As a startup or small business, your website is the first impression any potential buyer will have of your business. Therefore, it is vitally important you make it a good one. These B2B website design best practices for startups and small businesses will reduce your bounce rate and increase the conversion rate of web traffic to leads.
Back in July 2006, a couple of Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov ran a series of experiments with the conclusion that you only have 1/10th of a second to make a good first impression when you first meet someone.
That really isn’t very long.
To put that into context, a single blink takes 3 times longer.
However, with a website, you have a whole 7 seconds to make a good first impression!
Designing a website to sell to other businesses (B2B) is vastly different to designing one for consumers (B2C).
With B2C you are convincing people to buy a product immediately but with B2B, the sales cycle generally can be anything from 6 to 18 months.
It’s for this reason, a B2B website needs to:
- constantly attract new prospects to your site
- satisfy the prospects’ buying needs
- direct the prospect through the online sales funnel
How to design a great B2B website for the first 7 seconds
Just like people, your website needs to make a good first impression and you only have seven seconds to do it before your potential buyer moves on to another website.
So those first seven seconds are critical in grabbing the attention and impressing the prospect.
Understand your customer
Before you can begin the design of your B2B website you need to understand exactly what your customer wants and then work out how to present it to them. Therefore, doing market research on some of your most successful competitors is a great way to get to know your competition better.
As a best practice always check out the design and layout of their B2B website and see how their online sales funnel is structured to generate leads.
Once you know the buyer’s journey you need to design it better than your competitors.
Design the B2B website to be a Virtual Salesperson
If you were looking to buy a brand new Tesla, would you enter a car dealership that had broken front windows and graffiti on the walls?
So how can you expect a prospect to buy your goods and services if your ‘shop front’ isn’t in good condition and inviting?
The design aesthetics of your B2B website are just as important as the content it contains. In fact, more so because even though you may have incredible content, if the user dislikes the look and feel of your website they may not take the time to stay and read it.
Here are some basic best practice recommendations for the design of a B2B website:
Make it a crisp, clean design
Busy B2B websites lose their appeal quickly whereas crisp clean designs with lots of white space are considered timeless.
They also look a lot more professional, are much easier to maintain and help search engines like Google to better analyse your site.
This will improve your overall page ranking for the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), and means you are more likely to be found.
Keep a consistent look and feel throughout
Consistency builds trust and reinforces your brand and its values. As a result, people will become familiar with your style and associate your brand with it as they navigate around your website.
Keep the use of images to a minimum
Images can really enhance the look and feel of a website. However, overuse can make it look cluttered and messy, losing the message you are trying to convey. Also, the more images you use, the greater the load time of your page.
Search Engines like Google will penalise you heavily for slow loading.
Therefore, as a best practice, always optimise your images to reduce the size of the image file and ultimately the loading time of your B2B website.
Tool Tip: I recommend using a free tool like kraken.io for optimising images.
Make it easy to read
The goal of a B2B website design is to sell your products and services to someone you probably have never met before, therefore use simple language terms. Also bear in mind, that the language your website is written in might not be the users’ first language.
The general rule of thumb is to keep it simple, stupid (KISS) when it comes to the text.
It may not come as much of a surprise, but readability also has an impact on your SERP ranking too.
The Flesch Reading Ease Score is a test designed to indicate how difficult it is to understand websites written in English.
A score of 100 is very easy to read and 0 is considered very difficult.
|90-100||very easy to read, easily understood by an average 11-year-old student|
|80-90||easy to read|
|70-80||fairly easy to read|
|60-70||easily understood by 13 to 15-year-old students|
|50-60||fairly difficult to read|
|30-50||difficult to read, best understood by college graduates|
|0-30||very difficult to read, best understood by university graduates|
Tool Tip: To measure the readability of text I highly recommend Yoast SEO. There is a small annual cost for this. However, it does manage the on-page SEO of your website as well as how easy it is to read.
Make it accessible via mobile devices
This basically means it’s considered best practice to have the design of your B2B website automatically adjust to different screen sizes.
This includes mobile, tablet and even the dreaded iPad Pro (designers call it the ‘dreaded iPadPro’ as its screen size sits somewhere between a tablet and a computer which makes it extremely challenging to code for).
Device Market Share Worldwide
Viewing content on mobiles is now the most popular device to consume content, and it is growing.
You need to design your B2B website where your customers are, so optimising it for mobile is an absolute best practice you just cannot ignore.
Did I mention SERP already? A site that is mobile responsive is looked on favourably by the search engine gods (Google, Microsoft…).
Keep the navigation simple
This sounds obvious. However, you’d be amazed at how the design of many B2B websites makes it difficult to find what you are looking for.
Good navigation takes the user to where they think they would like to go. However, a website with great navigation takes the user to where you want them to end up – a Call To Action (CTA).
This could be subscribing to your newsletter or downloading an eBook, but ultimately you want them to contact you to engage in a 1-to-1 conversation.
Basic tips for easy-to-use navigation
- Keep the top navigation to a maximum of 5 links – any more than this and the top navigation can look cluttered. If you have more than 5 links you want to include, think about how you can restructure them
- Use words that are simple and recognisable – including words like “About”, Services”, “Contact Us”, and “Pricing” are standard terms for the design of a B2B website. Replacing these with witty phrases may be cute but simple, recognisable words will guide the user better
- Keep the design responsive – what looks good on a desktop will appear differently on a tablet or mobile. For tablets and mobiles, it is always good to convert the navigation to a hamburger-style menu
- Always keep the About link in the top navigation – often people will put this in the footer as they don’t consider it that important. Actually, this page is essential in making a personal connection with the prospect and should be front and centre and always easily accessible
- Include a Call-To-Action – CTA’s are an essential digital marketing tool to generate inbound leads. It could be downloading an eBook, subscribing to a newsletter or booking a demo. Whatever your primary Call-To-Action this should be in the header navigation so it is always visible and accessible
- Don’t forget the footer – there is a lot of space you can leverage in the footer to make important information easily accessible. Repeating the top navigation links is a recommended best practice to avoid having to scroll up for a link. A company elevator pitch is also good to include as well as key pages or documents you want to highlight
The design of a B2B website should always be built with the intention of turning prospects into qualified leads.
How to design a great B2B website beyond the first 7 seconds
If the prospect is still on your website after 7 seconds.
That’s the first major hurdle overcome.
Now you need to explain why your products and services are right for them and why they should buy from you.
Define your uniqueness
You believe your product(s) and service(s) are the best right?
You need to explain that to the prospect clearly and succinctly.
Point out what makes you unique and why they should buy from you and not your competitors.
Nike for example really pushes the ‘technology that goes into the shoe to make it the best for the user’ as the main differentiator between them and their competition.
Our own brand Three Billboards has three points of uniqueness:
- Focus on working with startups and new small businesses
- Only work with 3 clients at any one time
- Use agile digital marketing services
Three distinct points of uniqueness are generally considered the limit for people to remember.
Add personality to your brand
As a startup or small business, you are at the early stages of developing your brand and its position in the market.
It’s therefore a great opportunity to inject a bit of personality into your website to reflect your company values.
This can establish long-term trust, and likewise loyalty, with your brand, something all businesses strive for.
Your ‘About’ page for example is a great place to express yourself and make a real connection with the prospect.
Include Quotes, Testimonials and Case Studies
Acquiring approval from any customer for a full case study in the first year of being in business is going to be difficult, as they need time to evaluate the success of your product(s) or service(s).
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try when the opportunity arises.
Case studies are extremely powerful influencers in the decision-making process, particularly when the case study relates to the prospects’ own business.
However, gathering quotes and testimonials should be fairly easy to do.
The more senior the title of the person providing the quote, the greater the credibility of your brand.
Don’t be afraid to include pricing
There has always been a big debate on whether you should include a pricing page on your B2B website.
For example, one side of the debate states by sharing prices:
- you are giving valuable information away to your competitors
- potential buyers could make a quick ill-informed decision
Subsequently, on the other side of the debate by not sharing your prices:
- makes it difficult to compare you with your competition
- potential buyers may assume you to be too expensive
The reality is both sides of the debate are actually correct.
You need to do a hybrid of both and include a pricing page but for enterprise-size packages leave it as a POA option (price on application).
Your website will ultimately attract a lot of traffic. However, those first seven seconds are critical in determining the behaviour and reaction of the prospect. And remember, you only have one opportunity to give a first impression.
Following these best practices for B2B website design, it will give your startup or small business the building blocks to create a great user experience, reduce your bounce rate and boost conversions.