Delivering a brilliant B2B website user experience

A positive and consistent user experience can make or break your business online. Does your website keep customers coming back for more?

Delivering a brilliant and compelling user experience means combining creative and functional design with speed, usability, accessibility, content architecture and contingency design.

It is important to recognise that user experience is a key part of branding. This can be simple and effective signposting like that exemplified by the Dell UK site which gets visitors to the content they want quickly. This, in turn, increases conversion rates by generating trust and encourages both loyalty from existing users and new traffic from viral referrals.

Feel the need for speed

Design with speed in mind. Slow loading pages, graphics and rich media can have a hugely negative impact on your bounce rate as visitors refuse to wait for content to load. Employ a three-click journey rule to any page within your website. Factor in simple navigation, using accepted terms and structure to make it as easy as possible for people to find what they’re looking for.

Accessibility

Web accessibility is about reaching the broadest group of people irrespective of disabilities including sight, hearing and speech; physical, cognitive and some neurological disorders.

And as technology continues to innovate at a pace, websites and other web-based applications can draw on advances in areas such as screen readers, Braille displays, magnification and voice- recognition to facilitate access to digital content. Consider them if you are specifically targeting specific groups. International standards such as W3C help set benchmarks that good web designers should abide by.

Content architecture

On large websites it can be worthwhile considering how information is grouped and collated for customer benefit. Conducting exercises offline can help identify trends in browsing behaviour and provide a useful psychological insight into how different individuals search, collate and interact with content. This can play into how the site’s navigation is designed and displayed.

The website for Swedish construction and project management company Skanska, adopts a number of simple but effective navigation techniques that help to manage the presentation of content to site users. It uses top and bottom navigation effectively deployed, as well as ‘breadcrumbs’ throughout the home page. These are additional carefully selected navigation devices that help signpost effectively to interesting content deeper in the site – namely company information, press activity, publications and upcoming events. The site also makes use of a carousel to convey key messages.

Above ‘home’ page, below ‘about us’ page.

The reality in information architecture and navigation is that people will give up quickly if they can’t find what they want, so make sure you are using industry standard definitions and not your own unique vocabulary. Use colour and tabs to help people identify where they are (side navigation bars on inner pages work well for this) and keep the clickable drill down into deeper content to no more than three levels.

Contingency design

There will always be situations where a user makes a request that the system is unable to answer or performs an action that goes against how the system was designed to work.

Leaving form fields blank, requesting a page that doesn’t exist, making a spelling mistake when performing a search or trying to buy a product that is out of stock are all examples of how users could challenge a system.

By predicting these challenges and proposing solutions to either prevent or deal with the problem – by answering the ‘what if…?’ questions – it is possible to find solutions that add value to failure and maintain a positive user experience.

Creative use of the 404 error message that typically displays when a link is broken or a page is removed from a website is a great example of predicting potential short-comings but dealing with them in a way that doesn’t unduly affect the user experience.

What other ways can you deliver brilliant user experience on your website?

Get more on B2B websites, SEO, social media and more with my new ebook Brilliant B2B Digital Marketing.

Five ways to use creative design for a stand out B2B website

Delivering high impact creative design that has a positive impact on user interaction with your B2B website

Most of the focus in web design inevitably falls on the process that delivers the look and feel for a website. But well thought through visual branding can help to differentiate your offering and develop credibility.

Your website should be representative of your company and its design needs to efficiently and effectively convey the personality and values enshrined in other marketing material. If there is an existing brand used as part of other marketing communications, apply it to the website environment. An established brand offers an opportunity to quickly tap into design elements that customers are already comfortable with and can identify with.

Think about these five ways of developing a creative impression you can be proud of – and one that dovetails with all the other ways customers come into contact with your business.

1. Templates. For layout structure consider keeping it simple by using three main page layouts: one for the homepage, one for content pages (with different layouts for product or service categories and products in some cases) and one for form pages. For example, your homepage will have a different layout from a landing page for a PPC campaign. Keep the elements in these layouts constant. This will help keep your visitors from feeling lost.

2. Colour. Avoid using lots of colours by focusing on two to four colours consistent with your brand for your templates and call to action buttons.

3. Typography. Make sure your website type is legible and consistent with branding. Use fonts, font sizes and font colors that are easy to read. For easier page scanning, use bullet lists, section headers and short paragraphs. If your site is English language-based, make sure information flows from left to right and top to bottom.

4. Images. Images can be a powerful element to any website but you need to use them wisely. Every image is transmitting a subconscious message to your audience and sometimes the result is different from what you might expect. Many businesses use stock photography that can cheapen your brand. If you must, give stock photo shots a colour treatment makeover to develop your own style. Cropping or manipulating the angle can create a bespoke photographic style but it is always better to have your own. In all major tests, photos of real people outperformed stock photos in terms of preference.

5. Animations, gadgets and other rich media. Avoid anything unnecessary. Using Flash animations because they look cool is the wrong strategy. In most cases it’s best not to use animated background or background music. Only use rich media like video and animations to help support content and information. Carousels or sliders are becoming more common in business sites to convey proposition and promotions.

Industrial brands like Ingersoll Rand and BOC take different approaches to how the use design in their website strategy, but both are geared towards trafficking customers to content as quickly as possible.

 

 

Through combining brand colour, shape, typography, photography, graphics, sound and video, good website design can create atmosphere as well as consistency in identity. This can also help provide a framework to support the functional requirements a site needs to have as well as the content it should contain to deliver a superior customer experience.

Next up: Making websites fit for function. Subscribe by email to make sure you don’t miss it!