Monday, June 01, 2009

The 9 Must-Have Qualities of a User-Focused B2B Website Design

Note: This is the final article in a four-part series of guest posts on B2B branding strategy and website design from Rebekah E. Donaldson ("Red") and Cris Rominger of B2B Communications.

When approaching a re-skin or redesign of your company’s website, it’s helpful to keep in mind both branding goals and user goals. For example, consider these questions:

Website branding goals
  • Do the changes communicate professionalism? Are they appropriate for our industry/market?
  • Do the changes render error-free on different browsers? At different resolutions? On different operating systems?
Website user goals
  • Do the changes help users accomplish their goals on the site quickly and easily?
  • Are we communicating a clear value proposition?
  • Is our site organized for our visitors? Are the paths to information clear?
  • Is the orientation clear? Is the labeling instructive?
  • Does our content instill trust and credibility? Is it formatted for online readers?
  • Does our writing compel visitors to take action?
  • Is our content portable?
Managing design to hit branding goals

While these questions may sound straightforward, they are also very easy to overlook in implementation.

Last October, Forrester Research released its Best and Worst of Brand Building Web Sites, 2008 Report. They looked at 20 top brands through two key questions:
  • Does the site cater to user needs? (termed “brand action” in the results)
  • Does the site support brand positioning?
The results were shocking: only 4 sites passed test #1 – Does the site cater to user needs? Only 7 sites passed test #2 – Does the site support brand positioning? And only 1 site passed both tests.

Fixing branding problems

According to Forrester principal analyst and report author Ron Rogowski, “Common Brand Action problems included poor text legibility, confusing category names, and missing or buried content. On the Brand Image side, sites were guilty of layouts, imagery, and production values that failed to support brand positioning. To improve the online brand experience, top firms should document their users' goals, clearly define their brand attributes, and map relevant attributes to the right target users.”

Rogowski goes on to recommend that companies “…should also collect brand positioning statements and conduct Brand Image Reviews to ensure that the site presents the brand's core attributes in a manner that is consistent with other channels and relevant to target users.”

If you need help evaluating your proposed site changes, try going down the free checklist we have posted called The B2B Website ROI Checklist.

Previous: Make Sure Your Logo Can Handle the Job at Any Size

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