What makes a website good? Is it how it looks? Is it the quality of the content? Is it the ease of navigation? Is it something else entirely? If there were a simple answer, there would not be an entire industry for web design and development, because everyone would have the exact same website. The truth is that every organization is different, every audience is different, and every single visitor is unique in what they want. So how do we evaluate if a website is good?
It starts with two simple questions: Is the website easy to engage with? And is it a website that visitors will recommend to others?
Content is the foundation
So how do we make a website that answers yes to both of those questions? It all begins with a solid foundation of good content. Obviously nice aesthetics, navigation, and functionality can’t be entirely ignored, but visitors will quickly recognize when the core of a website is hollow. David Damstra touches on this very same idea in his article: “Your Credit Union Website is Boring But That’s Probably Okay.”
As a designer with decades of experience designing websites for all types of organizations, I want to reinforce that I am not advocating that you can get away with an ugly or clunky website. However, a beautiful site with lousy content will leave you with very unhappy visitors.
Share your credit union story
Every person who visits your website is coming there with a purpose. They know what they are looking for and your goal should be to get them to that information as quickly and effortlessly as possible. However, you must maximize your opportunity to impact the visitor! For instance, if the visitor is coming to learn about the history of your organization, you should seize the opportunity to tell your story! What makes your organization unique? What separates your services from the competition? Give the reader a glimpse into your organization’s personality, culture, and ultimately the way you do business.
I’m here to tell you that a short paragraph stating the date and location of when you were founded is not going to captivate your audience and it certainly is not going to stick in their mind when they are making the decision of whether to engage further with your organization. Take the time to tell your story and share with the reader what makes you so great! The audience wants to know who they are engaging with, so share it with them!
Brag about your products and services
Another opportunity to make a lasting impression on your visitors is when they view your products and services. Again, I’m not advocating for you to get in the way of your visitors and the information they are seeking, but don’t minimize the opportunity you have to engage. The things you offer are uniquely yours and this is your chance to tell someone why they are the best option, so do not minimize your content.
Think of it this way: you have a visitor in your showroom and they ask about a product. Do you answer in a few succinct bullet point-type statements and walk away or do you share the benefits, explain how it makes their life better or easier, and try to answer all their questions? Of course, you try to answer all their questions and provide a thorough explanation—so do this on your website too! Don’t bury the highlights, but don’t shy away from telling your product’s story.
Give users the tools to take action
However, your project does not end here. Once you have written your engaging product and service descriptions, you must give your audience the tools and mechanisms to engage. This could be a sign-up form, an add to cart button, a live chat feature, or another actionable option. Let your guests take action! Not every guest is ready to take the next step immediately, so why not leave them with one final option to engage? Give your visitor the option to share the page with others or email it to themselves. There are many ways to add a share feature to each page or post on your website, and by allowing them to do this, you’re giving your organization the opportunity to have a wider reach through email, social media, and more.
Aesthetics shouldn’t be forgotten
Earlier I touched on the aesthetic of your website and I want to circle back on this topic because I want to reassure you that a good-looking website makes a very big difference. Make no mistake, people are visual and without a pleasant-looking website, you’re going to lose opportunities with a large number of your audience.
Striking a balance with design and content is essential to making a lasting impression that will trigger engagement. Good content with bad design is a failure; bad content with good design is just as much of a failure. Your content tells your story, but a picture is worth a thousand words, so why not give them both? An attractive website with a well-thought-out look and feel is in and of itself a reason some people will choose to engage. If your website appears to be professionally designed and developed well, it will give your audience the impression that your organization is reliable, trustworthy, and prepared to help. This is the type of website that a person would share with a friend, family, neighbor, or colleague.
Bring it all together
So how do we combine engaging content and engaging design to create a great website? The answer is quite simple: take time to do it right. Be patient. Putting energy, creativity, and thoughtfulness into your website isn’t something you can accomplish quickly unless you’re a wunderkind. Start off with an outline of all the things you want or need to say on your site and then show it to others and ask them what you’re missing. Go visit other organizations like yours and see what they share with their visitors, and let your peers and coworkers provide input. Once you know what you need to include, the rest is simply putting forth the effort to write, design, and revise your site until it is ready for your audience to see. There is no substitute for taking your time to do something well.
Look for ways to improve and update
A website is never finished. Your organization will change, your products and services will change, and there will always be a need to revise your content. It is important to keep in mind that your site will not be perfect. There will always be room for improvement and that is okay. If you are putting in the effort of providing your audience with good content and a nice design, they will recognize this and it will make for a great impression—an impression that will likely get them engaging with you.