Unlike the field of dreams, if you simply build a site your users aren’t going to magically show up and hit the “check out” button over and over. If this is the way you think about Web design, you need to rethink the purpose of your site. For starters, for users to move through whatever funnel you want, they need to be motivated and engaged. It isn’t rocket science, but it does take finesse to engage your customers.
Elements of engagement
• Web hosting — Odds are, when you think of user engagement you’re probably not thinking, “Now I should go out and ramp up my Web hosting.” It’s best to think about Web hosting as the foundation of your user engagement process. Without a solid small business Web host any efforts you make to engage your customers with design or content are futile. For instance, if you set up an amazing shopping cart and you consistently experience downtime, slow load times and hosts of site performance issues, no one will stay long enough to buy anything. Choose your hosting provider wisely.
• Design — Keep your design simple at first. The most important aspect of your design is to facilitate a smooth interaction for your customers. Yes, it’s important to have an attractive website, but it’s more about function than appearance. Hire a graphic designer to build you a catchy, modern, yet simple website that removes any barriers for use.
• Content — This is one of the strongest tools you can use to hook customers, both new and returning. Show them that you and your company are the leading experts in your industry and that you care more about their needs and questions than the bottom line. Explain your products, tell them how you can help them and answer their questions. One thing to keep in mind is the goal is not to simply produce lots of content, but rather to produce meaningful, relevant content on a regular basis. You can do this through videos, blog posts, tweets or e-mail blasts.
• Contact information — This seems simple enough, but many sites miss the boat on this one. It’s not that they don’t have contact information on their site, but that users have no idea where to find it. Make it easy for your customers to get in touch with you. Remember, the new era of Web marketing is conversational. Make yourself available to connect with your customers in just about any medium. This is crucial for your brand. Post links to your social accounts, prominently display your customer service number on your store pages and put basic contact info — mailing address, phone number, fax number and e-mail address — at the bottom of each page to make it easy for visitors to contact you.
Many small companies are looking for that magic Web design bullet that will bring in paying customers on a regular basis. Unfortunately, every company is different and every user has different needs. Web development is always changing, and you’ll have to put in some hours testing design and functionality until you have that perfect balance of style and usability. The good news is, if you put in the time and energy, you’ll get results.
Joseph Baker has worked in the business world for more than 10 years, specifically in management. He has led development and management teams, and implemented budget reductions both professionally and as an independent contractor. He is also an avid blogger and inbound marketer, with published topics ranging from social media trends to search media metrics and algorithmic trends.