Love it or hate it, your website is an integral part of your business. Gone are the days when you can have your website developed and then forget about it for a few years. Most websites need regular tweaks, changes, updates and ‘revamps’ to stay current.
This is the first in a series of blogs about how to make your website much more customer focused. In this post we are looking specifically at your logo. A few good questions to ask yourself when thinking about your logo, include:
- How big is your logo and how much space does it occupy on the screen?
- How big is it on a smaller device (smart phone or tablet)?
- Where is it positioned on the page?
The very first company website I developed in the late 1990’s was designed in flash because it was ‘cool’. The homepage comprised solely of my logo, filling the whole screen and spinning around. In order to get to the next page you had to click into the logo. Whilst many people commented on my logo and actually wanted something similar for their businesses, it did nothing for customer engagement and it definitely did not help me to sell more online.
Nowadays, if you look at some of the major e-commerce websites, you will notice that their logos are usually on the small side. They are normally in the left hand corner of the screen. They are discreet and do not detract from the rest of the webpage. Companies that are doing well have realised that your website doesn’t exist for you to show your logo off, or to tell the world “Look! I’m amazing!”. It exists to engage visitors. It may sound like an obvious point but generally people are interested in what your website can do for them. How does it answer a customer problem?
Your website needs to be completely customer centric. If the logo is too large, it becomes distracting and stops the customer focusing on your core message.
Two companies that do this really well are:
Here we look at technology giant Apple, who, whether you like them or not, often lead the pack with all things online related. Flic is a smaller company, but one that is doing really well. I am including a slightly less well known business to demonstrate how these principles of customer focused engagement can really be applied to any company, big or small.
Apple have taken the small logo concept to a whole new level. They just use their icon. This is acceptable when you have a brand that is as well known as Apple. Most business can’t get away with this. When we were redeveloping the Jersey Beauty website we did toy with the idea of just using our icon, rather than the complete logo. Ultimately we decided against that as we, unfortunately cannot yet claim to be as well known as Apple, therefore what might look fresh and modern, could actually be confusing for customers. Although we may not be as well-known as Apple, our website design follows the same customer centric principles: the logo is small, it located in the top left hand corner where people expect to find it and when clicked you return to the homepage, which is also what visitors expect. Don’t make things hard for your customers, make it about them and make it super simple. Clever, all-singing, all-dancing logos, do not add anything for your customer.
"I very much doubt you have ever purchased anything online because the company had a great logo!"
- Matt Edmundson
This is a great little company that I have recently discovered. They design and manufacture Bluetooth buttons that you can use to control things through your smart phone. I have one on my fridge, which can control my sound system. They can also control your lights, find your phone, unlock doors and make calls, among other things. They have a great website and a great product. They follow the same principles as e-commerce giants like Apple or Amazon. Their logo is small and it is in the top left. You can clearly see it but it doesn’t attract much attention. Their headline is the core message.
Many businesses feel that their logo should be front and centre. They have often spent a long time deciding on the design and colour etc. This thinking that it should therefore have a prominent place is often based around ideas about brand awareness. Although brand awareness is important, it should never be at the expense of the customer.
Websites have changed dramatically over the last few years. Those that are really successful, increasing sales and profitability, are those that make the customer the hero. The customer can’t be the hero if your homepage comprises of a large logo and lots of information about who you are and how your business is really fantastic. A customer focused website will always be much more engaging and can dramatically improve growth and sales.
In my next blog, I will be looking at the power of your main website headline and why it needs to grab your visitor’s attention in seconds.
Website accessibility in its most basic definition is about ensuring websites work for the widest possible audience. For most people, it is easy to browse the web, they can point and click, visually skip over content they don’t want to read, listen and watch a video clip, and skim read to find what they are looking for. This is not a new concept, website accessibility has been around for well over 10 years. However, it amazes me how many organisations haven’t covered the basics. In this blog I will scratch the surface of web accessibility, drawing on experiences from some of our e-commerce sites.
So what is accessibility all about. Here I’m going to take a two common questions or issues facing most e-commerce businesses:
1. Is your site in any other languages? Do you need to think about another cultural perspective?
So your site is currently in English but would it benefit from being translated? Would that make it make it more accessible? For example, 30% of Jersey Beauty‘s customers are Swedish. They are able to buy the beauty products much more cheaply from our site than in their own country. We therefore needed to consider how to make our site and the whole process work well for them. Eventually we decided not to translate the site into Swedish. However, we did work with local post offices in Sweden to provide tracking numbers for a seamless delivery. It is important to think about your international customers.
In the western world there is a default way of setting up a website. However, if you are operating in a different country, culture or market, do they expect something different?
2. Does your site work for those with disabilities, such as visual or hearing impairment?
When setting up your website, there are a number of standards for the visually impaired of which you need to be aware. If you do not adhere to these standards then you will be penalised by Google and you will be moved down the ranking within the page listing.
It is also important to think about how your site works for those who are hearing impaired. This is particularly relevant if there is quite a bit of video work on your site. Think about the colours you are using. It was a trend for a while to do things in colours that don’t contrast well but this doesn’t work. We mustn’t get so caught up in the aesthetics that we forget about the user. Clearly aesthetics matter but they are not the ultimate goal of design. Often, poor readability doesn’t get picked up in the design process.
"Your audiences needs should be kept front and centre when creating the design. After all, there is no point having a pretty website if no one can read it!" Matt Edmundson
It is really important to make sure your site is fully accessible to everyone, if they can’t read the text or watch the videos then they are not going to buy from you!
When we start to talk about branding, some of the most common questions people have usually relate to logo design, font choice and colours. If you have read any of my previous blogs on branding, which you can find here and here, then you will know that there is a lot more to branding than just a logo.
Here are my five critical components to authentic and successful branding:
A good friend of mine put it much better than I could, he said
“True branding goes much deeper than skin deep. True branding is a plum-line from the core of who you are to those you are trying to reach. So your design needs to carry your core values all the way through who you are.“
Your values cannot simply be a statement written down on a piece of paper in your office. They should infiltrate everything you do.
For example, with my online beauty company, Oquibo, we never use photoshopped images. It is not in accordance with our values of being authentic, genuine and celebrating the human spirit. So our branding, our design is now constrained by our values.
Is there a rhythm to your values? Are they fun? Then use fun style branding. Are they reassuring? Then have a strong element of this in your branding. Do they speak of cause? If so, could that be reflected in your branding? Any branding consultant you use, who is worth their salt, will want a deep understanding of your culture and values. If they don’t – find another branding consultant!
This may sound a little strange but think about the personality of your company. A couple of questions you could ask yourself are:
- If my company were a person, what would they be like?
- How does your company make people feel?
Over the years I have discovered, that if you understand your company’s personality, this will give you all the design and branding ideas that you will ever need.
Your brand has to deliver a promise or communicate a concept. For my online beauty company it is Happy. Remarkable. You. Many companies have simple poignant short slogans which sum up what they are all about. Here are just a few examples:
- Nike: Just Do It.
- Apple: Think Different.
- Tesco: Every Little Helps.
- Bose: Better Sound Through Research.
- FedEx: When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.
- Zappos: Delivering Happiness.
- Mastercard: Priceless.
It goes without say that your slogan and tagline has to be genuine and authentic. It has to be a summary of your values and your culture as well as a statement of intent. Like many people, I have become weary of fancy branding and empty tag lines. They have to mean something!
This is the part that people normally jump right to when they start to think about branding and design – logos, fonts and colours. Keep your logos simple and recognisable. Make sure that they are distinct from other logos. If you are using an “M” in your logo, make sure it doesn’t look like McDonalds Golden Arches, especially if you are a restaurant. Be you, make sure that it speaks of your values and is unique to you. A fancy logo won’t help you with your business. A great culture will. I haven’t come across a company that became great because of their logo. But I know plenty of companies that had a great cause, a phenomenal culture, that went on to become great and developed their branding out of that.
Branding is the plum-line, from the core of who you are, to those you are trying to reach. Alongside knowing who you are and understanding your values, you also need to understand who you are trying to reach? This is your demographic. There is zero point having a fantastic product and great branding aimed at the wrong group of people. Think about it carefully, work out who is buying your products and why.
In summary, branding is very much a part of design, and design is very much a part of your branding.
If you have covered the five points above, I believe you are well on your way to having a very successful product.
Seth Godin described what matters most in customer service brilliantly in his blog:
"The only purpose of ‘customer service’ is to change feelings. Not the facts, but the way your customer feels. The facts might be the price, or a return, or how long someone had to wait for service. Sometimes changing the facts is a shortcut to changing feelings, but not always, and changing the facts alone is not always sufficient anyway.*
The best measurement of customer support is whether, after the interaction, the customer would recommend you to a friend. Time on the line, refunds given or the facts of the case are irrelevant. The feelings are all that matter, and changing feelings takes humanity and connection, not cash." Seth Godin
Over the years I have developed a few strategies that really help the team to be more focused on customer ‘feelings’ and how to improve customer satisfaction when things do go wrong. Here is a list of things that work for us at Jersey Beauty Company:
- Make art out of your positive feedback emails from customers – read them out in huddles and forward them around to the whole team on a regular basis
- Everyone in the team should know how to answer the phone
- Everyone in the team should be able to handle basic requests over the phone
- Everyone in the team should know who to refer to, how and when
- The CEO should regularly answer the phone and speak to customers
- Each customer interaction should be seen as a learning experience
- Continue to train your staff on customer service and continuously look for opportunities to improve
- Talk in your regular team huddles about how to approach certain scenarios in ways that are informed by the company values
- E-mail examples around of great customer service form other businesses
- Have a shared library of information that is easy for the team members to access and search
Regardless of the contact you have with a customer, be it over the phone, via e-mail, on social media or even face to face, it is really important to get it right. We always want to exceed customer expectations.
If you are like me, you have a love/hate relationship with your website. On the one hand, it’s great that you have a shop front that is open 24/7. However, on the other hand, it can quickly become outdated and stale and you have to spend a fortune bringing it up to scratch.
In recent blogs, I have talked about some of the important questions to ask yourself when developing or re-developing your website. In this post we go back to basics and look at what your options are if you don’t have a website at all or if you feel your website really isn’t working and you want to take it back to the drawing board.
The way I see it there are three options. Simply put they are
1. Build your own site
To do this you will need a developer of some sort to help you, unless you can write the code yourself. For Jersey Beauty Company, one of my online businesses, I actually wrote the code for the first website back in 2006, but now we have a development team on the job. It has been a long time since I actually wrote any code. However, the benefits of building your own website are quite significant. At Jersey Beauty Company for example, we have a much lighter, much more robust framework that suits our needs specifically. We have a lot of bespoke requirements with the website, and having developed the whole thing from scratch, makes it easy for us to take full advantage of these requirements – keeping us ahead of the competition. However, whilst there are a lot of upsides, there are also a lot of associated costs.
Development costs can be, from a few thousand pounds up to hundreds of thousands of pounds, depending on your platform.
It’s also worth mentioning hosting. If you are building your own site or system, then you must have the belief that it is going to be pretty successful to justify the cost. One thing you must be absolutely sure about is your hosting company. We’ve tried many over the years, and I cannot begin to tell you of the frustration you will have if you have a beautifully designed site that is simply slow to respond and load for your customers. So host your site well. Invest in your hosting, it is worth it – trust me. We use Rackspace and have done for a number of years now. They are a great company when it comes to hosting. I don’t think they are particularly cheap but my experience is that they are worth it. We tried cheap. I’m not doing that again!
"My belief is that if you can afford the bespoke site, host it well and maintain it well enough in house – it is always your best option. But it isn’t the only option." Matt Edmundson
2. Use existing software
The second option, is to use an existing software package that has already been developed. Our very first e-commerce website, which sold tanning products years ago, was such a site. We used a software package from Actinic, and it served us well, as I learned the fine art of writing code. Nowadays, there are a lot of options when it comes to e-commerce software providers. If you go down this route, I would suggest you use a subscription, cloud based model like Shopify. They host the site, they constantly develop the code and update it which saves a big headache for you. They often have apps that you can use to help your site function well, so whilst it is not as tailored to your needs as the bespoke option, it is pretty good.
The benefits of this system are also significant, you can have a site set up pretty quickly, the framework is very robust and always up-to-date. You don’t have to think about hosting the site which solves another headache, and there is more than likely an app to give you the extra bit that is missing from the standard site. You don’t need a specialist team to help you build the site and this can save you a small fortune. It’s a great option for those starting out in e-commerce or those established sites that have a niche base and steady income.
3. Piggy backing
Your third option is not to have your own website but rather have a store on sites like eBay and Amazon. I call this Piggy Backing.
A lot of people do this and make significant incomes as a result. You get access to their reputation and traffic and with Amazon you can use their fulfilment and their payment system. This is brilliant if you just want to sit back and let them take care of it all. However, being ‘found’ on Amazon through its search function is almost a course of learning in its own right. As with Google and other search engines, the same rules apply. If you are not in the top few search results – you won’t sell anything. The other thing about sites like Amazon and eBay is that you are just a reseller through their system. You are reliant on them for everything so there is no real way to bring your own brand culture through. It’s a bit like being on a shelf in a supermarket – you can easily be anonymous as the big boys take all the best space. I know that there are companies that do well on Amazon and eBay, and if you have a simple high margin product that just needs shipping and can easily be found, go for it – it’s a no brainer. However, my feeling is that you will need your own website if you are to build a community of customers and engage with them.
So, there you have it, those are the three main options to consider. If you have a simple, high margin product – look at Amazon or eBay, if you are just starting out or operate in a niche market look at services like Shopify and if you have the budget and resources available look at your own development.