This story was originally published on June 11, 2013, and comes in at No. 4 on our countdown of the 10 most popular ClickZ stories of 2013. As ClickZ looks back over the past year, we’re celebrating the best of 2013, as determined by you, our readers. Enjoy!
Recently I’ve been helping one of my clients redesign its online presence. As we all know, our website is our brand’s front door – just as important, if not more so, than our company’s physical presence. It’s how potential clients learn more about our brand, and where existing clients will go to stay connected with us. When executed well, a great B2B website can do the job of 100 salespeople, scaling your message to the masses and helping drive loads of revenue. They can help with retention, upselling, and help facilitate customer service. So, why are so many of them so terrible?
In general, a great B2B website does five things:
- Gets users the information they came for quickly. Ad specs, contact info, you name it. Run a survey with your visitors – or look at your Google Analytics to see which pages generate the most engagement – to determine the reason they’re coming to your site; put those items in a location that’s easily accessible, like the footer.
Best-in-class example: Square‘s website is not only beautiful, but it also has some of the most elegant navigation around. Its footer text darkens when users hover over it.
- Leads users down a path. Great B2B websites have a call-to-action on every page. You always know what you’re meant to click on next. And they make it easy to contact a representative.
Best-in-class example: Wildfire does a great job of this; the blue buttons throughout the site help me move deeper into the content – and closer to a sale.
- Treats advertisers like consumers. B2B does not mean “ugly.” Advertisers and business decision-makers are consumers first. They will spend time on sites that aren’t overladen with text and are beautifully designed. Think videos, photos, and infographics.
Best-in-class example: Check out the image below – you’d think it was for a movie before you’d think it was for GE! You want to watch the video, you want to “see more stories” – and even before I do either of those things, I’ve learned a bit about the company in action through its stats and copy. GE has also achieved great use of responsive design – take a look on mobile and see how the site adapts, surfacing the most important likely consumer needs. Nicely done.
- Are built to scale. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been part of a company where we redesigned the site only to find we had to keep adding sections and subsections until the weight of the content required another redesign. Build flexibility into your architecture so it’s easy to grow your site as your business grows.
Best-in-class example: Microsoft is a great example of this. It has a ton of products and a ton of distinct brands, but it’s built a framework that ties it all together – even seamlessly linking its “For home” and “For work” offerings within the same experience. Microsoft’s website is also a great example of the “flat” design that is oh-so-hot right now. Gorgeous.
- Stay fresh. There’s nothing worse than coming to a site to find the last blog post was two months ago, or that certain hyperlinked pages no longer exist. Do spot checks, run a contest to see who can find (and fix!) the most errors, and be realistic: if you don’t have the bandwidth to blog at least three times each week, don’t do it! Instead, commit to Twitter or Facebook and pull in those feeds directly.
Best-in-class example: The new AmEx Open Forum, still in beta, is doing a really nice job sourcing, promoting, and curating content from its expert network of…its users! By combining editorial with crowdsourced content, the forum stays dynamic and fresh.
Have another favorite B2B website? Nominate it with a direct message to @kristinkovner for consideration for a future column.