In the past, most businesses needed an office. From a service standpoint, they provide a place for customers to visit, find answers to their questions, and get to know your brand. But they also require that customers come to you.
While many businesses still need physical offices, a new type of office—a virtual one where customers can still visit, find answers to their questions, and get to know your business—has emerged in today’s world. Now, every business needs one. Instead of customers having to physically visit you in person, they can stop by at their convenience, whenever they want from anywhere in the world.
Have you guessed what we’re talking about yet? Your business’s website! While offices represent your business in the physical world, your business’s website represents your business in the virtual world. That matters because more customers today learn about and judge companies based on their websites than they do physical office spaces.
As a result, effective B2B website design is more critical now than ever before. Just as your physical offices should accurately represent your business’s brand and build credibility with customers, so should your website. But it also has to do a little bit more than your traditional office space.
Follow these five design principles to discover how to make your virtual office as effective as your physical one.
Principle 1: Provide Clarity With Every Click
With the rise of SEO content, you never know which page will be the first one visitors land on. If they’re already familiar with your business, they most often enter through the homepage, but if someone unfamiliar with your company finds you by searching for a specific service, that will most likely be their entry point and first impression of your company. From a design standpoint, make sure every page on your website makes the best possible first impression with site visitors because you never know which one they’ll click to enter your site.
Start by making sure the title of every page is clear and lets users know they’re in the right place on the internet. Your company’s logo should also appear on every page to ensure visitors immediately recognize your brand. From there, it’s helpful to pair the title of the page with an image that’s relevant to the page’s topic. Doing so helps reinforce in the visitor’s mind that they’re in the right spot on your site, and a poignant image can stir up specific emotions, problems, and desires more immediately and viscerally than words alone.
If you follow these three concepts for every page on your site, you never have to worry about visitors being confused about where they’re at on the site while making the best possible impression on first-time visitors.
One last thing here—every click on your website should provide clarity, but you also need to remember that the most important click is the click to contact your business. You never know when a visitor on your site will be ready to take the next step and connect with your team. Be sure to feature frequent calls to action, contact forms, and buttons throughout your site, so as soon as a visitor is ready to convert into a customer, it’s as easy as possible and they already know what to do.
Principle 2: Establish a Hierarchy and Flow
It doesn’t matter if website visitors know where they’re at on the site if, after a few clicks, they still aren’t sure how the various pages on your site connect to form a cohesive representation of your company. That’s why every page on your website also needs to follow a clear hierarchy and consistent flow of information. If every page looks radically different from the last, visitors won’t know what to look for, and they may struggle to navigate through your site.
The more visitors click around on your site, the more comfortable they should become using it. (Just like how the more time they spend in your physical office, the more comfortable they should be navigating it.) If they aren’t, the issue is most likely tied to either hierarchy or flow.
In terms of hierarchy, your website’s homepage is the most important. It should funnel visitors to the most important pages on the site, called parent pages. These parent pages should further direct visitors to more detailed pages on your site, called child pages. By following this hierarchy, visitors can get to the specific information they need quickly while gaining an understanding of how your different services relate to each other. This hierarchy also needs to be apparent in the menus visitors use to navigate through your site.
Regarding page flow, every page shouldn’t look the same, but each page should feel familiar to visitors the more they click through them. It helps to have a design formula for how you want to convey information on each child page. The same goes for parent pages. Each page should have consistent images, colors, links, buttons, and structure. From there, each heading on each page should follow a semantic hierarchy, starting with an H1 at the top of the page, followed by H2s, H3s, H4s, etc., to fit the page content.
Keeping pages dynamic enough to engage users while also following similar patterns is the best way to ensure pages flow. By doing this, users immediately understand what they’re looking at and quickly learn how to find what they’re looking for without losing their attention.
Principle 3: Balance SEO and Design
You can have the most beautiful, user-friendly website on the internet, but what good will that do your business if nobody can find it? That’s where search engine optimization (SEO) comes into play. By following SEO best practices, you can make sure your website appears on the list of results when people who may be unfamiliar with your company search for what you do. Believe it or not, design plays a significant role here.
Search engines want to deliver results in the most efficient way possible, and they love websites that are easy to read and navigate. Following principles one and two isn’t just great for users—it’s also great for seeing success on search engines.
It’s important to note that you may want to do something unique from a design perspective, but it may not be worth it if it affects SEO negatively. For example, you may want to feature dozens of videos or pages of interactive content across your site, but if it negatively impacts page load speeds, you may need to explore more creative ways to engage users. (If you need help, our team is really good at this.)
SEO shouldn’t necessarily take precedence over design, nor should design overshadow SEO. Instead, it’s vital to find the right balance between the two.
Principle 4: Know Your Audience
Before you can build a website that you know users will enjoy visiting, you have to know what kinds of things those users already like. An excellent way to go about this is by looking around at what competitors in your industry are already doing. Visit their websites and take note of what you like about them and what you don’t.
If you already have a website, explore it like one of your customers would. From there, you can ask yourself questions like:
What do I think customers would like about it?
What do I think might turn them away?
What do I think they will want to click on?
What sections might confuse them or cause them to back out of my site?
You can also poll your current customers to figure out what they like about your site and what they think could be improved. With these insights, you can tailor design elements to align with their expectations and preferences.
Remember, you aren’t building a website for yourself—you’re ultimately building it for your current customers and prospective customers to learn more about your business. If they don’t like using it, you could lose out on opportunities if they assume that they won’t like doing business with you either.
Principle 5: It All Comes Down to Brand Recognition
On average, customers visit a website nine to 12 times before making a buying decision. When someone thinks about something related to what you do, you want your business’s name to be the first that comes to mind when they need help or have a question. If a competitor’s name comes to mind before yours, you’re missing out on opportunities. That means if your website isn’t good enough to make users want to revisit it, it isn’t as effective as it needs to be.
The above principles all help with brand recognition, but your efforts should go beyond that. Every page of your website should look like it uniquely belongs to your company. After visiting your website and clicking around for a while, visitors should be able to recognize your company’s brand even if the logo were suddenly hidden or covered up. If you can achieve this, you’ve hit the mark in terms of brand recognition—the ultimate goal of effective B2B website design.
We Can Help With All of the Above—And More
At Abstrakt Marketing Group, we discovered the above principles because we follow them all day, every day, with every website we build. As you navigate our website, you may even notice how we go about implementing them in our own design. We hope you found these insights valuable and actionable enough to build into what you’re already doing with your website, but if you need some help, that’s what we’re here for. Reach out when you’re ready to learn more about how we build these principles into our website development process.