Jun 16, 2015

Extreme Makeover: B2B Web Optimization Techniques

Three B2B Website Optimization TechniquesIn a 2006 study by Nielson Norman Business to Business websites were noted for having “user-hostile organization,” “lead killing forms,” and just overall bad web optimization. Seven years later and one would venture a guess that B2B sites would have all the right answers by now … right?

Wrong … many B2B sites still struggle with on page optimization problems and serve up sites that make sense to the business, but not their real audience  their customers.

While B2B websites should ideally be laying out easily digestible info on product and pricing, sites instead have morphed into information minefields that serve mainly to overwhelm and confuse their users.

But it doesn’t have to be that way … adopt these three web optimization techniques and put your site back on track.

Minimalist: Why Less is More

We’ve all been there, that fruitless game of Marco Polo as you struggle to find out which pages on a company’s site are the ones that hold the information you need. Sifting through a site directory that has more layers than the plot of “Inception,” you take note of the gaudy buttons and menus that serve more to confuse than provide.

The minimalist style of flat design aims to fix that by presenting information with a cleaner and simpler look. While the flat design style has become famous for flattening icons and its simple color schemes, it’s the mantra of simplifying and doing more with less that has revolutionized how sites are laid out.

Take this example of payment processor Square’s homepage.

It answers who, what, and why immediately and includes a clear Call to Action right away. Anything non-essential has been relocated to a bottom nav-bar. Simply put, a minimalist approach like Square’s makes it easy for users and cures analysis paralysis.

Why does it matter and how do I do it?

Time and money are the two most important factors for people in B2B. A great minimalist site can convey information fast and most importantly improve your ROI. If your site needs a little spring cleaning it may be time to do go back to the drawing board. Use tactics like card-sorting and site map diagrams to see what’s absolutely essential to your site.

Navigate the Seven Seas

So you’ve cleaned up your site and organized your digital space that even a Zen master like Phil Jackson can appreciate. Like any budding DIYer you take your site out for a test drive and quickly run into a problem. Sure your site looks a little cleaner but it’s still just as hard to use! As you wear out the scroll wheel on your mouse and your eyes glaze over waiting for another page to load you contemplate if there’s a better way to do it.

Luckily there is with the help of one page layouts and new navigation tools. One page layouts allow information to be placed on a page that doesn’t need constact refreshing or new tabs. When a user wants to reach a relevant part of the page they can click a button that quickly jumps them to where the content is.

Take this example of Avnet’s AMP microsite. Its fixed header bar and single page layout allow users to navigate a page without ever leaving the page or having to scroll.

Why does it matter and how do I do it?

A single page layout with great navigational tools make it easy for users to get to the content that matters without the busywork and loading times. You also don’t have to be a web design guru to add these nifty tools to your website. If your site is built through WordPress you can quickly implement these ideas via themes with a fixed header and a single page.

A new way to drive – Responsive B2B WebSite Design (RWD)

Finally the finishing touches are applied and now it’s prime time for your spruced up site. As you shake your tablet awake and open your mobile browser you feel something amiss. Nestled on your screen are the first two letters of your header that only a dramatic zoom can fix. What’s perfectly scaled and up to size on your 17 inch desktop is a nightmare on anything different.

Thankfully there’s a solution in the form of a responsive web layout. While responsive web layouts aren’t groundbreaking in the digital arena many B2B sites still anchor on a dedicated mobile site.

Dedicated mobile sites worked great in the past where there were fewer tablets and smartphones, but nowadays the torrent of new products in the market has made that path less attractive. Enter the RWD, which controls how your site displays depending on a device’s width and height. RWD makes percentage-based calculations, so that your site will lay out beautifully whether on a 42” screen or a 5” smartphone.

But it’s much more fun to show and not just tell. To see how RWD works check out these two stellar examples of Microsoft and Disney on your computer. Just use Control + and Control  to see how these sites would look on bigger and smaller devices.

Why does it matter and how do I do it?

There are clear advantages to controlling one central responsive layout then multiple platform oriented sites. With a responsive layout a user will see the same thing no matter what device he views your site on. Not only is a RWD more consistent, but it’s also easier to manage as you can control changes through one central hub instead of having to make changes for each device. Like the previous WordPress navigation tools, RWD’s can also be implemented through various themes, as well as widgets that can be inserted into existing layouts.

These web optimization techniques are a good start to crafting a high ranking, conversion-friendly B2B website. However, at the end of the day, it’s of utmost importance that the site your creating is one that serves the needs of your customers.

Image Credit: Square, Avnet Technology Solutions Cisco Division

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