How to Build a Strong Company Website #smlondon

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Websites have been around as long as emails, and have been declared dead as many times. But they still hang in there and any company does need to have one. How do you design and build an effective website for your organisation?

I’ve had a chat with Keren Lerner of design agency Top Left Design to get some answers. Have a listen to the interview on iTunes, SoundCloud or keep reading for a summary of our conversation.

With social, mobile and apps – why do we still need websites?

Well, I guess two reasons. First of all, assuming that your website is well-planned and well-designed, and you’ve written really great succinct copy, your website is where you can express what’s unique about your business. And you can divide up the information in a way that makes sense for how you want other people to experience it. It’s where you can have complete control of how you are perceived.

When it comes to social media like Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook, they complement the online presence that you have, but they are not something you can completely control. You can’t control the interface. You can’t control if they’re going to shut it down one day, and the content that’s on those websites is not really owned by you or hosted by you. It’s on their servers, so anything could happen.

In comparison to social, websites can be seen as very static. How do you drive engagement on a website?

It’s true. If you just had a website that was what we call a brochure site, then you could just have what they say is static information, that is information that doesn’t change very often. But nowadays, most websites we do include a blog which is the living part of the website where you can continuously update it with stories, and insights, and advice all to help support what you want people to believe about you.

If you have well-written headlines, that will be the reason why people will arrive at your website because you’ve got a blog and you’ve shared your blog articles with well-written headlines, and then once they are there, they will be able to explore, look around, and see what else you do.

The other ways to drive engagement on a website and make it less static is by having compelling messages where you ask thought-provoking questions, you highlight links to pages that answer the biggest questions that people have. And you can always build in the commenting feature that you have on social media sites into websites. You’ve probably seen comments on blogs and on some websites. There’s quite a lot of conversation that happens between people after they’ve read a particular blog post within a website. And you can host videos as well. Videos give a lot of movement and enticement to websites.

What are some of the common mistakes you see that companies make with their sites?

One of the biggest mistakes people make — I’m sure everybody is guilty of this in some respect — is just putting it up and forgetting about it, thinking that your work is done once you’ve launched the website and then not thinking about your website very often. Quite quickly the information on it will be less relevant or out of date especially if you have decided that you will have a blog on your website but then you don’t keep it up-to-date. That’s one of the only drawbacks of having a blog is that you do need to keep it up-to-date. That’s one of the biggest mistakes.

Another one is thinking that you can do it yourself, make your own website when you don’t have any sense of design or attention to detail. You have to be quite honest with yourself on how good you are at that sort of thing. Some people believe that they are better than they are. They are kind of delusional, I suppose. Other people are more aware, but don’t really mind and don’t care about their perceived, and then other people are aware enough to know that they should leave certain bits to the expert and do the bits that are more straightforward themselves.

How do we connect social media and your website?

Well, there’s the very obvious where you have your social media icons that are linking to active accounts visible on your website either in the header or the footer or both. We only ever allow people to have those which we’re quite strict if they understand how to use the channel that they are representing. So if they’re going to have a Twitter icon on their home page, that means they know how to use Twitter and they are active on it. Otherwise, we’ll take it off because we don’t want people to click on these, all hopeful to see some activity and learn a bit more about the company and find something that’s been dormant for ages or that they don’t know really know how to use properly because Twitter is a bit weird that way. It has some strange things that you have to learn in order to use it properly, but it’s one of my favourite channels. So that’s one thing.

You can have a Twitter feed on your website, and that can be custom designed so that it fits in with the design of your website and can have the latest tweet. Your blog articles can have social media sharing icons so that’s another way of incorporating social media. In some cases, you can have what we call a Facebook “Like Box”. It’s like a little embedded representation of your Facebook page, and shows how many people have followed you on Facebook or clicked “Like” on your Facebook page. And when people see that on a website, they see if there’s any of their friends, they kind of get fed to the top so they can see any familiar people as in a little picture grid. So that can be a good thing to add, but it depends on whether your website is designed to look good with that type of Facebook looking thing because we can’t really change the way that box looks.

And finally, you can have Tweetstimonials. This is a plugin in WordPress where it feeds all the tweets that you’ve clicked “Like” on. So if you’ve clicked “Like” on some of the tweets that people have said nice things about you, it will just rotate those nice things on your website and perhaps in your blog or on another page. So that’s another way to integrate social media into your website.

Read the full article here: A Guide to Effective Company Websites, with Keren Lerner of Top Left Design. Follow Keren on Twitter @TopLeftDesign.

RELATED: The 4 ‘E’s of Website Usability.

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Jorgen Sundberg

Founder & CEO at Link Humans
Founder of Social Media London, CEO of Link Humans 🇬🇧 🇸🇪

Jorgen Sundberg

Founder of Social Media London, CEO of Link Humans 🇬🇧 🇸🇪