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Top tips for designing your website

30 May 2013

There are some key considerations when designing your website. Accounting software specialist Reckon NZ shares the steps they took during the redesign of their new-look site

The web is a busy place. For a business, it’s hard just to be seen let alone have your message heard and remembered.

It’s crucial then that your website stand out – with content and imagery that immediately appeals, keeps a prospective customer from navigating elsewhere and, ultimately, gives them a reason to return.

What’s key to remember is that when potential clients are searching for products and services, research shows the first place they look is the web. So does your website reflect how you want customers to view your business?

Accounting software specialist Reckon New Zealand recently launched its new improved website

The new site has been launched to coincide with a companywide rebrand for Reckon across New Zealand and Australia.

Reckon’s NZ General Manager Catie Cotcher says there are certain things she believes are crucial to consider when designing or redesigning your website.

Understand customer behaviour

What is crucial from the get-go, says Cotcher, is that online retailers understand their online customer inside and out – how people get to their site, what they do when they get there and how they can keep them on the site.

“At Reckon, we looked at a series of elements in the redesign of the Reckon website – understanding how we engage with our customers and potential customers on our site, understanding what brings them to our site in the first place and what they do when they get there.

"Are they engaging with us, which pages do they automatically click through to and where do they leave the site?

"This analysis is crucial in helping to engage with your customers.”

Cotcher’s advice to business owners is to think carefully about how customers use their website – “Once you can understand this, you know what you need to focus on.”

“It sounds simplistic,” says Cotcher, “and that’s exactly the idea. We put a lot of time into UX or User Experience to understand what both our current clients and our potential clients want as they navigate through our site.”

Make sure your site is clean, clear and not overloaded with text or graphics

“Potential customers build their first impression from your website, even more so when you are a software specialist,” says Cotcher.

“So if your site is too confusing or unclear in its offer, the impression formed will be that your product or service is also confusing.

“As a provider of online and desktop business and personal software solutions, our Reckon clients and our potential customers need a clean, straightforward site that is clear and logical to navigate.

"We therefore focused on making it even easier for them to identify the right product quickly.”

The company used a combination of both images and text to instantly assist visitors to their site to identify what they were looking for.

“The same icons and images are used throughout the site to keep it consistent across the different areas of the business and the different product platforms and services available,” says Cotcher.

For instance, says Cotcher, Reckon’s desktop products are clearly recognisable by a blue computer icon.

Reckon’s hosted, or online products, are identifiable through a blue cloud icon and, for those wanting to go straight to Payroll information, it’s just a matter of clicking on a pink piggy bank icon.

Research has shown that people also instinctively react to certain things when they are on a site.

“There are certain colours that dictate how people operate when they enter a site,” says Cotcher.

“For example, since we instinctively think ‘go’ when we see a green traffic light, we react in a similar way to a green icon on the screen. Studies show that we instantly recognise it as a forward movement.

"So, on our Reckon website, we have used a green icon to clearly indicate the way forward.”

Reflect your brand and brand personality

“Having just undergone a complete company rebrand, we had the perfect opportunity to revisit our website look and layout to ensure it reflected our brand, our personality and our new company imagery,” says Cotcher.

Reckon has done this by reflecting its company colours throughout the site, ensuring that the tone of the text is in line with the company’s other marketing materials and focusing on service, service, service.

“Reckon is known for both its product solutions and strong focus on service so we have translated this through to our site,” says Cotcher.

“So, whatever your business’ key point of difference might be, it’s important to reflect that in your website.”

Factor in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Outside the visual design of your website, it is also important to focus on Search Engine Optimisation to increase the likelihood of potential customers finding you in the first place. Search engines are the way most people discover new websites.

“There are a multitude of new sites coming online every week,” says Cotcher. “So how your business rates in search engines changes frequently too.

"So it’s really important you make monitoring this a priority so you can constantly improve traffic to your site.”

Ultimately, says Cotcher, the key to a successful website is making life easy for the customer. The smoother the web-browsing experience, the happier the customer.