ByJay Bigford
19/10/2012
1

Our tips for an effective website

We’ve compiled our top tips for making your website more effective.

So, you have a great idea for a social enterprise or campaign but need a website to promote it. Or perhaps you already have a website but it’s not working for you. In this digital age, an effective online presence is of upmost importance if you want to get noticed. Take a look at our advice and make sure your project hits the ground running!

Define a strong message

Before anything else, it’s important to get your message right. By defining your brand effectively this will provide you with a strong foundation on which to base all of your communications. To help you to define your brand effectively, we suggest that you answer the following questions, in this order:

1) Why are you doing what you’re doing?

2) What are you doing?

The order is important here – Too many websites make the mistake of focussing on communicating what a company does rather than why they do it. This simply doesn’t engage people as effectively. If you can tell your story of why you’re passionate about your field then people can connect with it and it will become more meaningful.

It is part of the role of a designer to help you to define this message and it will subsequently become the foundation for how you communicate your company or campaign.

Engage your audience

This is important for all websites but particularly for campaign sites. If you are trying to raise support and awareness for a particular cause, often the cause itself is not a particularly fun subject to engage people with or it can be difficult to communicate. By making the website interactive, what could be a dry and depressing subject can be transformed into a fun and inspiring learning process.

The Slavery Footprint campaign site is an excellent example of this – it successfully engages people about the issue of slavery by making it a personal, interactive and fun learning experience.

The Dangers of Fracking campaign site is beautifully designed, allowing the user to scroll downwards, following the water droplet as it moves through the fracking process with visual illustration and supporting text, explaining what could be otherwise a difficult subject to communicate.

Data – make it easy on the eye

Data is a powerful thing when highlighting issues and the need for change, however the key to making this work all depends on how you communicate it. Info-graphics are your friend so make the most of them. The creative use of shape and colour to illustrate figures is a brilliant way of getting information across to your audience in a way in which a) they can enjoy and b) that doesn’t hurt their brain. The Evo Energy UK Energy Guide is a good example of this:

Know your audience

If you know your client group / who you are targeting, you can design the site accordingly and tailor the website content to suit their needs.

Design

Perhaps the clearest example of how you can target design for a particular audience is shown in websites designed for children. Vivid colours, exciting imagery and animation are great ways to grab children’s attention and engage the audience, but it is important to get your design process right. We always design ‘Content first’ making sure the information is key, then we look at using graphics to enhance that communication.

DIY is a great example of a successful children’s site which also appeals to adults. Within their very simple layout they incorporate beautiful illustration to create a magical, other worldly feel to their site. Well illustrated avatars are used to capture kids’ imagination which they can share with each other or print off.

Incorporating animation into children’s websites is always a winner. The Mario Kart Wii website makes fantastic use of parallax to draw you in to the Mario World! (You’ll have to follow the link to do this one justice.)

Content

It’s not only the design that is important when targeting a particular audience. Design and content go hand in hand.

A common theme throughout successful websites is the brilliance of their blog. Writing articles on subjects that your target audience will find useful is not just altruistic, it also makes business sense! By blogging on subjects that your potential clients are thinking about will put you across as an expert in your field that they can trust, helping to generate valuable business for you.

Sharing valuable and useful information on your blog is also a brilliant way of boosting your rankings on search engines. By having clear social media buttons on your articles, if people find them useful they can share them through Twitter or Facebook, enticing more and more people to your site to learn about the fabulous things you’re doing!

Good Energy is a great example of this. Their business is renewable energy and so they have a blog with a wealth of information on everything you could need to know on this subject (see the categories).

Blogging on your own website is great but that blog post could be even more effective if you post it on other websites as well. This is known as Guest blogging and allows your article to reach many more people and draw a much higher number of people to your website.

For a wealth of information on making your website content work for you, take a look at the excellent articles over in Valuable Content’s article library.

Social media

Social media should be a core part of your marketing strategy for your website. Not only can it be useful in sharing the fabulous articles you’re writing on your blog but you can use it as a tool for networking with potential clients.

Here at Yoke, we’ve found that Twitter has been great for this – by simply ‘following’ people that we’d love to work with, those people receive a short profile about us in their inbox and this has often led to them getting in touch to ASK for our services.

That’s only the beginning however… To make social media really work for you, it’s important to share content that people enjoy or find interesting, encouraging them to share it further. This will build you a large amount of ‘followers’ or ‘likes’ and draw people repeatedly to your website, which in turn can lead to increased business.

Summary

Gone are the days of the yellow pages – if people are looking for your services then they’ll most likely search for you online. If you want to get noticed then an intelligently designed website is crucial. However, don’t make the mistake of relying solely on the website itself to generate business. To really make the most of it you need to be a Search Engine’s friend. In techie terms, I’m talking about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). The most important thing you need to think about when it comes to SEO is regularly updating your blog with useful information and sharing your content through your active social media networks. This, combined with a well designed website are sure get your message heard.