Aug 23 2013

Pedal to the Metal: Websites should Drive like a BMW, Not a Barbie Car

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What kid doesn’t lust after his or her own set of wheels? From an early age, kids want to get in the car and go – and for little girls, the ever-so-wonderful pink plastic Barbie car can provide hours of cul-de-sac circling and sidewalk cruising.

The funny thing about children’s cars is that kids don’t realize how far from the real deal a plastic car is. As every adult understands, Barbie cars are adorable toys, but terrible, terrible automobiles!

For one thing, they don’t drive. There’s no gas, no keys, and no engine. They can’t actually take you any farther than the mailbox. For another thing, they’re not built for the elements. What kid wants to “drive” her Barbie car in the middle of a snowstorm?

Besides not even being a real car to begin with, Barbie cars are designed to be – well, childish. What business executive covets his daughter’s little pink get-up?

There’s a reason adults don’t drive Barbie cars, and it’s because we need – and want – more than plastic toys. We need to actually go places. Driving requires, for starters, a real car, a high-powered, well-designed vehicle stocked with gas, outfitted with wheels, brakes, mirrors, and lights.

What’s more, in an age of specialization, most of us pine after fancy automobiles that deliver not only a functional experience, but a comfortable one, too.

A website’s got to move

What else takes us places? Websites! And in 2013, the effective websites are definitely not just toys. For one thing, they’re an expected piece of a company’s overall marketing strategy. With mobile device usage increasing and overall Internet usage on the rise, businesses are up against stiff competition to attract potential customers’ attention on a crowded Internet.

The potential to increase visibility and sales through internet engagement is worth the investment. Ipsos reports that 44% of shoppers begin their search in the search engines. Even more shocking: according to Business Insider, more people today have a mobile subscription service than access to safe drinking water and electricity.

Most companies realize their website’s potential isn’t to be taken lightly. An AT&T Small Business Technology Poll reports that 67% of small businesses are using their websites to market to customers, and the same portion planned to spend as much or more on their online marketing this year as in 2012.

Whether you’re a restaurant, university, or technology firm, the modern expectation is that you have a website that is accessible by mobile, informative, up-to-date, fast, and eye-catching. Yet Forrester shares the painful statistic that 49% of sites are failing to comply with even basic usability principles, which results in the loss of 50% of online sales because visitors can’t find what they’re looking for. Yikes!

Take your customers on a ride

Traditionally, marketing in every medium – magazine, billboard, newspaper ad, etc. –  has always aimed to summon interaction and movement through “calls to action.” Marketing is about creating momentum. Built and designed right, a website can be a powerful joy ride for your customers towards that call to action!

But too many company websites have big, clunky graphics with no immediate purpose, confusing navigation, an unclear message, too much text, and too little awareness of their target customer. These websites are ultimately a waste of time for customers.

Websites are not just pretty toys. They’re supposed to be vehicles towards an end result. The end result is whatever your business wants – whether that’s a contact form completion, sign-up, download, purchase, video viewing, or blog engagement.

Design like a BMW

Our best practices for business website development that we follow at Happy Dog consist of making websites that ride like BMW’s – not Barbie cars! When you’re planning your website design, consider these five qualities of BMW’s that apply to creating great online vehicles for your visitors:

1. Smooth

BMW’s are designed to take a person to their destination with the highest precision and the smoothest ride possible. In the same way on your website, everything should flow and drive a visitor smoothly towards your final goal –  from the home screen to the purchase page, download button, or form to “request a quote.”

A successfully smooth ride depends on understanding the road and the bumps that can interrupt it. What could detract from visitors reaching the page you want them to reach? How can you create smoother navigation throughout the site?

2. Precise

Steering. Control. Fine-tuning for fine movements. A good car’s details are attended to so that the overall experience is one of precision. How can you handle a visitor’s website experience with precision?

In a recent QuickSprout blog post, Neil Patel highlighted how much control web developers actually have over where people look on their page. Based on where you place your text and graphics, you can effectively steer people to do what you want them to – that is, if you do it with precision and intention.

3. Luxurious

You think “BMW,” and you think, this is luxury, baby. In fact, if you were told to name one of the world’s most popular cars, what do you think most people blurt out with? BMW has earned its reputation for luxury by being, well, incredibly nice. What will make your visitors most comfortable? Make it a luxurious experience! Cater to their wants and needs.

Do your target customers crave photos? Give them a photo gallery! Is the crowd you sell to one that loves to read informative articles, research, or “how-to” tips? Include an easily accessible section where they can find these. If your customers value art and aesthetics, create a color palette and graphics that they will appreciate.

4. Distinctive

Personality sells. You know a BMW when you see one – so what’s distinctive about your company, and how can you market that online?

Whether it’s keeping a distinct company voice strong throughout the copy or using colors and layout that reflects your company’s values and characteristics, be yourself online. It helps no one to look like everyone else. Stand out. If your website looks like every other website out there, why should anybody visit it?

5. Fast

We don’t have time to sit and stare at the computer screen anymore while your website loads. Chop chop! KISSmetrics reports that nearly half of consumers expect a website to load in two seconds or less – and even a one-second delay in page response can result in a 7% loss in conversions. How much money lost is this?

Any sane adult would choose a BMW over a Barbie car any day. We all want to be wowed. So why not wow your customers by taking them on a trip they’ll never forget?

The Author: Brooke McDonald is the online marketer at Happy Dog Web Productions.

(dpe)

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