays too. Sitting in the corner of that class for an entire term left me feeling as though I would never learn the sacred art of speaking technology. Fast-forward 20 years, and it turns out I founded an entire business around computers. So here’s to you, Mrs Scott, eat my dust.
This year, I launched First Flight Studio, a business that offers a range of highly designed, limited-edition website templates for business owners who don’t do boring. I wanted to give business owners an option other than choosing between a bland, mass-produced template or splashing out on a custom-designed website (and I guess, there was a little piece of my 11-year-old self wanting to show Mrs Scott that I actually had quite the knack with computers).
So, how do you build a website that wows? Whether you’re a pioneering boss or a trailblazing entrepreneur, you’re likely juggling a few balls in the air at any given time. Building a website is a difficult beast to tame, but if you start with a beautiful template and action these 10 commandments, you’ll soon be rocking the web like nobody’s business.
1. Thou shalt be consistent
Back when the corner store only carried one type of flour, branding wasn’t all that important. However, in today’s ecommerce-driven world with virtually limitless purchase options, brand is everything. Your business needs a bigger, better and more heart-fuelled narrative: one that encompasses the amazing story of your company and makes people feel a certain way. Make sure your branding is consistent across all touchpoints – website included. It should carry the same colours, fonts and overall look
and feel as the rest of your collateral.
2. Thou shalt write brilliant copy
Most business owners know their products and services inside out, back to front. They’re often super talented at what they do and can jump on a call and explain why people would love their service. But trying to do that on a website can be enough to make them scream at the blank page in front of them. Writing copy for your website is challenging, but it’s so worthwhile to get it right. Why? Because the right words move people. They make sales. They grow your business and change people’s perceptions. So set aside the time to write copy – or even hire a copywriter or editor to help you along your way.
3. Thou shalt establish a tone of voice
Words hold power. It’s not just about communicating a message, it’s about connecting with your audience on a personal level. The way you write for and about your brand is one of the most important aspects of building a brand that both captivates and converts your ideal client into a brand loyalist. Your tone of voice humanises your brand and allows you to converse with your customers in a genuine way. Customers don’t want you talking at them as though they are dollar signs – they want to hear an engaging, authentic voice that resonates with their own personality.
4. Thou shalt invest in quality photography
Words give your brand depth and story, but visuals are what will bring your unique vibe to life. High-quality photography is a huge make or break if you want to create a successful website. After all, your imagery is what people will see, experience and love even before they’ve read a single word. You don’t need loads of photos, but make sure those you use are of a high standard and reflect the essence of your brand. Find a stock imagery website that suits your aesthetic and, if you’re an online retailer, put your dollars into a great camera and lightbox if a studio is out of the question.
5. Thou shalt cater to the scrolling thumb
In 2015, Google discovered that more than 50 per cent of searches in ten key countries (the US and Japan included) are being performed on a mobile device or tablet. Which means that now more than ever, it’s important to ensure your website is optimised for smaller screens. A responsive site basically means that no matter what size screen someone is viewing, your website will display properly for that screen. Having a mobile website is no longer simply a nice feature or luxury, it is an absolute must.
6. Thou shalt make friends with Google
An awesome website with no visitors is as useless as a screen door on a submarine. SEO (search engine optimisation) allows your audience to more easily find your site through search engines. Get smart about your keywords and ensure your web developer has implemented best practices for SEO. Rather than attracting a generic audience, you can dangle a carrot in front of specific customers who will appreciate and pay for your amazing services.
7. Thou shalt extend an invitation
Unless you are a secret government agency, there’s no conceivable reason you’d publish your contact details in the sixth paragraph of your final page in white text on a white background. Make your contact details obvious and easy to find – you never know who might be in a hurry to get in touch. Get a friend who has yet to see your fabulous site to time how long, and how many clicks, it takes them to find your contact details. Then ask yourself: do you think potential customers will hang around that long?
8. Thou shalt socialise
People who deny the importance of social media are like the people who believe we never landed on the moon. The social realm is real, my friends, and it’s not going away. By allowing your content and your images to be shareable, you get more visibility, which means more traffic, better search engine rankings and more lead-generation opportunities. And for the love of sweet baklava, put your social icons at the top of each page. Every. Single. One.
9. Thou shalt freshen up
Remember that website improvement back in 2011? There are children who were conceived, born, moved to solid foods and have now mastered their parents’ iPad since your lightbulb idea. If the cycle of life moves faster than your website refresh cycle, it’s a sure-fire sign your website is outdated.
10. Thou shalt call the people to action
If visitors to your site are shy about clicking through to cart, hitting up your hotline or subscribing to your love letters, chances are you’re lacking clear calls to action. As they journey through your site, ask them to take some kind of action where you are capturing their details or having them get in touch.