Businesses over the past decade have had to shift their thinking to a “digital first” strategy, with the organization’s website being the equivalent to the proverbial storefront. Users have come to expect more from brand websites, gravitating toward brands who focus on ease-of-use and accessibility over bells and whistles.
So when can a website be considered complete? At what point should a brand stop investing time and resources into their digital face? The answer to both questions remains the same: never.
Websites are Never Truly Finished
Website “completion” should be viewed as a short-term goal, but never as a long-term goal. Web standards are a living, breathing thing; they’re evolving and changing on a daily basis, and the digital toolbox is constantly expanding into new territories.
This pairs with changes in user habits and expectations. The user profile of a website today may look very different from ten years ago, and changes to the economy and purchasing habits only exacerbate those changes.
User Experience (UX) Comes First
Having a flashy website means nothing if the site isn’t easily accessible. Accessibility goes beyond a catchy domain - it includes how the site’s users get from point A to point B - and ultimately, how the site helps convert visitors into customers. A video background that slows down the load time of the site is no match for smooth navigation and accessible information.
Websites should be mobile-optimized. A majority of users today go to websites on their smartphone first, and desktop sites are difficult to navigate on a smaller device. When making any change to a website, brands should ask first: “how does this affect our mobile experience?”
Placing contact information in an easily accessible and consistent spot helps site visitors know where to turn if they need to get in touch. This goes beyond the standard phone and email placement; keeping social icons near the contact info gives users the opportunity to engage with the brand on other channels. Contact forms should be front-and-center, but requesting too much information will cause significant drop off.
Content drives engagement, so aligning content with key parts of the site is the best way to encourage visitors to view more pages, spend more time on key pages, and ultimately - return to the site at another time.
Subscribe forms give the brand additional opportunities to engage with site visitors who aren’t ready to convert or make a purchase. But users are skeptical of receiving spam to their email inboxes, so it’s important to highlight the brand’s email policy, or give users an opportunity to choose what kind of messaging they’re interested in receiving.
Measure Site Engagement and Optimize
The success of a website’s engagement strategy relies on being able to measure success, and tools like Google Analytics can help to analyze user engagement down to the page level.
Getting traffic to key parts of the site helps, but optimizing toward content and pages with smaller bounce rates will aid in guiding the brand’s future engagement strategies.
Understanding a brand's audience is key to predicting their engagement behaviors and proactively creating a website layout that leads to that audience taking action on the site. While it may seem counter-intuitive to continue investing time and energy into the website, brands who continue to optimize and evolve their digital presence are more likely to close sales and encourage repeat visits.