This blog is the result of a conversation I had with a local business owner who is now my client. This is an analogy I have used to generate passion for a well thought out online presence. Since they found it helpful, I hope you will as well.
“Cosmos is a Greek word for the order of the universe. It is in a way, the opposite of chaos. It implies the deep interconnectedness of all things. It conveys awe for the intricate and subtle way in which the universe is put together.”
Order or Chaos?
How is your online presence designed? Is it thoughtful and deliberate, or is it just “there”? I find that it helps to think of your business’ online presence as a universe made up of interconnected places users can visit: website, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, etc.
Many mid-sized (and some larger) companies view their website as an equal to their various social media platforms. This is a mistake. They are reliant on one another, but they play very different roles. A company’s website should support social media, but should also be distinguishable as the main source of information. It’s the sun of your business’ online universe, serving as a central source of energy to power your brand across the broad digital marketing landscape.
Though it is in many ways obvious, it is important to consider the specific advantages a website provides that cannot be achieved through social media. You should design with these in mind.
Let’s focus on three specific advantages:
- The website is the only place that allows the business to completely control the user experience.
- The website is the only place that allows the business to fully establish itself as an expert.
- The website is the best place for a company to truly distinguish itself from its competition.
Accomplishing these three things requires extensive planning, but when executed properly the difference can lead to real changes in performance and results. Just as, without the sun, our planets would lack a central force around which to orbit, social media accounts should revolve around a brand identity that is often best established by a website. A thriving online universe contains many elements, but the website is the center; if it isn’t going, nothing is going.
Let’s explore these 3 key points in more detail:
1. The website is the only place that allows the business to completely control the user experience:
Think about it this way: each of the social media platforms your business is currently using (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) has a defined user experience inherent to its existence. Users show up with an expectation, and their experience is largely predetermined. These platforms dictate user flow and provide only limited ways to present information. You are just plugging content in, rather than designing the experience around your content. This makes social media accounts very easy to set up and run, though considerably more difficult to make distinct and unforgettable.
2. The website is the only place that allows the business to fully establish the company as an expert
This your chance to flex some serious brand muscle and show your users what you’re about. Through a strong blog and convincing case studies, the business owner has the opportunity to establish him or herself as a subject matter expert in his or her respective field. This type of long-form content can and should be promoted on social media platforms, but wouldn’t live there. I’m always a bit baffled by a website that doesn’t have a blog, as this is one of the most effective ways to improve your SEO and establish authority. According to Hubspot, business who blog acquire 60% more customers. Including a blog is a necessity for any new website.
3. The website is the one place where the company can truly distinguish itself from the competition.
This is the heart of the matter – design, function and beauty: this is where it pays off. Smart businesses have realized this advantage and have capitalized on it. They spend money on their website because they realize that by providing an elevated experience they are distinguishing themselves from their competition. They realize that through elevated design they can tell their story, express their personality, delight their customers and be memorable. They are making their universe a special place–a place where people like to visit.
Creating the Universe
To create this universe requires planning and thoughtfulness. How are all these places going to co-exist? What is our plan for the user who enters our universe through Facebook? LinkedIn? Twitter? Just as users come to the website from various social media platforms, we will send them to those platforms as well. Looking for a more visual connection? Visit our Instagram page. Want to see our most recent special? Follow us on Twitter. How about a more professional connection? Join our LinkedIn network.
By diving deep in this phase of discovery, a business can really map out a strong plan for how their users will behave when the enter their universe, and design the experience to maximize conversions from all entry points.
Building the Sun
By mapping user flow and designing the user experience, we can direct the right user to the right page and convert them into a customer. Every website should begin this way. By starting with planning, we are able to design more efficiently and clearly. This saves time and also results in a cleaner, better website. What’s more, when we start with a plan we are able to know when we have gotten off the path. This cuts down in wasted hours. To be sure, the plan will be tweaked as design starts, but having a starting point really allows for a quicker design/build process.
A business website that impresses users is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity. Prospective customers will form a first impression of your website in less than 3 seconds. The bar has been raised. Take a look at your competitors’ websites: how do you feel when you land there? If their website is bad, that is an opportunity to create a huge gap in customer perception: to establish yourself as the leader. If their website is good, you realize that you need to catch up, to close the gap or be left behind.
The precedent is set. Amazing websites exist across all industries. By and large, these are the companies getting the money. In this environment, customers expect a certain level of professionalism when they visit your website. If you give them a rewarding and pleasant experience, they will reward you in kind.
I urge everyone to create a universe for your business that contains the same beauty and interconnectedness as that of our natural universe. One that makes an impression with its simplicity and thoughtfulness. Through careful planning and a commitment to better design, there is a real opportunity to establish your business as a leader in its industry.
Questions? Comments? Ready to talk about your next web project? Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, we’d love to hear from you!
All photos courtesy of NASA.gov