Business development · 21 November 2016

Logos to loading times – Giving your website the professional touch

website
There are a number of design practices you can use to make your site look more professional

Next up in his series of features for Business Advice, GoDaddy’s VP for EMEA, Stefano Maruzzi examines how business owners can make their website look more professional.

When you meet someone in the real world it takes just seven seconds to form a first impression. In the online world, judgements are made in the blink of an eye. Visitors to your website scan key features including your logo, main image, navigation bar and interface and make an almost instantaneous decision about whether they want to stay or close the tab and move on.

With the window of opportunity so small, you need to make a dazzling first impression. Designing a website to impress from scratch can be a daunting task but you don’t need to be a technical whizz or have a huge IT team to help achieve this goal. Here are some best practice design tips to help convert visitors into customers.

Research is your friend

In-depth research is going to be invaluable as you embark on crafting a beautiful and easy-to-navigate website. Visiting your competitors is a good starting point. Is their website visually appealing? What is the user experience like? What is missing? Make a list of things you think they do well and areas, which you would improve for your own site.

Take inspiration from market leaders as well. Retailers and service providers from Apple through to Amazon, British Gas and of course GoDaddy use simple designs and clear signposting to make navigation effortless.

Nail the logo

Once you’ve decided on your name and secured your domain name, you need to turn your attention to developing a logo that reflects the brand. But what separates a good logo from a great one? Coca-Cola, Facebook, Nike, McDonald’s and Twitter are all instantly recognisable because their logos are simple and versatile.

When launching a small business, you may not have the budget to hire a professional designer. Fear not, think of this as an opportunity to get your creative juices flowing. Sketch out a few ideas and experiment with different styles.

Spell out the name of your organisation. Does lower or upper case look better? What about italics? Or does the logo look great without text? For in-depth help to create your own logo visit the GoDaddy Garage for more tips.

Leverage the power of typefaces and templates

Fancy typefaces are an obvious no no. But this doesn’t mean that you have to settle for the bog standard Times New Roman font. Airbnb and Spotify both use Circular, the BBC deploys Helvetica and Amazon puts its trust in Arial.

Just remember that the font should be clear, easy to read and scale to different sizes. A black font on a white background is a great starting point, but don’t be afraid to experiment with colour palettes.

Choosing your template is another critical decision. If you’re running a restaurant business, a hero image with a ‘book a table’ or ‘view menu’ call to action on the homepage is perhaps the most effective option to help you navigate and capture customers. If you’re selling a variety of consumer goods, you’re more likely to need a busier front page to give the customer insight into your scope of offerings.

There are plenty of templates available on the market that can be customised to suit your business requirements. GoDaddy’s Website Builder offers really easy drag-and-drop capabilities and there is WordPress integration if you want to take personalisation to the next level.

Get in the fast lane

The aim is to have your website pages load faster than a visitor can say Usain Bolt. If your website takes over two seconds to load, that potential customer may not decide to wait.

Painfully slow loading times can also affect your Google ranking, which could mean the difference between getting a coveted first-page slot or being banished to depths of page four.

Make sure that your pages have images that are optimised for use on the web, and on a variety of devices, and think twice before using data hungry animations or overloading your site with too many plugins. Once you’re up and running, you can use a variety of tools to test your website and make sure it’s running as efficiently as possible.

Show and tell

Using high-quality images helps to radiate a professional vibe. Whether you’re selling computers, cakes or bicycle tours, your customers need to see exactly what you’re offering. Your images should look appealing and desirable enough to your website visitors to get them to click through to purchase, make a reservation or any other desired action.

Embedding video is also increasingly important as it helps explain features and details that may not translate well through images and text alone.

While multimedia is important, it doesn’t replace the need for text. Customers need signposting and detailed descriptions of products and services. Text is also an integral part of SEO. Your website needs to be able to speak the same language as search engines, so ensure your meta-tags and image-tags speak about your products and services.

And, don’t overlook the basics. Remember to be consistent in your language and check, check and re-check copy for accuracy.

Be contactable

‘About us’, ‘Contact us’ and ‘Follow us’ may sound like simple sections but they go a long way towards establishing the legitimacy of your business. If you’re sourcing ethical goods, tell the customers by having a ‘Learn about our suppliers’ page, which can give you more brownie points.

Remember, ‘Troubleshooting’, ‘FAQ’ and ‘Returns’ sections are important as these give customers confidence that you will have their back should anything go wrong.

Don’t have a sell-by date

Have you ever come across a website or even social media profile where the last news update was from 2014? Even if the rest of your website is immaculate, this kind of oversight can be awkward.

It’s therefore imperative that you spend time planning your digital content and make a decision about whether you want to have a regular stream of fresh content or prefer a low-maintenance evergreen approach.

While you will need to update any kind of digital content every-now and then, your website, is a bit like an orchard that needs maintaining. It is up to you to determine when and how often it needs pruning.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

At the beginning of his professional career, Stefano Maruzzi made an impact by leveraging his software engineering skills to launch Microsoft University in Italy, while writing fifteen books which have been translated into multiple languages. He then served as MSN Italy country manager at Microsoft, president at Condé Nast Digital International, and Google Italy country director. Maruzzi is currently GoDaddy’s VP EMEA in London, UK, heading the regional team to empower small business owners to build their brand and grow online.

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