How to Build an Engaging Website
The User Experience
The best websites have the visitor at heart; they’re driven by providing an engaging experience and user goal completion. Ask yourself: do you know what visitors are looking for and will they get what they wanted? This is where the User Experience specialists come into their own, working in every phase of the build, from wireframes to design, build, test and live. Ultimately the best business websites give the user what they want effectively and entertainingly. They might not be so concerned about how long a visitor stays on the site as long as they had a good experience and get what they came for.
We chose to design the RPM website as a single, scrollable page as opposed to the more standard format of multiple pages. The real decision to do it like this was born out of an informed understanding of the user’s requirements; understanding what people want to see, rather than assuming what they want to see.
What do visitors want?
We worked on the basis that visitors want four things: to understand who we are and our business approach, who we work with and some examples of our work. If that’s done well, they might want to get in touch. They don’t want to cruise around and navigate through lots of content. It was this understanding that drove the decision to streamline the RPM website and start with the user experience. We asked ourselves: what do they want to see? Once this was established we gave them just what they requested.
The single scrolling page works because scrolling is an intuitive action; the argument that people won’t scroll down the page doesn’t really stack up anymore – look at Facebook. The aim of the single page experience is to give people in a nutshell what we’re all about without having to leave the page or click elsewhere to get through to a case study. It helps visual consistency, is easy to work with and enhances their visit.
To create brand consistency and further user engagement, we took a lot of the branding and messaging from our newly refurbished office and incorporated this into the site, such as the ‘Say & Do’™ neon signs we have around our HQ. Transforming plain copy into something more visually stimulating encourages the reader to read more.
Benefits to the Business
Building a website really forces the business to put a stake in the ground and look at not only re-evaluating itself but also agreeing some fundamental points on messaging and values. For example, what is your point of view in one sentence, or which case studies really demonstrate your best work and range of services? Building a website really forces everyone to make decisions and reassess what the company is actually about.
Hints & Tips:
1. Ask your visitors what they what. Research and insight is the key to the success of any project, and it applies equally to web builds. Understand your visitors, ask them what they want. From carrying out research, we knew our prospective visitors wanted to know a bit about us, who we work with, what we’ve done and then how to get in touch - and that’s about it. So that’s what we’re presenting them with. The number one rule is know what visitors want to see.
2. Intuitive experience. Play on what comes naturally to the visitor so the site is easy and obvious to use. For example, the scrolling approach on the RPM website makes it easy to navigate and manages the user’s expectations. Creatively the seed trail leads the eye down the page, showing users that there’s more content further down. The whole site is really intuitive and this is key.
3. Scope of Work. To avoid any build getting out of control, you must scope it correctly and agree a functional signed off document that states what the website will say and do and how it does it. If things start to creep beyond that it’ll help you to see you’re veering off the original scope and pull things back on track.
4. Easy to maintain and keep fresh. Ensure you use an easy to use content management system (if appropriate), and plan regular updates to the site with quality content. The last thing visitors want is a website that is clearly out of date.
5. Social tools. Understand the social channels that your visitors use and create a strategy that delivers engaging content and ongoing social engagement.
6. Make it Mobile friendly. Increasingly, visitors expect sites to be mobile and tablet-friendly. Rather than redesign and rebuild the site to make it so, try to build these requirements in from the start. Build it once, deploy it on multiple platforms.
7. Establish Tone of Voice. Distinguish this early on and decide whether it’s corporate, warm and fluffy or something else. We wrote a copy brief for our site, but before we did this, we had to establish the right and relevant tone. You have to think about what you are, and what you are not.
8. Copy. We deliberately didn’t use a lot of copy in the RPM website. Some visitors don’t like reading too much copy, so we’ve enlivened copy in neon signs, making people want to read it. If it’s presented in a creative way it’s more interesting.