How to Build a Customer-Focused Website: The Ultimate Guide
Love it or hate it, your website is an integral part of your business. Gone are the days when you can have your website developed and then forget about it for a few years. Most websites need regular tweaks, changes, updates and ‘revamps’ to stay current.
1: Tweak Your Logo
A few good questions to ask yourself when thinking about your logo, include:
- How big is your logo and how much space does it occupy on the screen?
- How big is it on a smaller device (smartphone or tablet)?
- Where is it positioned on the page?
The very first company website I developed in the late 1990s was designed in Flash because it was ‘cool’. The homepage comprised solely of my logo, filling the whole screen and spinning around. In order to get to the next page, you had to click into the logo. Whilst many people commented on my logo and actually wanted something similar for their businesses, it did nothing for customer engagement and it definitely did not help me to sell more online.
Nowadays, if you look at some of the major eCommerce websites, you will notice that their logos are usually on the small side. They are normally in the left-hand corner of the screen. They are discreet and do not detract from the rest of the webpage. Companies that are doing well have realised that your website doesn’t exist for you to show your logo off, or to tell the world “Look! I’m amazing!”. It exists to engage visitors. It may sound like an obvious point but generally, people are interested in what your website can do for them. How does it answer a customer problem?
Your website needs to be completely customer-centric. If the logo is too large, it becomes distracting and stops the customer focusing on your core message.
Two companies that do this really well are:
Here we look at technology giant Apple, who, whether you like them or not, often lead the pack with all things online related. Flic is a smaller company, but one that is doing really well. I am including a slightly less well-known business to demonstrate how these principles of customer-focused engagement can really be applied to any company, big or small.
Apple has taken the small logo concept to a whole new level. They just use their icon. This is acceptable when you have a brand that is as well known as Apple. Most business can’t get away with this. When we were redeveloping the Jersey Beauty website we did toy with the idea of just using our icon, rather than the complete logo. Ultimately we decided against that as we, unfortunately, cannot yet claim to be as well known as Apple, therefore what might look fresh and modern, could actually be confusing for customers. Although we may not be as well-known as Apple, our website design follows the same customer-centric principles: the logo is small, is located in the top left-hand corner where people expect to find it and when clicked you return to the homepage, which is also what visitors expect. Don’t make things hard for your customers, make it about them and make it super simple. Clever, all-singing, all-dancing logos, do not add anything for your customer.
"I very much doubt you have ever purchased anything online because the company had a great logo!" - Matt Edmundson
This is a great little company that I have recently discovered. They design and manufacture Bluetooth buttons that you can use to control things through your smartphone. I have one on my fridge, which can control my sound system. They can also control your lights, find your phone, unlock doors and make calls, among other things. They have a great website and a great product. They follow the same principles as e-commerce giants like Apple or Amazon. Their logo is small and it is in the top left. You can clearly see it but it doesn’t attract much attention. Their headline is the core message.
Many businesses feel that their logo should be front and centre. They have often spent a long time deciding on the design and colour etc. This thinking that it should, therefore, have a prominent place is often based around ideas about brand awareness. Although brand awareness is important, it should never be at the expense of the customer.
Websites have changed dramatically over the last few years. Those that are really successful, increasing sales and profitability, are those that make the customer the hero. The customer can’t be the hero if your homepage comprises of a large logo and lots of information about who you are and how your business is really fantastic. A customer-focused website will always be much more engaging and can dramatically improve growth and sales.
2: Improve Your Headline
- Is the headline on your homepage really powerful?
- Does it grab your visitor's’ attention?
- Do you even have a headline?
These are all very important questions.
When we craft headlines for our different e-commerce sites, we try to remember that a headline has to grab the visitor’s attention is nanoseconds. Page abandonment is so quick these days, you haven’t got time to say anything complicated. When we were writing the content for our e-commerce course and website, the headline we used was ‘Deliver e-commerce WOW’. We could have said any number of things like ‘make your e-commerce website work more effectively’ but it wouldn’t have had as much an impact as ‘Deliver e-commerce WOW’.
A company that does headlines really well is Netflix. They have since changed their main headline but at the time of writing, it was ‘Watch tv programmes and films anytime, anywhere’. Netflix has, incredibly clearly and simply, told their website visitors what they can do and how they can do it. It is really powerful. It grabs your attention and it’s completely customer-centric.
How do you craft a really powerful headline, that is clear, engaging and cannot fail to get your potential customer interested? The headline needs to be all about the customer. As soon as you start talking about what you have achieved you have really strayed from the path! It needs to be completely irresistible to the customer. A quick search online will bring up many articles on how to write a great headline. However, I have put together my top six tips specific to writing a great headline for an e-commerce website:
- Do you understand your customers and their needs? Who are they and what do they need?
- How can you simply demonstrate what you can do for your customers? What they get out of it?
- Be specific
- If relevant add a timeframe
- Don’t ‘stuff’ your headline
- Use a verb
When you are crafting an engaging and powerful headline, always try to keep your customer in mind. Put yourself if their shoes. What do they really care about?
A. Do you understand your customer and their needs?
Let's take the property sector as an example. Imagine you are an estate agency. What headline might you use to draw people in? I looked at a few different estate agencies to get some ideas. One company, Jones and Chapman, a locally based agency, do not appear to have a headline on their homepage at all. The main title, if you can call it that, reads Jones & Chapman estate agents, established in 1923. Jones & Chapman may be excellent at selling and buying houses but their headline isn’t engaging. It focuses solely on the company and not on the customer. Compare this to Rightmove, a national online real estate portal. The headline on their site is ‘Find your happy’. When I read that I subconsciously add the word ‘place’ to the end of the sentence. It draws me in and it's relevant to the sector. It is simple and compelling.
B. How can you simply demonstrate what you can do for your customers?
In the case of Rightmove, their headline implies that you will find somewhere wonderful to live or sell your property, enabling you to be happy in your new home. Certain industries, accountancy firms, estate agencies etc, seem to have a default way to create and populate a website. What if there were a different way, one which is much more engaging for your customers? When your customers become the focus, for your business and specifically for your headline, engagement always improves. Website visitors leave the homepage and go to whichever landing page you want them to go to: buy now, sign up etc. It sounds incredibly obvious but I am constantly amazed how many businesses are still focusing on what they have achieved rather than on their customers.
C. Be specific
On first glance, the Rightmove headline, ‘Find your happy’ doesn’t seem that specific. However, when coupled with their sub-headline ‘search properties for sale and to rent in the UK’ it is crystal clear what they can do for their visitors. Your customers do need to have more specific questions answered, such as rates and reviews, but the homepage is not the place to include this level of detail.
*'Your headline, along with your sub-headline needs to answer the customer’s initial questions, draw them in and then take them to the next landing
The takeaway point here is, be clear, not clever.
If relevant add a timeline
It is well documented that people scan a webpage, looking for something that stands out. Even in a simple headline, visitors will scan the text, rather than reading every word. If it makes sense, including a time frame can really make your headline jump out. Netflix changes its headline fairly regularly, but it has included phrases such as ‘watch anytime, anywhere’. Other keywords that work well include ‘now’, ‘immediately’ and ‘in seconds’.
Don’t ‘stuff’ your headline
Have you incorporated keywords just because they help with SEO? Web development teams will often recommend including keywords to improve your search engine ranking. The technical term for this is ‘stuffing’. If it works to include the word then fantastic, if it doesn’t need to be there, don’t include it. As long as you are clear, less is more.
Use a verb
Where possible your headline should start with a verb. The verb immediately tells the customer what they can do (or be). The verb you use should make sense for who you are, what you do and what your customer can experience with you. For example, our e-commerce training business has the headline: ‘Deliver e-commerce WOW’. The verb ‘deliver’ makes sense in the world of e-commerce. It ties in nicely with that industry. It also works well as our clients deliver products.
Your headline should be a statement of what your customers can do. It’s about their transformation. They are the hero. Not you. The golden rule is ‘be clear, not clever’.
3. Write Your Sub-heading
The sub-headline is a simple yet effective way to remove any barriers to use in your customer’s mind'
The best way to unpack this is with a couple of examples.
Deliveroo Is a fantastic company. They deliver food from restaurants in your area that do not have their own delivery services. They spotted a gap in the market to provide an alternative to the standard takeaway and set up Deliveroo to meet that need. The headline on their site is ‘The food you love, delivered to your door’. The sub-headline goes on to answer and hopefully resolve potential questions in your customers’ minds. It reads ‘get amazing food from an incredible selection of local restaurants, delivered in an average of just 32 minutes’. Questions that your visitors might be thinking include:
- How is this different from a normal takeaway?
- Which restaurants are included?
- How long will it take them to deliver my food?
- What is this likely to cost me?
The Deliveroo sub-headline neatly answers three out of the four questions above. This should be enough to encourage your visitors to click onto the next landing page. The question your sub-heading answers, should remove one (or more) of the likely barriers to use. You need to answer their initial questions, assuage any doubts but also keep them interested so they move on to the next page. You are telling a story!
Most customers are interested in the cost. If you can answer this question in the sub-headline so much the better. Netflix, for example, has had the sub-headline ‘plans from £5.99 per month’. Immediately someone considering joining Netflix knows that their basic package won’t cost them more than £5.99, another reason to keep scrolling and reading.
Moss Landscaping Liverpool
Moss Landscaping Liverpool For the purposes of illustration, let’s look at a local website that is perhaps not making the most of their site. We are based in Liverpool, Merseyside, so I googled landscape gardeners in Liverpool. One website that popped up is Moss Landscaping. I expect they provide an excellent landscaping service. However, their website could be much more customer focused and engaging. The website homepage doesn’t appear to have a headline or sub-headline. If I were to make some changes to this homepage I would dramatically reduce the amount of text and include a compelling headline and sub-headline. I do not in any way claim to be a landscape gardener, but if I wanted my garden sorting out, a great, engaging headline, coupled with some attractive photography, would definitely draw me in. The options for a good headline are numerous. I would perhaps say something like ‘Making outside space beautiful’ or ‘transform your garden now’. This puts the emphasis much more on you and the customer achieving something together. There is no ‘we’. It isn’t about what your amazing company has achieved, but focuses much more on the customer and their garden. With a great headline in place, you then need to think about the potential questions in your customers’ minds. They may include things like:
- How do I get a quote or book for someone to come out?
- How much will it cost me?
- How long will it take?
- Can I see examples of transformed gardens?
With these questions in mind, the sub-headline could be something along the lines of: ‘to book a free visit and personalised no-obligation quote from an experienced landscape gardener, just call ….’. Your visitor immediately knows that they can have someone come out and give them a quote for free and without having to commit to having the work done. That’s pretty compelling, I’d say!
The sub-headline is only a sentence. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It needs to be customer focused. It is the place where your customers begin to understand how your headline promise is realised.
4. Re-Imagine Your Images
If you want people to visit your site and stay on it, you need to have compelling and engaging images.
'Our brains are hardwired to hone in on visuals: photos and images. The images on your website’s homepage need to tell a story' Matt Edmundson
Visitors to your site should be drawn in by your images. The words alone will not cut it.
How do you explain who your customers are and how they can benefit from your product or service using images. How can you tell the customer’s story visually?
This blog is the fourth in a series about creating a compelling customer focused website. If you would like to read the first three in the series, they are available here. In this post, I am going to look at ways to use image and video to improve customer engagement.
- The big hero image
- Customer Personas
Once you start looking at successful websites you will notice that the majority of them use one of more or the above methods.
- The big hero image
I am a little bit in love with Airbnb. Last year we took a family holiday to Italy and stayed in a variety of Airbnb properties. Granted some were better than others, but the concept is fantastic, as is their website. They have understood the importance of images in telling their story and getting their message across. Take a look at their homepage. When you first go onto the site, they have what I would call ‘a big hero image’: a girl, sitting in a relaxed pose eating something out of a bowl, looking out over a view of a city. She is fairly young and she looks totally at home. Immediately we see their headline and sub-headline in action. The headline is ‘LIVE THERE’ and the sub-headline is ‘Book homes from local hosts in 191+ countries and experience a place like you live there.’
The big hero image is all about the customer. The customer is the hero. They are central to the story, not the company or the product. The images should show your headline in action. Where possible this should include your customer or your different customer personas.
After a few seconds, Airbnb’s big hero image fades away and a video begins to play subtly in the background. The video answers a number of subconscious questions the customer may have and visually explains Airbnb’s different customer groups or personas. You see a series of ‘experiences’ with different customer personas. Initially you see one person knocking on someone’s door and being shown in. Then you see a little boy with his dad. The dad is pointing out something of interest to the little boy. Then you see two men going into a property together, they have bags of groceries, as they would at home. Then you see a happy couple walking together through a town, the man is giving the girl a piggyback. You see a range of different ages, ethnicities, family groups and singles. Through their fantastic use of imagery, Airbnb is saying is ‘we have something for everyone’. The images tell the Airbnb story from the customer’s point of view. They are saying ‘you can experience another country and another house, as if it is your own home’.
This post is not sponsored by Airbnb (!). However, their site demonstrates how powerful images can be in making your point. The right images create a powerful message which is both subtle, compelling and engaging.
B. Customer Personas
Netflix use images to tell the majority of their marketing story. Their website is remarkably simple, yet incredibly powerful:
- They have understood their different customer personas.
- They created an image for each of those customers.
- They subtly rotate those images.
There are four images in total. They rotate, transitioning from one image to another. Each image tells the visitor a different story. As with the headline, the images make the customer the focus. The first image shows children watching TV alone, without their parents. This demonstrates that Netflix is safe for children to view. The next image shows a family snuggled up on the sofa together watching something. The last two shots are of individuals watching Netflix on different devices: tablets and smartphones. The story these images are telling is that Netflix has something for everyone and it can be viewed anywhere on any device. Netflix isn’t actually shown in any of the images. Their brand is strong enough that it doesn’t need to be included. Visitors to the site will make the assumption that each different customer is watching Netflix, without even registering that they can’t see a Netflix logo or programme on a screen. In this way, Netflix has really made their different customer personas, not themselves and their brand, central to the story.
5. Create a Clever Call to Action
What one change could all website owners make today, which would dramatically increase sales and conversion rates?
Improve the call to action!
You may have a really customer-focused website, with high levels of traffic, but if that traffic doesn’t convert into sales, something needs to change.
When I work with e-commerce companies, I am constantly surprised that so many websites still have a really really poor call to action. Even the really customer focused websites regularly do this badly. My plan is always to add a clear and compelling call to action and to repeat that call to action often on each page. The call to action is usually created around the dominant stream of income on the homepage. My three take-away points, to improve the call to action, are:
- Be clear
- Be compelling
- Ask often
This one change can create a great sense of momentum. It is the one thing website owners can do today, that could make a big difference. It is an inexpensive change that can be tested. Let’s look at some examples which expertly put these three points into practice:
NEST is a brilliant set of products. Their range is small and beautiful. Speaking from experience, it is remarkably simple to use. When you look at their website there is a headline, a great image and a clear call to action: ‘Buy Now’.
- It is clear because the visitor knows exactly what they are supposed to do.
- It is clear because the whole purpose of this section is to sell their thermostat.
- It is clear because the design of the call to action is different to everything else on the page. Your eye is drawn to it immediately. The visitor knows where to click. There is no ambiguity.
Virgin Trains is another excellent example of a website with a clear call to action:
‘book your journey’. It is clear and straightforward to complete. The result is an increase in ticket sales through their website.
To create a clear call to action you have to:
- Understand the purpose of your website or webpage. What is it there for?
- Make it clear what the customer is to do; ‘click here’, ‘buy now’, ‘start today’.
It needs to include a verb because the customer has to do something - Have a really clear design. Use a unique colour. Make it stand out. Put it in the right place, either directly under the headline and sub-headline, or on the top right-hand side of the screen. Even better, put it in both places!.
Does your website have a ‘Sign up to our Newsletter’ section? Many websites still have this feature, and it won’t surprise you to hear that it doesn’t work. I know we have had it on many of our websites. We have tried different designs. But the principles have generally remained the same: we have a box where people put their email, a sign up button and text saying ‘Subscribe to our newsletter, enter your email below’.
It is really clear what the customer should do. But it is not compelling. It is the exact opposite of compelling. Most e-commerce companies have now wised-up to this problem and added a little pop-up window saying, ‘Subscribe to our newsletter and get 10% off your first order’. That is much more compelling.
- Hubspot use, Join 300,000 Fellow Marketers, as their headline. That’s also compelling.
- Evernote uses the headline ‘Remember Everything’ with a signup button. That made me sign up.
Many people don’t like to ask their customers to do something, particularly to buy something. If it is hard to ask for the sale, then it is almost impossible to ask repeatedly. However, on your website, this is imperative. This is important because of the scroll.
People have got used to scrolling websites thanks to the rise of browsing on smart phones. No longer do you have to have everything on the ‘first fold’. Customers are now happy to scroll down. It’s their preferred way to browse.
If they scroll, they are looking for more information before hitting your call to action button. Therefore, that button needs to appear at very regular intervals, to save people scrolling back up when they are ready to click and take the next step.
Some companies, such as Amazon, among others, have achieved the same result in a slightly different way. They have kept the ‘buy now’ button static in the top right-hand corner of the screen. When you scroll down that ‘buy now’ button remains in the same place. This is another effective way to do the same thing.
The charity sector is notoriously bad at asking. They want people to donate money but their websites often lack a simple ‘donate here’ button. Those charities that have included a ‘donate here’ button, could make it much more prominent and increase the frequency with which it appears.
Although you do definitely need to ask often, it is much more effective to keep your call to action to one per page. Any more than that and it starts to become confusing and unclear.
There you have it, a few simple tweaks to your call to action button could make the world of difference. Colour, location on the page, design and the words used, all have a part to play.
6. On-ramp Web Visitors
So what is ‘on-ramp’? Good question. On ramping is a term that many of us, who work in the e-commerce sector, have adopted from our colleagues in the States. Some people also call it the ‘Transitional Call To Action’.
In short, on ramping, is engaging with customers, keeping them interested in your business and your website, before they are ready to press the call to action button.
Examples of customer engagement could include: getting their e-mail address, watching a video tutorial or have a free trial of one of your products or services.
There are companies that are already doing this really well. It is always worth having a look around to see what can be gleaned from organisations with a successful on-ramp strategy. A couple of examples that I like include:
- Abel and Cole
Both of these companies seem to really understand customer engagement and have several clever on-ramp strategies.
Abel and Cole
Abel and Cole is an organic food delivery service. The headline on their home page is ‘A healthy and happy way to eat’ and the subheadline is ‘We bring boxes of organic brilliance to your door’. There are clearly people that just like organic food and want to shop with A&C for a variety of reasons. They are already convinced. The group A&C are targeting, via the on ramp, are those that like the sound of what they do, but perhaps have reservations on price, (they are more expensive than a supermarket) value for money, or just need to know a bit more before they place an order. A&C’s on ramp strategies include:
Give away free stuff
There is a tab on their navigation called ‘Inspire me‘. This link takes you a range of free video tutorials on different cooking methods, such as pickling, mashing and smoking (food not cigarettes!). Each video only lasts around 1.5 minutes, so the visitor is unlikely to abandon the tutorial before the end.
- ### Get email addresses
They regularly offer 50% off your first box. To get the discounted box you have to submit your email address. Having done this myself, I know that the follow-up process is second to none. Initially, you receive an email asking if you enjoyed the service. This is then followed by a phone call from a friendly member of their team. They ask what you liked about the box and service and whether you would consider ordering again. It isn’t pushy and, to me, it felt quite personal.
Once you have some initial data from your new customer, e.g. they have used a free trial or sample. You can use this information to maximise your on-ramp strategy. Any communication with the customer can be personalised, depending on the product or service they have used. For example, if you have received a mixed fruit and vegetables box, A&C might email you with recipe ideas for the products included or offers of other products that customer who also purchased this box have enjoyed. Once a customer has bought more than one product, customer personas begin to emerge. You start to build up a picture of the customer’s preferences, and offers, emails and the content they see on your site can then be targeted accordingly.
I am generally an Apple man. However, a do make a bit of an exception for Spotify. They have a great website and they do on-ramp really well. There are two call to action buttons on the home page: ‘Get Spotify Free’ or ‘Go Premium’. If you click ‘Get Spotify Free’, you receive their music streaming service free. In order to sign up to this service you have to submit your email address. This then allows Spotify to use on-ramp strategies to target you for their premium service. Once again, they follow the three-step process, i) give something away for free ii) get your email address in the process iii) use the email address provided to capitalise on customer engagement and sell the premium service.
On ramping is a simple way to increase customer engagement and draw in those website visitors that aren’t quite ready to hit the main CTA button. As we have discussed, the three main strategies that seem to work well are:
- give something away for free
- get their email address, so you can continue the conversation and engagement
- go further, make your on-ramp specific to each customer persona
Don’t delay, see what happens when you put some of these techniques into practise on your website. My next blog is the final part of this series, and I will be looking at ‘the scroll’.
7. Satisfy the Scroll
What exactly do we mean by the scroll?
The scroll is everything underneath the fold. It is what you see when you scroll down.
It is essential that everything beneath the fold ties in with the rest of the page. As with the part above the fold, it also needs to be completely customer-centric. However, due to the increased use of smart phones, most people instinctively scroll down.
The elements included on the scroll depend significantly on the website page in question. When you are thinking about what should be included, it is helpful to ask yourself three questions:
- What is the purpose of this page?
- What is the best way for visitors and existing customers to interact with this page?
- Is everything included relevant?
When I am developing a new webpage, I always refer back to these three questions. We recently redeveloped the Jersey Beauty Company website and this process was really helpful.
What is the purpose of this page?
Is it to educate visitors? Is it designed to interact with them or perhaps to sell them something? If this is unclear, you are liable to include content for the sake of it, without any real direction. Once you’ve got the purpose clear in your mind, it becomes easier to prepare relevant and useful customer-focused content.
For example, if we look at the Jersey Beauty Company (JBC) home page, there are many different things included on the scroll, each with a different purpose. The first thing I wanted to do was to build credibility and trust. Existing customers or new visitors tend to trust companies that are already working with organisations they recognise. Including brand logos, either of products you sell or your client companies, is a quick and easy way to build trust. It demonstrates to visitors that you are an established company, that you sell a range of high-quality products or that you work with a range of well-known companies.
You can also build trust with a money back guarantee. If you scroll further down the JBC home page, there are three tiles. The second tile says ’30 day money back guarantee’. The visitor should feel reassured that if they purchase an item and its not right or isn’t as they expected they have time to return it.
The information included on the scroll should also help direct visitors to the right products for them. This brings us neatly onto point 2.
What is the best way for visitors or existing customer to interact with this page?
You know the purpose of the page, in the case of the JBC home page scroll, to build credibility and direct the customer to the correct landing page for their needs. Next you need to think about the best way to communicate this purpose to your visitor or customer in a way that makes sense for them? Once again, it is important to keep it all about the customer. It is helpful to put yourself in your visitor’s shoes, imagine that you are visiting this site for the first time. What information is required and how can we present it in such a way that it will engage and entice.
If you are a business, like JBC, with a wide range of products, breaking them down into easy to understand categories, is often very helpful. When you scroll down the JBC home page, you see our three main product categories: ‘nourish dry skin’, ‘sooth sensitive skin’, ‘balance oily skin’ and ‘soften wrinkles’. There are also two large tile options: ‘shop by brand’ and ‘shop by category’. If you are new visitor to the site and you are unsure which product is best for you, the site can feel very overwhelming and visitors may abandon their search before it has even begun. This easy filtering system acts as a navigation guide, helping visitors to easily reach the best landing page for them.
Is everything included relevant?
Make sure that everything on the scroll should be there. It is really tempting to add things just for the sake of it. Don’t do that. Remember the original purpose for the page. If it is about increasing customer trust, how is that demonstrated on the scroll. Often you are simply trying to make it as easy as possible for the visitor to get to the next relevant landing page for them. How is this page doing that? If it is about getting the customer to press the buy now button, is it easy and enticing? There are always things that should be included but I still stand by the mantra of less is more.
There are so many more things which could and, depending on the page, should be included on the scroll. They might include: downloads, videos, testimonials, images, product features and sales tables. However, I always find it helps me get the focus right, if I start with the three questions above.