Tips for Building a Successful Web Strategy in 2016
Designing a successful web strategy is one of the most complex yet most exciting challenges for any business anywhere today. The complexity lies in achieving simplicity and relevance amidst evolving web technologies and consumer demands. As for the excitement, it lies in the infinite creative and targeted conversion possibilities of responsive design and web analytics. Content is becoming a key differentiator for creating brand equity and authority. And mobile – as reflected in the widespread adoption of smartphone, tablet, and phablet usage by consumers and businesses – is becoming the standard browsing mode. Add to that the need to integrate your web strategy within your marketing ‘ big picture’ and to translate website metrics into meaningful action, and designing a successful web strategy becomes even more crucial. Here are 10 considerations for a successful web strategy in 2016:
1. Objectives and Strategic Considerations
What you want to achieve with your website – brand awareness, relaying information, interaction, communication, transaction and commerce, or engagement and gamification – determines what your website should do for the user. Since your website – the main owned component where earned, paid, and other owned media intersect – is at the base of the digital landscape of converged media, establishing clear website purpose can keep your other digital media strategies on track. As marketers realize that social media is a channel rather than a strategy, websites remain the central axis for digital branding and marketing.
After determining the objective of your website, it is crucial that you identify your audience. Even though websites can cross geographical and user group frontiers, you cannot avoid doing proper audience segmentation, which will help you cater to each segment’s needs. This is why it’s recommended to identify personas (client profiles), and then define their distinct needs and how your website can fulfill them.
2. Responsiveness and Mobile-first Mindset
More than 90% of media consumption is now on interactive screens. In 2015, 43% of the mobile phone population in the Middle East and Africa accessed internet from their mobile device, a figure expected to grow to 51% in 2019. These numbers reflect the importance of building a mobile-optimized website. One way to do so is through responsive web design (RWD), an approach aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing and interaction experience through easy reading and navigation with a minimum need to resize, pan, and scroll across desktop monitors, tablets, and mobile phones.
3. Content and Content Marketing
Your website’s success is highly determined by clear, concise, and relevant content that delivers the right message and compels action. Content remains king, but it’s becoming more of a differentiator. It comes in many forms: text, video, photos, virtual tours, whitepapers, and others. Choosing the right form of content is highly dependent on the consumers’ preferences. Brands are striving to create pertinent and engaging content to cater to rising demand. There is a noticeable shift in budgets from paid promotions to content that audiences want to consume. Global content marketing revenue is set to become a $313 billion industry in 2019, according to PQ Media’s Global Content Marketing Forecast 2015-19. The content you create should fit your content marketing strategy, and once it is published, you should monitor your audience’s engagement level and act accordingly.
Hey Grandpa…can you tell me a story? Remember how this story would resonate with you? Remember how personal it was? And it still is. Just like Grandpa, brands are keen to approach their audiences in ways that will enhance the emotional bond, which drives persuasion and conversion. And your website is the perfect place to host your stories. Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools your website can use to personify your brand. The moment you give your offering a persona and start sharing stories that relate to it, you capture your audience’s attention and embark together on an experiential journey that speaks to them personally and brings them back for more.
Consumers long for personal connections. Storytelling builds emotional bonds, as long as the stories you create are authentic, creative and inspirational. People connect with people. The closer your website can get to your consumer, the more successful it can be. Instead of just saying it, tell it with a story!
5. Conversion Oriented
To drive conversions, websites should be designed to build readiness for action. Your website remains your key conversion and fulfillment platform. One indicator of its success is its Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO), the process of optimizing content, user experience and user interface design to raise conversion rate. Since websites’ success metrics differ, you must define your conversion goals to measure your website’s success. These can be increasing your overall website traffic, growing your community of social media fans, increasing email marketing opt-ins and sales, or lead generation via form completions.
Your goal should be achieved through clear, accessible calls-to-action. It should be properly tagged to be measurable, and should be easily adjustable to correct any flaw in your users’ journey. Conversion can take the shape of a sale or purchase; form completed or leads generated; phone call; signup to a service or appointment made; or information downloaded.
6. Calls-to-action, Interactions, Micro-interactions
For your website to convert, it requires a call-to-action – a button or link inviting people to take action through customizable copy and responsive positioning. Changing the button’s color can have an impact of up to 35% on conversion. Since optical areas are no longer the single parameter and one screen is no longer the main focus, button positioning should consider parameters other than left or right and top or bottom, depending on whether you need to educate your user first or quickly ask for action. Positioning factors include closeness to thumb, index finger, other design elements, or the side of the mobile screen or the position relevant to the fold.
Your call-to-action copy remains a key driver for Click-throughs (CTR). “Submit” versus “Download your free copy” can result in different CTR rates. Call-toaction copy can be optimized: “your” can be the actual user name, and “Register” can become “Register from Beirut”. There is no single recipe for call-to-action success, but tracking and measuring can optimize and improve performance.
From small interactive components to data capture forms to gamification, interactions and micro-interactions within a website will amuse and please. This trend – encompassing funny images, expressions, hidden functionality and smart personalized data – will be particularly useful for companies who want to give their website users an element of fun.
Your website’s user experience (UX) should be personalized, as that’s what today’s consumers expect, not just aesthetically but also on the functional level. Personalization can take the form of thoughtful content suggestions in which ecommerce sites suggest products based on individual user interest, navigation history, and social interactions. It can also take the form of personalized notifications and actions, facilitated by in-depth analytics and big data.
Instead of adapting everything to massive segments, content will be redesigned to fit every individual. Fastlearning artificial intelligence will know our preferences and goals better than ever. Even the aesthetic will be led by the functional: One website UX trend on the rise is split screens that allow visitors to choose their own experience.
The better your website can personalize targeting and customization, the better it can reach intended users. Today’s kids – tomorrow’s consumers – expect everything to be super-fast, accessible and personal, on their schedule and in the format they prefer. This is why website messages and audiences should attempt to target not just segments but individual consumers.
8. Rich Media and Video
Video is a must-have on your website, especially if you want to engage with younger generations who prefer discovery and entertainment on-demand. Digital video is more popular than ever, and its spread is in part due to the wider availability of high-speed broadband. Brands will be competing to produce high-impact videos to achieve broad objectives from awareness to persuasion.
Globally, according to Cisco, consumer internet video traffic will be 80% of all consumer Internet traffic in 2019. According to a 2015 Invodo report, if you can convince a shopper to watch your video, he or she is 70% more likely to buy. Video content, engaging and immersive, brings products and services to life. Videos also help build trust between the visitor and brand and are an excellent means of introducing complex products or services.
9. Design Trends
Web design trends are developing at an exceptional pace. With the expansion of mobile use and social media that provide endless content streams, scrolling with our thumbs has become second nature. This gives web designers the opportunity to do what magazines have been doing: full-screen images, and image titles with no text/links visible until one scrolls down – the days of focusing on the fold are gone.
Other mobile-inspired trends are burger menus and card design. Burger menus are the little three-bar icons you see in the corner of many websites, which trigger a sliding menu. Card design (also referred to as tiles) is dominating design due to its ease of use and familiarity. Burger menus and card design have great compatibility with mobile screens and are aesthetically pleasing for mobile users.
As for principles of design, Google introduced Material Design, which makes more liberal use of grid-based layouts, responsive animations and transitions, padding, and depth effects such as lighting and shadows. Material Design is flat design with a realistic feel, which shows layers, divides space, and indicates moving parts. Features include deliberate color choices, edge-to-edge imagery, large-scale typography, and intentional white space to create a bold graphic interface that immerses the user.
Another web design trend becoming popular alongside considerable improvement in internet speeds is GIF’S and animations. Since a flat design can look monotonous, animation can help a website stand out and pack more information into a small space. The primary goal of using animation is to help users absorb and process information more efficiently.
10. Measurability: Analytics and Big Data
Website marketing analytics have made marketing guesswork a thing of the past. Clients demand data before, during, and after marketing campaigns to validate return on investment. Since data proves results, you cannot have results without analytics. Big data, once the focus of IT departments, is now at the core of what marketers do because it can unlock growth opportunities. Numerous tools make it easy to mine and manage data.
Website metrics include conversion metrics, which help determine how visitors are interacting with your site and from which pages they act on your callto-action. Engagement metrics measure how engaged users are with your website content, and acquisition metrics measure awareness about your organization and community support.
In conclusion, amidst digital transformation, maintaining online agility and relevance in your web strategy in 2016 is as important as maintaining purpose. Your website is the core of your successful web strategy, but it can’t stand on its own and should support your larger digital marketing strategy to attract targeted traffic. You also need to optimize your earned and paid media to maximize conversion.
Web design is evolving towards performing result-generating, richer, dynamic and personalized digital experiences. We’ll be seeing smarter solutions that simplify the way we work, connect, discover, learn, and play online.