In an increasingly digital-first world, maximising the impact of your website is crucial. Your digital presence is continually evolving, so it’s important to ensure you’re leading the way and standing out from your competitors. Your website is only ever as good as the experience your users have, so really understanding your audiences can make a difference. And where budgets are scrutinised and ROI is top of the agenda, now is the time to really make your digital communications count. So how do you ensure your website is performing as well as possible in a B2B world?
Today, designing a website with both accessibility and usability in mind from the very beginning is crucial to creating an inclusive digital experience for all users, regardless of their needs or the nature of their abilities.
According to the W3C, the consortium who develop website accessibility standards and guidelines, accessibility, usability and inclusion are closely related aspects in creating a site that works for everyone.
And according to the World Health Organisation, an estimated 1.3 billion people experience a significant disability. This represents 1 in 6 people – a huge number of people who may be facing barriers how they access online content and complete everyday online tasks that many take for granted, such as finding products and services through to applying for a job.
Here’s what some companies are doing to ensure their websites are accessible, usable and inclusive.
Mondi are a global leader in packaging and paper. Their accessibility page clearly states they are “Enabling inclusivity. We are dedicated to providing an accessible, inclusive and user-friendly online experience for all our website users,” and they outline the steps they take for accessibility and reinforce the importance of it.
Another great example is GOV.UK, the UK government website. All information is accessible via keyboard navigation, screen readers and speech recognition software. Their accessibility statement is also very clear and outlines how they test the site as well as what they’re doing to improve it.
There are many great resources to tap into, from Oxfam’s Inclusive Language Guide, a resource to support people “who write in English to think about the way they write and the words they use,” through to Scope, the disability equality charity, whose own website is a great example of how to achieve a beautiful design that meets accessibility requirements. And their guide to digital accessibility has a wealth of information to help you ensure your website is accessible and ultimately inclusive.
If you want to see an example of not only how to talk about what you do accessibility-wise, but also to demonstrate it, then Apple’s website is a brilliant example. The website ticks all the boxes in terms of accessibility and inclusivity and is a really engaging piece of communication that everyone can learn from.
Most companies want a website that reflects who they are, shows what makes them unique and differentiates them from their competitors, but how do you truly stand out from the crowd?
Today there are many templated and framework options available from website builders such as Squarespace, Wix and Duda through to agency-developed frameworks where standard pages and templates have been pre-developed but can be adapted with your brand colours, fonts and assets. All will create a good website, but will they help you stand out?
Looking at different sector websites, many look very similar and struggle to be distinctive. For example, with investment management companies, there’s a predominant use of blues with white space, neutral shades of grey and in general, they all look very similar. Many use a large banner image with stock photography on their homepage and overall, they feel very corporate and generic.
One example that stands out in this sector is Ruffer. Their site uses green in place of the usual blue, with quirky illustrations that demonstrate their personality used throughout. Its clever use of copy feels authentic to them as a company, as it’s eccentrically English and it sets them apart.
The legal profession has similar issues and again, blue dominates in terms of colour used on their websites. They also frequently utilise large banner images at the top of their homepages, and video and animation tend to be used more often than static images. Ashurst takes theirs to a different level. Their use of colour and video animation and the film on their homepage really differentiates them from other law firms.
When developing or redeveloping a website, it’s not always about doing everything differently. Doing one thing really well can help create a genuine point of difference, but make sure it’s authentic to who you are.
The use of clever technology used in the right way can really increase impact and enhance digital experiences.
The new website created for Bhutan, the Himalayan kingdom nestled between China and India, balances a rich, visual editorial experience with the idea of short distances and long journeys, highlighting the different aspects of the tiny country from experiences to biodiversity to culture.
The map, which sits at the centre of the online experience, started out as an experiment. Downloading mapping data from the US Government website, the developers built a prototype showing the terrain of Bhutan, then – working with the creative team – used it to reflect the different aspects of the country. It’s a great example of beautiful, editorial-focused design, enhanced by technology.
Also taking technology to the next level is Second Sea’s website. They wanted to show the damage done by rising sea levels at COP26 to raise this serious issue and provoke conversation around it.
The website was designed and built as an interactive calculator showing financial damages created by rising sea levels and the amount owed to coastal cities by different nations. Users are encouraged to find out how much is owed and which nations should be paying the price, and post the results on social media using the receipts at the end. Their brief was very ambitious. They had a lot of data but no idea how to show it, but they knew they wanted to bring the facts to life in way that people would understand. The end results show what design and technology can achieve when working together.
A different approach was taken by Gaist Solutions, a UK company responsible for data collection, deterioration mapping and modelling, working with local authorities. They collect billions of surveying data points at a very high level of accuracy, which they bring to life on their website. Not only does the site reflect their brand in a modern and relevant way, but it’s also highly engaging and provides a visually impactful digital experience through its combination of video, great copy and animation all working seamlessly together.
According to user research, the most important factor in the design of a website is that it makes it easy for users to find what they want. You can do this by ensuring the design and user experience of your website work seamlessly together, to help create a truly engaging and usable online experience.
So how does the world of B2B perform against this measure? In recent research from the Nielsen Norman Group, user testing showed that B2B websites have substantially lower usability than mainstream consumer sites. They also believe many B2B sites are stuck in the 1990s in their attitude towards user experience and have what they describe as “user-hostile design” meaning they prevent users from finding information they need, either through complex segmentation or requiring them to register.
Many B2B websites have poor user experience, but one great example that shows how to do usability really well is Apple’s B2B website. It’s just as user-friendly and beautifully designed as their B2C counterpart. Its clean design, coupled with a clear and compelling ‘long-page scroll’ approach makes it properly engaging and provides a seamless experience for users.
Another good example is Owkin, a biotech company that uses AI to understand complex biology. Their website delivers an equally seamless experience to Apple’s, but punctuates it with animations and an interactive infographic, which communicates complex information in a really digestible way.
Having a clear and simple navigation is another vitally important way of making your website experience seamless. The RTW Funds site has sidebar navigation that allows users to navigate to key parts of the site, all in one click.
In summary, we believe there are three key measures for creating a seamless website experience:
With the rise of new technologies, it’s become increasingly important, and easier, to use movement and animation to make your website even more compelling.
In the early 2000s, Adobe Flash was widely used for animation and video content. Flash dominated the marketplace until Steve Jobs wrote an infamous memo declaring it would no longer be allowed on Apple devices, due to poor performance and security concerns, effectively rendering millions of websites unusable overnight. It was a controversial move at the time, but it hastened the shift towards HTML5 and other open web technologies used today, that create animations using code instead of plug-ins.
As research from Neilsen Norman Group found, animation and movement have now become powerful tools to attract users’ attention. However, they also say if you use animation as part of the user experience, it should be unobtrusive, brief and subtle – so it doesn’t become a distraction or annoyance to the user.
Many websites use animation in a really compelling, but relatively subtle way. One great example of this is the vegetable producer Nortera. Their website utilises simple but bold graphic illustrations of their products, to bring personality to the site. The subtle micro-animations all have a ‘dropping’ effect used, presumably, to symbolise adding ingredients into a dish. Even the footer uses animations, making something very functional much more engaging.
Animation can also be used to great effect as shown by Mailchimp on their multiple award-winning Annual Report. Whilst many annual reports can be quite dry and corporate, this is the opposite. The use of pure animation to create a compelling journey throughout their year, highlighting key facts and stories is really engaging.
So, here are three key ways to use animation on your website:
So, how do you bring all of this together and importantly, how do you tell your story, your way?
According to a recent benchmark report, the average time spent on a website is only 54 seconds.
Interestingly, the time spent on B2B websites is longer at 1.37 minutes, but bounce rates are higher at 61%. This means that on B2B websites you need to communicate your brand really quickly.
An example of this done well is Indeed, an innovation company. As they clearly communicate on their homepage, “We innovate for the circular economy”, setting their stall out immediately. It then unpacks in more detail who they are, what they do and how they do it, interspersed with striking imagery. In a short time, you quickly get a really clear idea about their business and brand.
A very different example takes us back to the GOV.UK website. Not only is it very accessible, but it also authentically tells their story, their way. The first message you see clearly explains what the website is for: “The best place to find government services and information. Simpler, clearer, faster.” And that’s exactly what it delivers. The design is deliberately stripped back and text-driven – there aren’t any images or graphics, and it only uses three colours throughout, allowing the user to concentrate on the content, and to find key information quickly. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t considered the design. They openly publish their 10 design principles, which make for very interesting reading. It also won the prestigious Design Museum and Beazley’s Design of the Year. Which just goes to show that you should always tell your story your way and be truly authentic.
In summary, there are many ways to maximise the impact of your B2B website and stand out from your competitors. Your digital presence is continually evolving, so lead the way and create a genuine point of differentiation that’s authentic to who you are.
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