The following article is a guest post by Kayleigh Alexandra of Microstartups.org.
I’ve looked at maybe thirty websites so far today, and if you asked me to name them all, I’d probably manage just about five. Push me to recount my browsing activity of the last week and I wouldn’t do much better. Why? There are several reasons:
As UX standards have improved and intuitive digital design software has been released, decent websites have come to look extremely similar, making them blur together.
The internet is fast, and our eagerness to consume content is relentless. Since we always have options for new things to look at, we don’t stick around for very long on websites we visit. We treat them as ephemeral distractions.
Most digital content still isn’t great, years after the internet became a core part of everyday life (and business). There’s a lot of weak copy out there.
Because of this, if you want your website to stick in visitors’ minds, you need to put in the effort to earn it. Unfortunately, there’s no snappy shortcut, cheat code or unique format that will do it. Being memorable is a consequence of getting a lot of things right.
But what things are most worth prioritizing? If you’re just setting out to create a website, how can you shape it into something memorable? Here are some tips to get you going:
Get creative with your copy
Most website copy is extremely generic, and might as well have been automatically generated. You can’t afford to offer that type of copy if you want to achieve recognition. This means that you need to take a few risks with how you present your brand: show some personality, use emotion, sneak in some informality.
Think about how your favorite brands present themselves. Are they cold and businesslike, or do they seem like they’re having fun with the content they write? It’ll be the latter, of course. Just as we like to associate with people who have passion for life, we like to deal with brands that come across less as corporate entities and more as teams of sympathetic and likable people.
Brands like Nakd choose their terms very carefully to suit their styles (for instance, calling foods “scrummy” knowing that readers will appreciate that relaxed approach to communication). You can do something similar. You want each visitor to leave the site feeling that they’ve seen something different from the regular internet fare.
Provide meaningful value
We visit websites because we want things. We want to be entertained, to find products, to find particular pieces of information, or to communicate with people. Consequently, when a website does an excellent job of giving us what we’re looking for, we’re more likely to remember it as a worthwhile resource — or even bookmark it so we can revisit it easily.
You may be able to stand out through great design alone, but why leave it at that? Like a smart politician coupling a marketable image with substantive policies, you should advance a mixture of appealing presentation and high-value content. That will really set you apart from your rivals.
Adhere to strong brand guidelines
Every website should follow clear brand guidelines (handy templates from Venngage) that govern the presentation of the business as a whole. It’s vitally important for visual and tonal consistency. Imagine your website as an upper-class office block run by one company: if one room is gleamingly modern and the next appears extremely dated, it will send a mixed message.
A mixed message can be memorable but not memorable in the way you want. You may want your site to be remembered, but not for being remarkably bad — and a wildly-inconsistent website inevitably looks bad. Here are some brand elements you should set out and stick to:
A strong and simple color scheme. You want a core color combination to be firmly established with your brand. Think about Coca-Cola’s red and white, or the yellow and red of McDonald’s. Stick to two or three complementary colors with nice contrast.
A small set of fonts. Too many fonts can make a website look messy, and can make the text hard to read. One main font and one supplementary font should suffice — you may use distinct fonts to make your content stand out.
A layout style. Some websites use shapes with rounded edges, while others use right angles everywhere. You can align your text in the middle, on the left, or on the right. The point is, it needs to be consistent — establishing a style that will be predictable.
A visual aesthetic. Do you sprinkle stock images throughout your site, or use glossy custom photos? How about feature stylized backgrounds or simple color gradients? Just choose an approach and spread it throughout in everything you do.
Commit to iterative improvement
No matter how well you nail the other steps in your website creation process, you won’t end up with a flawless website capable of captivating everyone who views it. There is no perfect website — no online hub that cannot be improved upon in any way.
After all, conventions, frameworks and expectations change. A superb website today might be considered mediocre by the standards of next year. If you want your website to be consistently memorable, you need to keep working on it over time — and adapt quickly to avoid disaster.
This might seem like a tough task, and it’s certainly a challenge, but it’s eminently achievable if you ensure you leave enough time in your schedule to pursue it. Here are some useful tips:
Schedule a semi-regular review. You don’t need to check weekly or even monthly, but fully reviewing your site on a set schedule will help keep it fresh in your mind. Quarterly can be a good frequency — standards can definitely change in three months.
Automate whatever you can. There are a lot of tasks that go into the everyday running of a website, and those tasks can get in the way of making meaningful changes to the site’s content and design. Tasks like uploading content, engaging in SEO, sending email newsletters, and compressing images can be made easier using varied automation and optimization services, allowing you to greatly reduce your general workload.
Cut back on CMS admin. The platform you run your website on can make your life harder or easier. If you’re using a complex CMS, consider using an IT support service to cover the back-end work, or even migrate to a more intuitive alternative (for instance, a blog-type site can easily be shifted to WordPress while a complex Magento enterprise store can be ported to the more user-friendly Shopify Plus through a migration service).
Website builders like Squarespace, uses a cms platform that is more flexible and easier to manage. Most users don't need technical skills, but if you need to do something more advanced, there are many squarespace developers out there like Squarewebsites.
Keep up with industry leaders. The biggest brands in the world can afford to invest hugely in forward-thinking website research and design. So if you notice that a leading site in your industry has made a particular design change, consider it carefully. There’s likely to be a more compelling reason behind it, and it may hint a change that you’ll need to make.
Exactly how much time you spend on this process will be up to you, but you can simply scale it based on your needs. If your website is performing excellently, cut yourself some slack. If the metrics are dropping, put your foot on the accelerator.
As long as you don’t allow the site to stagnate for many months, you should be fine, and stay well ahead of the many site owners who don’t give these matters any thought at all.
It’s tough to make a truly memorable website, but it’s far from impossible. If you present top-class copy that offers real value and consistently represents your brand, and make a long-term commitment to keeping your website updated, you’ll have a great shot at taking your brand to the next level.