On Monday I posted an infographic about the top problems small business owners have with their websites. One of the biggest areas where a lot of small business websites suffer is in their design. 59% of business owners surveyed said that design was not a top factor in influencing their website decisions. So why is not prioritizing design an issue for a business website? Well, to illustrate how good design can help solve a lot of other issues experienced, let’s look at Apple’s website from 1997 versus their website today (the image used is actually from 2012 but the design has remained the same)
In 1997, the web was a much different place than it is today. Screens were smaller, web browsers weren’t as advanced, and connection speeds were glacial. With those limitations in mind, the Apple website was actually very representative of a good website in the 1990’s. So while Apple’s website has evolved as web standards and bandwidth has progressed, there are still a lot of business websites that look very similar to Apple’s website from 1997. So what’s wrong with Apple’s website?
What do they do?
In the 1990’s home computer purchases were on the rise leading into the dot-com boom, but a lot of consumers still weren’t too sure why they needed a particular brand of computer over another. There’s not a lot of information available on the front page that tells you why an Apple computer is great. The only mention of a new computer is at the upper right with the emate 300.
Ok, I’m ready to buy.
While the online Apple Store as we know it today didn’t launch until late-1997, there is no mention of where you can buy their products in brick-and-mortar stores on the homepage. Not giving your potential customers a clear path to action is a recipe for failure. Coincidentally, this website is from the time period in 1997 when Apple was on the brink of bankruptcy.
The Apple website of today bears little resemblance to their 1997 website. In just over a decade, Apple.com has tranformed into an example of a website that is a business’s best marketing tool. So what makes the modern Apple website great?
Clear navigation structure
The main navigation menu is simple and allows visitors to reach their destination quickly. Are they coming to buy a new Mac or perhaps an accessory for their iPhone? They click on the “Store” Are they looking for information about the Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, or iTunes? They intuitively click on the appropriate menu link and then are presented with information about that product category. And if they’re having problems with their Apple product, clicking Support takes them to the support site to help them solve the problem. A clear navigation structure allows visitors to find their destination quickly, which results in increased customer satisfaction and revenue.
It shows the product
In this case that product is an iPad Mini after it was unveiled. It’s pictured in a person’s hand to demonstrate its small size advantage over the iPad and other tablets. Visitors are also presented with the option to watch videos of the product’s unveiling, an interview with the product designers, plus the first TV ad. Below the main product feature, there are links to find more information about other Apple products.
Apple, like many small businesses, is in the business of selling products. By posting a link to their online store, retail store locator, reseller locator, as well as a phone number, Apple presents their customer with a direct call to action to make a purchase or talk with someone who can answer their product questions.
So how important is design?
Look back at the two Apple websites…which website makes you want to purchase their product? That’s what makes design important is that it can influence your potential customer to buy from you or to keep searching and buy from your competition.
What are your options for a well designed site?
If you are like most of my clients, your website should be built on an easy to use Content Management System (CMS) We typically prefer WordPress for most small business websites, although we have also implemented Drupal, Sitecore, and ExpressionEngine CMS as those systems have better met their needs. Regardless of your platform of choice, all major CMS will have ample themes available either for free or for purchase.
I recommend going with a purchased (often called Premium) theme as they often have more features, are better coded, and offer better support. Of course, a fully custom theme from an experienced web studio also offers these features, but they do come at a higher price.
If you are not using a CMS, I would highly recommend you look into migrating your site to one as soon as possible as it will return huge dividends as you will see in the remaining blog posts in this series.