With the rapid growth of mobile and ecommerce, your brand's website is becoming ever more critical to your business's success. Even in-store customers have likely researched products online beforehands or will do a quick price-check while shopping. While beauty and lifestyle brands used to be able to concentrate on beautiful in-store packaging and displays to attract customers, the modern, digitally-savvy customer demands a more robust experience, both online and in-store.
The wonderful thing about a website is it's a persistent and autonomous way of attracting and converting consumers. Available around the clock from anywhere in the world, it is one of the most crucial touch-points of your brand. However, web design is constantly evolving and it's easy to ruin the user experience with an unprofessional, poorly constructed or out of date website, losing visitors at the top of the sales funnel.
To make a successful brand impression, your website design should be a fluid extension of your other marketing efforts, blending seamlessly with your packaging and in-store presence. From a functional standpoint, it should be easy to use andavoiding frustrating UX pitfalls.
While developing a compelling website, is a long-term process, here are some simple steps to help get you started:
1. Mix It Up
Hue is a great example of mixing things up. They are a primarily a socks and leggings company but instead of showing a never-ending stream of socks, they mix up their hosiery with colorful fashions that demonstrate their brand message in a more varied and nuanced way.
Specialization is usually good, but not when it comes to content. If you keep feeding people the same kind of content, they'll eventually get tired of it, no matter how gorgeous your Instagram flatlays are or well-crafted your how-to videos. If you mix things up and produce content in a variety of forms, people will be more consistently engaged. It's easy to get in a rut and just keep repeating the same but trying varying either the content or format. These days brands have a whole arsenal to use for content, from images, how-to videos, infographics, interviews, podcasts, slideshares, user generated content and more. Even gifs have made a comeback!
2. Elements Should Be Easy to Read (and Tap)
The many users online are now on mobile rather than desktops. And contrary to what was common wisdom just a few years ago, they are often making final purchases from mobile as well.
What this means for your website is that its elements must be viewable and easily navigated on small screens. Elements should be easy to read in the smaller format, and most importantly, easy to tap. Forms and checkout are often frustrating elements on mobile so make sure they are easy to use and won't drive away mobile customers.
Sephora's oversize Add to Cart in red is a perfect example of a clear, easy to understand interface that even the most distracted user can successfully navigate.
3. Make it Social
One of the best ways to make an engaging site is to have a social aspect. Many beauty brands have highly engaged customers who post selfies on Instagram or how-tos on YouTube. This UGC can be repurposed to the website to not only give you constant updates but also endear yourself to your clients more.
Social can also refer to customer review section or forum help keep people on the site — anything that is the foundation of a strong social community. Furthermore, a social angle will help serve as social proof, which can have a positive impact on conversion rates.
One word of caution — social media icons can also be highly distracting, with visitors clicking off your site and into Facebook where they never resurface. While you can't prevent it entirely, keep your social media icons in the footer of your website and keep sharing off product pages until after the customer made payment
4. Get Feedback
The simplest way to develop a strong website is to ask for feedback. How you see the site is different from how a consumer experiences it. Do research with exit surveys or a captive audience to see how you can improve your website at a practical, hands-on level.
5. Hire and Develop Strong Content Creators
A great user experience can't happen without great copy. From your product copy to your social media, your content must be well-crafted, regardless of the medium. While it's tempting to save money and do it yourself, think about the quality and perspective that an experienced, professional writer as well as the time it will take to create, edit and polish your writing. Don't think of writers as an expense but consider it an investment in your business's future.
6. Build Around User Types
One of the biggest mistakes is to craft the site to appeal to a general audience and not your buyer persona. Generic websites that feel out of touch with the brand ethos can lead to a disjointed and confusing brand experience. Make sure your website fits seamlessly with the rest of your branded touchpoints.
7. Keep the Experience Simple
Experience complexity is a barrier to engagement. If more than two steps are required for the customer to get to where they want to be, it's too complex. A simple landing page that gets straight to the point provides as little incentive to leave the site as possible. Keep in mind that a simple design is not necessarily easy to make, so don't be surprised if it takes time to develop one.
8. Let Users Customize Their Experience
One of the best ways to get customers engaged in your small business's site is to let them personalize their experience. For example, you might give them the option to change the visual settings or let them set the currency they'll use to purchase your products. Even something as simple as a "local time" option can make your site feel like home.
9. Make It Mobile-Optimized
Grand designs are often non-functional outside a desktop setting. A great user experience must span all devices, not just desktops. That means making considerations for small screens and limited space.
Mobile-friendly, in which websites were built to display acceptably on small mobile screens, is now being replaced with mobile-optimized in which the entire design of the site is reconsidered and crafted in the best possible way for mobile visitors. As mobile is expected to grow exponentially, it's critical to keep up with this emerging trend.
10. Go With Your Head, Not Your Heart
What you feel is right will not necessarily be what the consumer will enjoy. You and your design team have a different viewpoint, and that's OK. What's not OK is letting your tastes take over the site's final design. Much like product development, it should be user-centric — when in doubt, do research and testing.
Developing a great site is an important part of growing your small business. Your social media accounts are great for reach, but your website is ultimately responsible for converting that attention into actual revenue. Make it an engaging website, and you'll be rewarded.