When people visit your websites, what do they see right up front?
If you’ve ever been a fan of those DIY and home-flipping shows, you probably know that ‘staging’ a house for sale prepares the house in the most appealing way possible. In the language of real estate, ‘staging’ is strategically dressing a house up with carefully placed furniture, cool accessories, and using attractive paint colors so that viewers would be drawn in and really be able to imagine themselves living in the house. Staging sparks desire, and desirability pushes prospective buyers into making an offer.
A business website is designed for many things. It is the public front of the business on the internet, and as such must be designed for ease of communication and commerce. As your business portal, your website sets the stage to highlight your product’s strengths and make them appealing to the greatest number of prospective buyers. What feelings do you intend your website to spark in your visitors? How do you do it so they would be most influenced to buy?
It is essential that you use all available elements of your website to show how your products will make a difference for the people comprising your target market. You need to ‘stage’ your website.
The most visible elements are, of course, the visual ones. Visual elements are not comprised only of the graphics (banners, ads or product pictures, for example) but of the lay-out and appearance of the website. Bright colors can work in many instances, and in some may turn off sensitive viewers. In the same way, flashing pictures in GIF form can be hazardous to people sensitive to such images, such as those with epilepsy. You have to take a lot of considerations into account when it comes to how to ‘dress up’ your website.
The appearance of the site must come across as welcoming — it is the portal, the entrance and foyer of your space on the internet. Like any foyer, clutter is distracting and tends to downgrade the impression of the ‘house.’ It can help to use neutral tones as background colors, and use an intuitive navigation system to make it easy for visitors to navigate your website.
The invisible elements come into play here: behind the scenes, the website navigation, pop-ups, visual and textual elements, ad positioning, etc. help support the purpose of the website. You don’t just plunk down a website willy-nilly, you need to know what it’s for so you can design it to do what it’s supposed to do, which in business means marketing and selling products or services.
Staging your website means making sure that every page on it has a specific purpose, one that is immediately clear on viewing. Far too many web sites use pushy tactics, using hyped-up sales talk, and throwing on bells and whistles to attract visitors. As a luring tactic, sure, these things can work, but your visitors also want and need the specifics and facts about your products, and you need to provide that. In particular your site must show four things:
- What your product or service is.
- How the product or service works.
- What makes the product or service different from what visitors tried before.
- What’s unique about the product and its benefits.
You need to have a page explaining what your website is for. This is what’s known as the ‘About’ page. You need to have a page explaining what you’re selling on your website. This is or these are your product page/s. You need to have a page explaining how does your service or your product works.
It also follows that you need to identify what makes your product different from what visitors already tried before. This is what advertisers call the Unique Selling Proposition, or USP. Finally, you need to let your visitors know what the benefits are to using your service or product, and this is where you go all out to extoll the features you know will show them that your product is the solution to their particular needs.
Be careful with using overpowering jump tactics to get people to join up. Pop ups that block the website until the viewer either signs up or clicks to close can be a turn off. One way to still use them is to set the pop-up trigger for when a specific place in the page is reached –like after the end of an article. That way, the visitor can finish getting information — finish reading —before they get a pop-up. It’s not an intrusion then, it’s a follow-up!
Built-in shopping carts are no-brainers. Ensuring that your website, payment processors and shopping cart are secure is a non-negotiable business practice, and assures the people buying from your site that it can be trusted with their important information.
Staging products to showcase their value is essential in making sales. Witness the zoom-in function on product images where prospective buyers can examine the item in close-up detail online, or be able to watch videos or even animated GIFs of the produce being used. People want to know what they’ll be buying will provide the value they want, and if you arrange it so they can ‘inspect’ physical goods online, that mentally sells them the product already.
Easy navigation: Just like flipping a house, ‘stage’ the pages of your website so that buyers know where they are and can easily find their way around. Do away with cluttered navigation panels and excess ads, and make it easy to reach the product pages, the shopping cart, the checkout page (and other sub-pages) with a clear navigation set-up (usually arranged as a bar across the top of the webpage, or a column running down the left side.)
We mean it about visual clutter: For example, you may have items on special discounts, and would love more than anything to make sure your buyers see those up front to get a real deal, but jamming all the sales items on the home page may not be a good idea. What you can do is put a few choice sales items on the front page, and gather all the current deals on a ‘Specials’ page, where interest visitors can browse to their heart’s content. That way, deal-hunters can go directly to that page, while your home page stays open and inviting.
Again: A good navigation system is important. Whatever page visitors may land, always leave them a way back to the home page. Another good idea is having links to the shopping cart and check-out visible once visitors have put items in their carts. This is a subtle way of directing the flow of visitors via the site design.
More good ideas: Recommendations help by using mass appeal to entice visitors into looking at your other products. “Customers who bought this also bought ____” with a link to those other products.
Always think of flow. When you look up the definition for sales funnel, the usual graphics are self-evident: from customer acquisition in newsletter sign-ups to purchases, the movement is toward making a profit center from the website’s activities.
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