I think I can say without trepidation that there are good web sites and way too many bad web sites. Why is it that web page design seems to be an art that was lost before the Internet was even launched?
Think about it for a moment. How often do you browse the Internet? How often do you land on sites where the web page design instantly turns you off? How quickly do you go to another web site?
Now let’s look at the positive side of web page design. What happens when you land on a web page that holds your attention? I’m not talking about content, but the design of the Home Page where you landed. Why did you stop and look a little bit deeper? It’s probably because the design itself was interesting. It held your attention long enough for you to at least glance at the content on the Home Page.
If the content (or at least the content on the Home Page) seemed interesting or seemed to address your query when you started surfing, did you stay a while? Did the Home Page “yell” at you to “Buy this now!!!”. Did this drive you away immediately? Did the content on the Home Page instead say to you “We will help you and this is how we are going to do so.”.
Did you click through to other pages? If the content on these interior pages appeared to address your query in more depth, did you stay to learn more?
Was the organization of the web site logical so you could navigate to interior pages easily?
Now you know everything there is to know about web page design! Attract people’s attention. Tell them you can help them. Tell them how you are going to help them. Finally get to the specifics about your products and services.
Web page design must be seen as a critical element of your CRM and ERP systems. CRM functions track prospects and manage customers. An ERP system processes customer orders and deliver goods and services. However, if your web page design doesn’t attract and hold a prospect’s attention or makes it difficult for customers to do business with you, the most power ERP system will have minimal positive influence on your success.
I conducted a brief survey of several web sites looking for answers to two specific questions. Did the web page design offer some form of interesting information that required me to reveal my contact information? Did the web page design immediately capture and hold my attention?
Out of ten web sites visited only one offered information that required me (the prospect) to reveal my identity and none really captured my attention to any degree.
Web Page Design Creates Truly Influential Salespeople
Web sites are absentee sales people. If a prospect happens to visit a web site (organic search, Pay-per-Click or even in response to being given a calling card at some function), keep in mind one very important fact. Most prospects have the attention span of a five year old. If your web page design does not give them a reason to stay, they are going to leave.
Just like in any sales situation your web page design objective is the establishment of a significant competitive advantage. You want suspects (not prospects yet because they haven’t identified themselves) to voluntarily decide to eliminate your competition for you or at least consider you first among several options.
I am not a big fan of requiring users to identify themselves in order to download a document that “might” be of interest or view a demo. However, that is an expected web norm and most of us are willing to go along. Since I don’t really like this approach to marketing, the article or demo had better be of significant interest.
If the document (white paper maybe) or demo contains no more than general information or worse still blatantly sales oriented, I will leave because I know what’s going to follow. Someone is going to send me an e-mail or call me and put pressure on me (several times probably!) to buy.
OK. What can you do to attract and hold a suspect’s attention and eventually get them to identify themselves? Give them information that is really useful. Give them something your competition does not. Capture their attention by giving them a path to excellence.
Web Page Design and Accounting/ERP Software Selection
Accounting software and ERP software selection is our specific line of business so we are going to use that to discuss web page design. It really doesn’t matter which industry you serve. There are sufficient similarities between all industries to use one as an example of the critical importance of web page design.
If you are interested in learning more about web page design, the Internet has more information than you could possibly read in a lifetime. If you want to avoid web pages that are advertising oriented, you might want to use GoogleBlogSearch to find other articles and blogs that relate to web page design or similar topics. Actually you could do no more than visit your competitions’ web site and play the role of a suspect. For each web site visited answer the questions we have been asking.
Most users searching for a new accounting/ERP system do not understand fully how to conduct such a strategically important project. All they know is that they need to make a change; change in software and probably change in business processes.
The problem is that they do not know how to get to wherever it is that they want to go. They want to ask a question, but do not. “Can you help us move from where we are today to where we need to be tomorrow?” There are two additional questions that suspects want to ask. “Can you help us determine where we should be in the future?” and “Can you help me manage this project?”
Notice that these questions have nothing to do with whatever accounting product or ERP system you support. It’s a lot more personal. People need a white knight to literally take them by the hand and guide them to their destination. Oh, by the way, many users do not have a well defined destination. All they know is that they need to make a change.
Notice that the first two questions were related to the need to select accounting software or ERP software for the firm. The third question is much more personal. The suspect wants you to help them do something they know they cannot do. This person is probably the Project Manager for the software selection project and he/she really needs your help!
If you assume that these are the most important questions you need to answer, how can your web page design answer the questions? Forget about products and product attributes. They will become important only after you have answered a user’s more fundamental questions. Respond to the questions by saying “Our primary objective is assisting our partners achieve their business objectives, what ever they may be and this is how we do it.”
Your web page design methodology is not selling products and product attributes even though that’s what you will “sell” in the end. Instead you are selling the process itself and literally taking a user by the hand and showing them how you are going to help them achieve their objectives.
Since you don’t know what these objectives might be, your web page design methodology and the description of the process you are selling show users that you know how to lead them wherever they want to go.
This step-by-step approach will cover all of the basics: understanding the software selection process, understanding what’s possible in today’s business management systems, business process improvement, needs definition and everything else that contributes to the creation of a foundation for greater success.
Actually this is a key concept. You are not selling a physical product. You are selling what I call Business Excellence. This concept answers the suspect’s key questions (“Can you help me understand and can you help me get there?). Most important of all, this concept is not offered by your competition!
Web page design will eventually support the selling of specific products and services, but its initial objective is reaching out to known prospects and unknown suspects and giving them a reason to want to learn more. The only way they are going to learn more is by staying on your web site and that’s the primary objective of web page design.
The longer someone stays on your web site, the less likely they are to visit your competition.
As you might have noticed, this process does not mention specific products and it’s not designed to do so. This doesn’t mean you cater to this one demographic. Some people know what they are doing and their questions will be different. Since you cannot possibly deliver multiple stories on your Home Page, you have to appeal to the most likely audiences that will be converted (i.e. identify themselves).
Users need guidance and that’s what you are going to provide. Your web page design should make it very easy for prospects to understand what you are all about. If you can provide this path to excellence and your competition does not even mention it, who is the suspect or prospect going to turn to for assistance? Notice also that you have now invited the user to stop for a moment and consider what you have to say. That’s the underlying objective.
Use your web page design to give users the ability to differentiate you from your competition immediately. If you can get them to stop and consider what you have to offer (the process, not your products), you have created what could prove to be a substantial competitive advantage. If achieving Business Excellence (that’s what I call it) is of interest to your web site visitors, they will be more than willing to identify themselves and hopefully initiate a mutually beneficial relationship.