As the world settles into a new way of working, websites have become a vital focus point for many – what does your website say about you?
Cast your mind back to “life before Coronavirus” for a moment and think of all the ways we used to communicate and set perceptions with those we sought to do business with. For me, a three-piece suit was a firm favourite (it was more of a corset than a waistcoat…), set off by a nice tie and a pair of shiny cufflinks.
I’d meet clients in nice bars and restaurants and we’d chat business over a juicy steak and a few drinks. Perhaps I’d visit their lovely offices somewhere in the West End and be quietly impressed by the artwork hanging on the walls and the luxurious furniture and fittings as I was ushered into a meeting room and offered a choice of drinks. How you perceive people, and how they perceive you, can be a funny thing at times, but one thing’s for sure – we all seek to make a positive impression on those we meet.
Where are we today? Most of us are still working from home, making use of video conferencing facilities with whatever webcam and internet connection we have available, and the three-piece suit has been swapped out for an old tshirt and a comfy hoody (see below, newborn baby is optional!). Business travel, long lunches and visiting shiny offices are a thing of the past – at least for now – but we can thank our lucky stars for the internet.
Our opinion is biased, but in a world that just went virtual, websites have become even more of a vital communication tool and are now the sole touch-point for everyone. Visitors to your website will be silently (or not so silently) judging you on it. So, what does your website say about you?
Communication is key
The irony is, of course, that many companies are looking to make savings and cut spending, not splash out on a new website. Thankfully, great web design that’s supported by a user-friendly CMS doesn’t have to cost the earth, and when it’s your only method of setting perceptions and communicating with a wide variety of stakeholders, it pays to get it right. Depending on your current setup, you may even save money.
We’re seeing clients thinking of it less as a vanity project and more of a critical communications platform that has to support the rapidly changing needs of their business.
The current crisis has already taught us many things, not least that we need to respond quickly in the event of an emergency. Being able to easily update the content of your website, post new videos and schedule the release of new press-releases, are major concerns for the clients we’re used to servicing. If you can’t quickly and easily update your website without incurring additional cost then something is wrong.
Need to publish a press release first thing on a Monday morning? No problem. Produced a new video interview and need it adding to your landing pages within the next 30 minutes? Easy. If it takes multiple emails and lots of back and forth to get something done, you’re going to be at a disadvantage.
Similarly, transparency and consistency are the cornerstone of effective investor relations and corporate communications, and if your stakeholders are left wondering what’s going on in the middle of a crisis then it’s probably already too late, they’ll be heading for the exit. No one likes to be left in the dark.
Every day we see websites that were created before Instagram existed (2010, for those wondering), with out-dated content, broken features and a lack of regular updates. From an outsider’s perspective it generates an impression of a company that’s behind the times, and a potentially risky investment.
The opposite is also true; when we see a modern website with lots of fresh content wrapped in a modern framework, it’s suggestive of a company that has its finger on the pulse and a defined comms strategy firmly in place.
Is your content easy to read and digest?
Putting content on the page doesn’t always ensure that it’s understood. Today’s audiences are quick to judge and tend to scan-read in order to find information of interest, before deciding to spend longer on the finer details. This is where the look and feel, or aesthetic, comes into play.
Making the most of your content by:
- Creating bullet lists of information
- Breaking up large text blocks with sub-headings and font styles
- Featuring headline content within pullout quotes
- Thinking about graphical representation of key facts and figures
- Creating internal links to other pages of potential interest
- And adding interactive elements like newsletter signups and contact forms
…all helps to drive engagement and encourage repeat visits.
News and media sites are unsurprisingly very good at capturing a readers attention with a short and snappy title, followed by a fairly descriptive lead paragraph, before going into the finer detail within the body-text below. This sort of signposting helps audiences find what they’re looking for, and you should be doing the same within your corporate website.
The devil is in the detail
Okay, so you’re able to keep the content up to date, and it’s artworked onto each page in a way that makes it enticing and easy to understand – is that all you need to set a positive impression?
While it’s true that conformity and consistency go a long way toward making a website that’s both usable and accessible by the majority, it’s the attention to detail that will set you apart and create a lasting, positive impression.
When we’re chatting to clients, we like to talk about a website having a sense of personality that’s reflective of the underlying brand and culture. Your choice of typeface, colour palette and supportive imagery sit alongside the words you use, in order to paint a picture and tell the whole story.
Aesthetics aside, there are some technical considerations that shouldn’t be forgotten, as they all count toward perceptions.
Does your website communicate as effectively on a mobile or tablet device as it does desktop monitors? Does it work as well in Internet Explorer as it does in Edge or Chrome? Are your web pages protected by an SSL certificate and marked as secure by the users browser? Is your site well optimised for search engines? Does the site navigation make it easy to move between sections and sub-sections?
If the answer is “YES!” then congratulations, you’re the proud owner of a modern corporate communications platform that’s designed to engage with stakeholders and communicate clearly. If the answer is “Erm, not really…” maybe you’d like to contact us for a chat?