Often the littlest things get overwhelming.
There was a time when small businesses could hop on something simple like Squarespace or WordPress premium and slap together a website with a little help.
Things are much more complicated now. Often unnecessarily.
There’s a ton of plug-ins to integrate.
Multiple vendors to work with.
All that posting that needs to happen on social that needs to sit on your website.
And now, as we hit the 2020 marketing normal, you need to do all of this in multiple formats.
Yup, staying on top of your web presence is no longer easy.
But like I said, we think it’s unnecessarily hard. And terribly expensive if any good. And riddled with shady dealings with vendors who basically regig a theme for you.
Like most things though, a website that transcends time takes a commitment to the basics, done right.
This past year, at c+p digital, we practiced what we preach and did some major simplifying of our website. Our language, our design, the UX. Everything.
From that experience and several others, there are two things we we’d say everyone should be going for in their websites for 2020 and beyond.
- Make things interactive and get people to stay and play. (Think more webspace. Less website.)
- Deliver a different, and if possible customized, experience to each person who visits/revisits
Because… want to know the number one pain point we hear as digital marketing consultants? It unifies all our client segments, whether large corporates or solopreneurs.
That pulling people to ‘homebase’ isn’t working anymore. (ie: making people come to your website/microsite/alternative content property). Think about it. Or run off and take a look at your social analytics to see how many people actually click through to your website links. I’ll wait.
This is the reason why so many people are spending their time building houses on other people’s land, so to speak (ie: social media platforms). Just to hear the sound of sweet feedback.
Because you’re either hearing crickets.
Or you’ve attracted a bunch of cicadas when you wanted crickets.
Or whichever way this metaphor goes.
My point is, you’re doing it wrong 🙂
If you want people to come into your website, and stay, it’s going to need to be an environment worth staying in.
If your audience is coming in and leaving without ‘buying’.
Not at all biting on your retargeting.
Or worse still, not coming at all…
You’ve got the wrong people.
Or a crap experience.
If you’re convinced your target audience is right. Improve the experience your website offers.
With that at the back of your consciousness, kick-back, caffeinate (or you know put wine in your coffee cup), and take a few minutes to absorb these 5 simplified website basics fully.
#1. Simplify your website design
The first thing people likely see when they land on a website is design. The thing at hand needs to be beautiful. So, lets start there.
Don’t run away from themes. They exist and are used for a reason. Even at very advanced levels.
Instead be clear that all themes have confines. Work with someone or pick carefully yourself, making sure your theme supports the kind of output you are looking for. For example, if you want to be showcasing large images, make sure your theme supports that beyond just the home page.
Aim also for what’s called a long-form scroll design, which allows people to go through several sections of your website by scrolling. This does 2 things for your small business website. (Which, lets all be honest as a small business owners, is a hard life on search engines)
- It improves user experience (more on that below) – people don’t need to keep returning to the menu to navigate through your website.
- It populates the home page with a lot more content than an otherwise minimal home page would allow, and this gives you massive points on the SEO front.
That doesn’t mean you don’t need a menu. You still do. Big tip: You need both a scrolling long form home page and a menu.
When we designed our home on the interwebs, we drew heavily from our heroes of simplification.
(Inventor of Finding your ‘why’)
(Author of The life changing power of tidying up)
(The inventor of mind mapping.)
(The inventor of the bullet journal)
I’m not saying their websites are what we drew from. While some work, our needs are specific. What we drew from them was their thinking.
Strip down to the basics. Declutter. Simplify.
(We obviously agree. Which is why the foundational framework that we apply to every. Single. Project. Is called 5 degrees of simplification™)
Our approach to the beauty aspect of things was a mix of paintbox-effect visuals, iconography, uber-simplified, mind-map-like UX delivery, and barely over a couple 1000 words of text in the entire website (barring the resources/blog) to give people an idea of who we are and how we serve.
Why? Because we’re best known for frameworking and simplifying by drawing on whiteboards. We’re also known for making things cyclical and repeatable and custom. So our website represents that.
When you think design, think what best represents your unique value proposition.
Then get someone skilled with design to make the picture in your head a reality.
One more pro tip: It’s worth working with a graphic designer of some type who will bring your look to life in 2 dimensions. And then a website designer/builder who will bring their expertise to converting that look to a well oil-ed webspace. (Sometimes those two people are the same human. But it’s rare. Often smaller, agile digital agencies will offer both for seamless delivery at not as exotic a price tag as you might imagine.)
2. Simplify the language in your website
You saw above that we’re proud our website has under 2,000 words of writing. Which is odd for a company that’s lead by a writer and employs several writers. For us it helps to phase it this way. When you remove the narcissism and framing from your own point of view, you get to really look at what your customer needs from your website.
Sometimes, even if you’re a writer looking to showcase your words, less is more. Remember one of the hardest things we learned when we learned language was summarizing information to a third or less of its original length and still having it retain its value.
Do that. That always works.
Also, simplify the type of language you use. Active voice. Present tense. That sort of basic grammar still delivers the best writing.
And don’t forget to bring your voice. While it is our strong belief that small businesses still need to be deeply involved in the creation of their digital brand voices, a skilled writer can help you bring it out and regularly write in it for you.
Understand though that when we say we’re aiming for as few well written words as possible for your actual website, many more will be written in the planning of this!
Write out your customer journey maps to make sure you have simplified language for all steps of your customers journey.
Draw 10s of sketches that lay out the process flow and user experience you want to deliver, and make it as simple as possible.
Also look at how other people are saying what you want to say. (no plagiarism please!) Think instead about what you love about the writing on some of your favorite websites. Think also what you hate about the writing on some websites. That helps!
3. Simplify the UX (user experience) in your website.
‘Every object in a state of uniform motion will remain in that state of motion unless an external force acts on it.’ That’s what Newton said.
Also known as ‘people won’t do shit till you make them’.
(As implied by the use of the word force and its application in many current marketing practices.) We like to reframe that a tiny bit.
‘People won’t do shit till you make it so easy, they fall into it’
The distinction lies in recognizing emotional intelligence. Don’t make people do things. Inspire them to do things. Today’s online user (no matter what product or service you’re targeting at them) has no time for anything less than intuitive and easy. If it’s hard, it’s likely not worth it. And if it’s not clear and compelling, why bother?
So Newton had it spot on!
Simplifying user experience (UX) on your website is all about making things so easy that people just fall into it.
And that needs to be one of the top goals for your website. What it means in actual design terms is things like this:
- Avoid making people have to click several things to find stuff (think one-click for everything)
- Make the information you want the focus on front and center
- Make sure everything is working (no dead-links, unfound pages etc)
- Make buttons for CTAs (call to action)
- Don’t have pop ups interrupt what people are reading
- Offer genuinely useful content – and make most of it free. People will buy from you, if they need what you’re selling, once they like your brand. It’s that simple.
And interestingly, these are the very things that will score you high google juice. They’re pretty much synonymous with SEO best practices, which have now started to count much more with search engines than things like keywording.
4. Simplify metrics for your website
If you don’t know how something is performing what is the point of doing it? Metrics can strike the fear of god in many people, but again, all it needs it simplification. (Sense a theme here?)
Before you look at metrics, think about what you’re trying to accomplish in your business. Ask, ‘Where do I see my digital marketing efforts playing a role? Put in place a measurement model for your strategy. For example, are you doing social media activities – then those need to be linked to your website and measured.
Once you articulate your goals and layout the activities that will take you to them, set a measurement factor to each of them.
If you’re just getting started on the measurement journey, focus on two tiers of metrics:
The first tier of metrics is Vanity Metrics. Things like likes on social media when you share something from your website. Followers matter, but they’re not your only goal. The reason they matter is that you want to make sure you have a base community to market to and that you are consistently growing it.
The second tier is engagement or behaviour. On your website that means looking at numbers like:
- Where your traffic came from
- How long they spent on your page (this will tell you whether they read the whole thing, for example)
- Did they click to anywhere else on your site?
- Did they perhaps put something in their cart
This tier will show you how the people who are interested in your brand are using your website and offers opportunities for improvement of factors.
At a beginner level, all you need is to have Google analytics, which is free, hooked up to your website, and a social media distribution/dashboard software like Buffer or Hootsuite integrated. At paid levels for the latter, that will give you most numbers you need to measure growth and website patterns.
5. And finally, simplify your Digital Marketing and make your website easy to stay in!
This links closely to the points we’ve made through this piece. Don’t do interruptive shit most importantly. Sure, your website’s job is to offer up more interesting content of one type or another. But resist the urge to hit someone with a signup 12 seconds into it when they’ve barely had a chance to digest your home page!
Instead, aim to create a rabbit hole! People love discovery. Allow them to discover and play.
Have cross references to things within your website. Subtle links, widgets on the side of you page, a panel on the bottom – all work.
A website that is well wire-framed and linked within its guts to the right things in an intuitive way is always a better prospect than hitting people in the face with the stuff you’re trying to sell.
Remember it’s the age of pull notifications. Not push, unless people have asked for it.
Reel them in, make it comfortable, and tempt them to stay because you’re cool. Not because ‘today only, it’s 99.99’.
Because, like Newton said (ish), people won’t do shit (on your home base) unless you make it easy for them.
Did you find this blog post useful? Drop a comment below. We love questions and comments and always respond, especially if you ask us something hard.
Want to hop on a free 30-minute digital marketing simplification call instead? We’ll have you leaving with a tactical solution to whatever is on your mind. That we can promise.