The very first web page went live 30 years ago. It was dedicated to Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web project. While it was bland and uninviting, in retrospect, we know that this first URL opened the door to today’s websites, which virtually open the door to the whole wide world.
With nearly two billion websites in existence, the competition to attract the attention of the 4.72 billion web users across the globe is staggering. Unless you’re Craigslist or Wikipedia, whose unattractive physical look is so embedded in public awareness it would be foolish to change design, a modern website needs some curb appeal – and a whole lot more.
Four years ago, we blogged about the all-important home page. A killer home page is still paramount, but let’s take a fresh look at the multiple characteristics of a truly outstanding website – one that visitors will remember and return to time and again, one that builds trust in your brand and leads visitors to take action.
For the purpose of this blog, we will focus on the senior living industry. Indeed, most of the features that make a great senior community site apply to all websites, but the onus on the senior space to provide an exceptional online experience is particularly great. As literal doors have been closed to visitors, virtual doors must do the lion’s share of the work attracting prospects.
Ten Things That Make Your Website Outshine the Rest
- Virtual tours. Because COVID has severely restricted (if not completely prohibited) in-person tours of senior communities, virtual tours of indoor and outdoor spaces, common areas, amenities, and individual apartments are absolutely essential. Engaging online tours are more than still photographs; they are interactive, three-dimensional, and offer a 360-degree perspective – as close to the real thing as if one were walking through your property.
- Navigability. Getting lost in an illogical, disorganized website is like driving in a strange city and not knowing your way around – with one major difference: you can immediately click out of a website, never to return again. A move to senior living is one of life’s major decisions and, unfortunately, one that is sometimes made during crisis. The first point of entry should be an easy, orderly glide through your community. Studies have shown that the eye tracks text in a certain pattern, and visual hierarchy in the arrangement of your site’s elements points to what is most important and how to seamlessly find subsequent content. Main and sub-tabs designed with first-time visitors in mind guide prospects through a well-organized, stress-free visit.
- Clean, simple design. An unfussy, uncluttered design throughout your entire site, but especially on the home page, makes for a pleasant, positive user experience. Simplicity in design is fresh, timeless and soothing. There’s also great business benefit in a simple design, as several studies have shown that minimalism garners more conversions by establishing legitimacy and confidence in a brand. Endless clicking and scrolling is distracting and comes off as amateurish and “salesy.” On that note, if at all possible, avoid sponsored ads on your site.
- Uniform branding. Along with a clean design goes visual uniformity across your entire site, including color schemes, typography, logo, and other graphic elements unique to your brand. “Cookie cutter” designs are a dime a dozen and will do nothing to distinguish you from the nearly 30,000 other senior communities in the U.S.
- Animation and interactivity. Today’s Internet users are seeking an “experience,” particularly now when in-person visits and events at your senior community are limited. Animated and user-driven interactive elements bring life to your site and create memorable journeys throughout your pages and in your visitors’ minds. These elements also increase engagement with your community and more clicks to discover what’s around the next corner, so to speak.
- Readability. Small type and hard-to-read fonts are a no for any website, especially those serving older adults whose eyesight may be compromised. A simple, legible font scheme (consistent across your entire site) will serve your visitors’ needs and keep them engaged. It will also lend a more professional, sophisticated appearance, establishing trust and credibility in your brand.
- Great Content. You can use the most awesome typestyle and graphics in the world, but without great content on your site, it may as well be gobbledegook. At its core, the “king” – content – is information that benefits your audiences on its own merit – a takeaway, so to speak, that is meaningful regardless of a lead. Great content creates a positive connection between you and your visitors, the ripple effects of which can be boundless.
- Response Time. Sites that load slowly will be abandoned quickly. Optimal load speed is under three seconds; 40 percent of consumers will reportedly abandon a site if it takes longer than three seconds to load. Response time is a function of underlying infrastructure (e.g., a good content delivery network) and design element choices, among other things, and it is essential not only to keeping visitors on your site, but good SEO.
- Mobile friendly. A whopping 90 percent of Internet users across the globe access the web from their mobile devices. Websites that adapt to whatever device one is using allow for significantly greater reach and more shareability among visitors. In essence, you can’t survive without a mobile friendly website.
- Expert designers. Achieving all of the above is a tall, but very necessary order. It is not a layman’s endeavor, nor the work of a pre-fab template. Professionals trained in web design and management on both the front and back ends are a must for a truly outstanding website.
IVY’s team of experts in the senior living space can bring excellent web content and design to life, bringing prospects to your virtual community and in your literal doors.
Contact us today at 630-790-2531 or visit www.ivymarketing.com.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
If what scientists are saying about human adaptive evolution is true – that it’s accelerating – then perhaps the future of homosapien development means that people will be born with downward-bent necks due to our prolific use of mobile devices.
Okay, so maybe that’s a bit out there, but fading fast are the days of folks accessing the Internet predominantly from their desktop computers. Since 2014, the number of mobile-only Internet users in the U.S. has grown from 24.6 to 37.3 percent. That rate is expected to grow to 42 percent, or 279 million, by 2020.
Websites can no longer survive with design that does not fit consumers wherever they are – literally. Coined “responsive design” by Ethan Marcotte back in 2010, the ability for one website to quickly and automatically adapt to whatever device one is using (whether desktop/laptop, phone, tablet, watch) is paramount to successful online customer experiences.
Before the development of responsive design moved into the mainstream, mobile users had to pinch, scroll, swipe, pan, zoom, and all but jump through hoops to get the information they wanted from websites that weren’t built to respond to their online environment. They became frustrated and quickly moved on.
Websites without responsive design leave visitors frustrated and likely to move on to other sites.
To mitigate the problem, web designers created mobile templates, whereby a second website or subdomain was built in addition to the primary site to respond to mobile use. But, given the new generations of devices cropping up all the time, the time and cost involved in creating separate templates for each would be astronomical, and the effort impractical.
Responsive design is coded such that one website adapts seamlessly and expediently to all screen sizes, resolutions and platforms. The benefits of responsive design are many, and websites without it are undeniably suffering:
- Positive user experience – If visitors to your site can easily and quickly find what they’re looking for, they’re going to stay longer and engage more. Bounce rates will dramatically decrease.
- Competitive Edge – The absence of responsive design is glaringly apparent to anyone visiting your site. Implementing responsive design gives you an immense and immediate advantage over the competition.
- Increased social involvement – Nearly 80 percent of social media engagement happens on a mobile device. If your site is not easily seen or navigable from all platforms, audiences will be much less able to share and engage in the viral ways that are vital to your brand.
- Better conversions – A responsive website smoothly facilitates the actions you wish your visitors to take, whether it is to read a blog, respond to a CTA, make a comment…all the things that foster engagement with your brand and, ultimately, satisfy your ROI.
- Better SEO – Search engines rank websites with responsive design higher than those without. Responsive design is perceived as more relevant and more able to give searchers precisely what they’re looking for, whatever their online environment.
- Better branding – Because responsive design draws from one main website, as opposed to several templates or subdomains, displays across all devices are unified in look, style and brand identity.
- Speedier loads – Google PageSpeed standards recommend that pages designed for mobile users load in under two seconds. A website without responsive design rarely loads in a mobile environment in this amount of time. Waiting too long for a page to load often causes consumers to leave a site.
- Lower costs – Creating multiple templates and subdomains for all the many devices on the market costs time and money. Responsive design professionals can program one website to adapt to several platforms, resulting in considerable savings.
- Sustainability – Technically speaking, responsive design is based on screen size, not device. This has significant ramifications for the future, including the Internet of Things, because whether one’s field of view occupies an inch of space or a whole square block, your website will still look properly proportioned and attractive.
If your website is dying in the Digital Age, revitalize it with truly responsive design. Let our team of experts show you all that responsive design can do for your website, and your business as a whole.
Does your website have responsive design? Let us know how we can help improve or implement this technology on your company’s site.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
Have you ever wondered what might have been had you made one move differently? Say in one scenario, you fall asleep and miss your train stop home from a nowhere job. At the next stop, the doors open and you’re the first to get off. The next train back isn’t for a few hours, so you wait it out in a coffee shop, where you meet someone who offers you an exciting new job opportunity. In the other scenario, you get off the train at your usual stop and remain where you are for the next 10 years. Yawn.
Website home pages are kind of like those two scenarios. A weak home page is the marketing equivalent of a shut door, and you miss the chance at a great prospect or conversion. Forever. A killer home page, on the other hand, will open all kinds of doors and invite a whole new world of possibilities into your company.
Not only is your home page that critical, and only, chance to make a first impression, it’s also the oldest, most advertised URL on your site with the most accumulated inbound links and direct visits.
So how do you get a killer home page? It’s not easy, let’s start with that.
PRE-FAB IS NOT FAB
Sure, there are all kinds of pre-fabricated web templates out there that will cost you little at first and, very likely, a lot in the end. In addition to being insufferably generic, cookie cutter websites are highly susceptible to hackers, spammers and myriad security issues. They are also frustratingly restrictive in that they do not, cannot, consider your individual needs because they have no customization abilities, unless you’re willing to pay a lot for new code or wrangle with it yourself. Ugh.
Plain and simple, a custom website designed by a professional working with your company and tending to your needs – and yours alone – is vital to a successful business gateway.
8 ESSENTIALS OF A KILLER HOME PAGE
Here are some non-negotiables that every website, particularly its home page, must possess to attract visitors and get them to stay more than three seconds. (Three seconds is the lowest bar, of course; you want visitors to stick around for hours and return time and again.)
• Curb appeal: First and foremost, your home page must create a positive emotional response in visitors. A clean, uncluttered layout, compelling graphics reflective of who you really are, and digestible copy that is well-written, easily understood, convincing, and engaging – all at once – will capture consumers psychologically and inspire them to explore your site further.
• Clear value proposition: What does your business do for customers that others do not? This question must be answered immediately, succinctly, and without hyperbole. A web-skilled marketing team can help you identify exactly what differentiates you in the marketplace and most benefits your target audience.
• Orderly navigation: Nothing is more aggravating for visitors than hunting and pecking for answers on your site, and they’re likely to give up trying. Your marketing experts can help you anticipate your audiences’ needs and determine which menu options belong on the home page and how best to organize them upfront and sub-categorically throughout your site.
• Calls-to-action: Steer your visitors in what to do on your site with clear calls-to-action on the home page, whether it is to contact you, schedule a tour, view your pricing, etc.
• Blog: Blogs build trust in your brand in a way that other marketing communications cannot. They don’t push a sale; rather, they offer information that is meaningful to visitors in some way, whether or not they ever engage in a purchase. If your company has a blog – and it should – put it on your home page, where it can’t be missed. Your marketing team can help you develop and create the right content for your blog.
• Content offers: Like blogs, content offers of an e-book, white paper or supplementary resources answer questions or solve problems for consumers without directly leading them to a sale. They build trust and foster connections that are indelibly associated with your company, laying the groundwork for future interaction with you.
• Testimonials or social proof: Leverage existing clients’ positive experiences with your company with a few outstanding testimonials on your home page. Include any social media icons, too, so that visitors can follow you and see further evidence of customer satisfaction.
• Promising images: Quite literally, icons and images can convey your company’s promises to consumers and should appear on your home page. In addition, trust builders such as star ratings, business accreditations and special awards should be prominently displayed in graphic format. Your marketing experts can create icons and images tailor-made to your unique company pledges.
The right marketing team can take your home page from “never had a chance” to broad new horizons you might never have known.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
How To Create Your Online Newsroom
Sample online newsroom courtesy of Press-Feed.
Nearly 80% of people access an organization’s website before engaging further with a company. The numbers are even higher for media journalists and producers.
In a Norman/Nielson Study, over 99% of journalists and producers search your website first, before calling you, asking for quotes to include in their aritcles or publishing your press releases. Not only are journalists seriously time crunched, they have been very direct and specific about the way they want to be able to gain initial access and information about your organizaiton — through your website, according to Sally Falkow, president of Press-Feed.
From your home or landing page,media and other people wanting to know about your organization, its leadership, mission, position, etc. should be able to access your online newsroom. Press-Feed has designed a news room that looks and feels like your website but allows the media,customers and prospects to access the background, facts, news and philosophical informaiton about our organization from a single page.
Your news room should have these individual sections accessible from the news page in an easily readable format:
Media Contact Information with the name, all phone numbers and email addresss with the best times to readh the contact, if needed.
Current Articles prominently displayed with complete facts in bullet points:
- Quotes from outside the organization pertaining to the article subject (including contact information so comments can be verified)
- Photos pertaining to the aritcle subject
- Video (if possible and appropriate) pertai8ning to the aritcle subject
A full background of your organization in bullet points:
- Date established
- Address of the main headquarters and business extensions
- Comapny affiliations
- Governing structure
- Organizational management (at least names, photos and contact information for the Executive Committee)
- Board of Directors (names, company names, email addresses)
Photos that define your services and graphics that can be downloaded, such as your logo
Who You Serve
- By industry
- By geography
- By demographics
- Any other relevant identifier
A list of your articles and White Papers
- Possible video of the CEO talking about the industry and hos his-her organization is making a difference