Effective B2B website design brings the right traffic to your business website, engages visitors with informative content that keeps them on your site longer and keeps them coming back and, ultimately, converts visitors to leads and leads to sales. The key to highly converting B2B web design is that it must integrate your whole sales and marketing process.
The difference between a website built for B2B customers and one for retail consumers is in the online customer journey, the time to conversion and large customer investment. The B2B customer journey is longer and more involved. An effective B2B website guides that journey along every touchpoint.
Even in today’s world of self-serve online shopping, with modern B2B buyers performing their own research and making decisions before ever reaching out to a salesperson, a B2B website isn’t just a self-service portal. Very rarely in B2B sales are you providing self-help or ecommerce buying. Rather, your website is a tool that nurtures prospects and propels them through the sales funnel.
According to Robert Lyman, Elevation’s Director of Digital Marketing, “If a potential customer hits your home page, it’s a failure. Website visitors should be hitting a landing page that is focused and informed and that reinforces the original reason they linked to your site. This means that your B2B marketing efforts must align with your website and drive prospects to relevant information. Once they are on your site, the focused content on your landing page will drive the intentful actions that will move the prospect to an MQL or SQL.”
In this article, we explain how to create an integrated B2B website, all the moving pieces involved in your project, the best practices to follow, common mistakes to avoid, and what to expect from the B2B marketing agency working on your site design. Let’s jump into it.
The benefits of redesigning your B2B website
A web design isn’t a one-and-done project that, once complete, simply requires content updates and routine maintenance. Instead, an effective B2B business website will evolve with business strategy, market trends and technology updates. A website redesign allows you to address functionality issues, improve the user experience and rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs). The redesign is the most common website design.
But many larger B2B companies often have need for brand new websites such as when they spin off a business unit into its own standalone company. This has unique design challenges requiring the balancing of the old brand with the new brand. In this case, a completely new site is built from scratch.
Either way, new or redesign the following design process will help you develop and deploy a site that helps you meet your overall business goals.
The B2B website design process
Step 1: Discovery for website design
The first step in planning B2B websites is understanding your business and your site requirements.
If you’ve requested a website design estimate from a marketing or web design firm, they will ask you to fill out a website discovery questionnaire, which will provide crucial information about your business, your site and the scope of the project.
Even if your project is done in-house, you should know the answers to the following questions:
- What are your website goals? What does success look like?
- What are your overall business objectives?
- What strategies are you currently using?
- Who is your target audience? Have you developed personas?
- Who are your competitors?
- What differentiates your products/services from those of your competitors?
- Can you provide examples with features and functionalities you like?
- What are your current online challenges? Sales and marketing challenges?
- What are your security needs?
- What functionalities are required or desired?
- Where will the content come from (migrated or new content)?
- What information/content do you want to emphasize?
- Do you have personas, a messaging matrix or value proposition, a style guide, brand guidelines, etc.?
- Do you have data from a recent site audit, competitor or market research?
- What technologies must be integrated (i.e. platforms, plugins, logins)?
- What are your hosting preferences/requirements?
- What are your SEO goals? What tools do you use?
- What other tools do you use?
- What are your KPIs: page speed, bounce rate, time on site, conversion data, where traffic comes from, etc.?
The answers to your discovery questions will inform the next step your marketing team needs to take. After they understand the scope of the project, you will most likely get a quote from a marketing or web development company.
Step 2: Research and audits for B2B web design
After the discovery phase, research is the next step in your website design or redesign. A marketing agency typically proceeds with this phase after you’ve agreed on the scope of the project and have signed a contract or statement of work (SOW).
Before a B2B organization begins a website development project, you must know how to reach potential customers, and once you reach them, where to drive them. The research phase helps you understand where your brand stands in relation to your competitors and your online strengths and weaknesses. This research is crucial in developing your new site because it informs your online business strategy moving forward. The research phase includes:
- Qualitative research. Qualitative research observes, analyzes and helps to understand how users interact with your site. It also includes user experience and CRO audits.
As part of the research phase, online audits evaluate the functionality of your current site, what your audience cares most about, what metrics you need to monitor, etc. Audits determine where websites are lagging in strategy and provide clear opportunities for improvement. Some of the tools marketing companies use to perform these online audits include: AHRefs or SEMRush, Mention, HotJar, Google Search Console, Google Tags Manager, Google Analytics, etc. Your website audits should include:
- Keyword audit. This audit shows what terms your site currently ranks for, what your competitors rank for, and how your ad campaigns are performing. It uses keyword research and data analytics to help determine what keywords drive organic search traffic to your site and what keywords drive traffic to your competitors’ sites. A keyword audit tells you what your target audience is searching for and will help inform your keyword and content strategies.
- SEO audit. This audit demonstrates your existing site’s organic search performance, the quantity and quality of backlinks, how well your site adheres to best practices, your authority score, and what measurements are critical to optimizing your performance. It will help determine your website SEO and backlinking strategy.
- UX audit. A user experience (UX) audit evaluates the usability of your user interface (UI) to determine navigation and functionality issues and understand why your customers take the actions they do. This audit provides hard data that will explain your conversion rates, customer onboarding and your retention rates. A UX audit will shape your web design action plan.
- CRO audit. Conversion rate optimization (CRO) audits assess B2B websites in terms of conversions. Depending on your B2B business, a conversion may be a lead generation form, a download, a newsletter signup or a purchase. This audit reveals areas for improvement in terms of missed opportunities for conversion optimization, areas where users get confused or frustrated and functionality issues that affect conversions.
- Content audit. This high-level analysis reviews the content you have on your site to determine editorial tone, quality and reader perception. A content audit will identify misdirection and gaps in communication and areas where content strays from best practices. A content audit will also decide a content strategy to help you meet your business goals.
- PR audit. A public relations (PR) audit analyzes the internal and external online presence of a brand. It will measure the quality and quantity of conversations being held by and about your brand, messaging consistency and brand vulnerabilities. This audit will help influence your proactive and reactive PR strategy.
- Tech audit. Your marketing team will evaluate the tools, platforms, plugins and tech integrations you use across your site to identify redundancies, inadequacies, tools that encumber your site speed and determine what technologies you need to remove, add or carry into the new design.
Step 3: B2B website strategy
The information obtained from the research and audits phase will inform your website strategy. If you’ve hired a marketing agency you will typically meet to discuss findings and recommendations, which will inform your website strategy.
“Based on the audit, we’ll recommend a strategy for your site design. We’ll provide an overview of your audience, message, design style, functionality, customer journey, technology integrations and any issues. We’ll explain the direction we think you should go and why.”
Your website strategy should include:
- SEO strategy. This strategy organizes your web content by subject so that your pages rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs). It uses quality backlinks to boost your site authority, which will also increase the likelihood of appearing in search results. An effective SEO strategy increases organic traffic, driving your target audience to your website.
- Keyword strategy. Your keyword strategy supports your overall SEO strategy by identifying the keywords your target audience is searching for and understanding the intent behind those keyword searches, then developing relevant content that focuses on both the keywords and the intent.
- UX strategy. An effective user experience (UX) strategy creates a quality experience at every touchpoint along the customer journey. It aligns the user experience with your brand’s overall online goals and business objectives. This strategy integrates with your overall marketing strategy, by driving organic and paid traffic to informative or actionable content. It also informs the user interface design, navigation and functionalities of your site.
- Content strategy. Your audit findings will help inform a content strategy that drives your target audience to take the desired action. This means providing the information on your website that your audience wants to read. Your content strategy will help you to develop content that addresses your customers’ pain points with an effective solution. It provides a plan to communicate clearly in terms your target audience can understand.
- CRO strategy. A conversion rate optimization (CRO) strategy uses the findings from your CRO audit to identify and remove obstacles to conversion and optimize web pages to increase conversions. This strategy is your online plan to push potential customers through the funnel. It nurtures prospects from the initial touch to marketing qualified leads (MQL) to sales qualified leads (SQL) to buying customer. A conversion optimization strategy integrates your digital ads, email campaigns, thought leadership content, lead generation assets, etc. with your site.
- PR strategy. The goal of a PR strategy is to build brand awareness and improve your brand image. It is a plan to increase publicity across industry-relevant media outlets, publications and social media channels. Effective PR introduces your brand to your target audience, builds trust and authority in your targeted industry and drives traffic to your site.
Understanding technology recommendations
Because your website strategy must work together with your online marketing strategy, your site must integrate with your marketing technology (martech) stack, your customer relations management (CMR) platforms (i.e., HubSpot, Salesforce) and if applicable, your document management system and ecommerce platform.
“A cohesive strategy carries the B2B site through architecture, design, copy, and down to CTAs, imagery and page interaction. So, in the end we have a site that’s set up to make impactful measurements, and to communicate and integrate with martech stacks as part of the customer journey—it’s the integral piece that drives success.”
Your developers may recommend content management systems, hosting platforms, a martech stack and other applications that best integrate with your technologies. The software applications and platforms your site uses are typically not included in the cost paid to the developer to build your website since they are often subscriptions other services that your company will want to manage. These technology costs vary depending on your needs or requirements and may be renewable annually.
Step 4: Structure development for B2B web design
After you’ve agreed on a website strategy, your web development team will draft the structure for your site. Structure development defines which information and pages are most important. It is an actionable part of your user experience and SEO strategies. It includes your information architecture, site map and wireframes. Let’s discuss what each of those structural pieces involve.
Information architecture. Your information architecture (IA) organizes and labels content in an effective and user-friendly way that help visitors find information and take action. This includes how you classify, structure, and provide information and how you set up navigation and searchability.
Site map. A site map is a list of web pages. It identifies all your different types of pages, the top-level navigation and where information sits on the page. Your sitemap may be organized into a flowchart that demonstrates how pages interact with one another.
Wireframes. A wireframe is a pre-design layout of your web pages. It shows a skeleton of the site and where content and images sit on the page and determines functionality of the user interface. A wireframe is the intermediate step that communicates the information architecture to your graphic designers. Wireframe layouts typically include navigation and several different types of pages: the home page, top-level pages, secondary pages, product pages, etc.
Step 5: Web design content migration or development
After you’ve agreed on your site structure, the next step is to gather content for each page. Vital to this step is knowing whether you’ll be developing new content or migrating old content. Let’s discuss the difference between the two.
Content migration. Content migration is the process of copying content from your old site to your new site. Content migration may include proofing for grammatical or style issues or it may involve a copyedit or minor rewrite.
Content development. Your content may require a full rewrite if it doesn’t adhere to SEO best practices, your content strategy, your messaging matrix, etc.
Step 6: B2B website visual design
Occasionally, content and design can be created at the same time, but typically content will drive design. For this reason, it’s standard for the visual design to begin after content is approved. Visual design includes:
- Mood boards. The first stage of the visual design is the creation of mood boards. A mood board is a digital collection of inspirational elements that aligns with your brand guidelines to set a direction for the overall aesthetic for your design. This may include imagery, icons, colors, fonts, videos, etc.
- The next stage of the visual design is the creation of the site mockup, which will be based on the approved wireframe, content and mood board. A design mockup is a non-functional static design of key pages. Your developers will typically provide two home page concepts to pick from. After your home page concept has been fully approved, you will receive one visual concept for a top-level page, a secondary page, a product page, navigation, etc. Visual design is not a mockup of each page in the entire site. Rather, it provides a template that defines the look and feel of each type of page.
Step 7: B2B website development
Development. Once your design is fully approved, development can begin. Website development is the technical side of your project. Web developers will program or code your new site to recreate the look and feel of your website design, with all the features and functionalities, incorporating the content and design elements on each page. This takes place in a dev environment, which is a workspace where developers can build out your new site without breaking your existing site.
Development includes creating contact us forms, newsletter signups and lead generation forms. It also includes integrating the required technologies such as CRMs, ERPs, ecommerce, connecting backend member or customer platforms, and any additional software integrations. How long web development takes depends on the complexity of your site.
Content freeze. Toward the end of the development period, there will be a period of approximately two weeks when you should not add or update content to your current site. Whether you’re migrating or developing new content, the content freeze ensures that all the content that has gone into your new site is the most current and nothing has been missed.
Testing. Once the site is developed and approved, the site will be launched in a test environment. The test environment is used for regression testing, which evaluates the software applications to ensure changes won’t break your site functionalities. Users may also test the site to ensure required functionalities. This is also the optimal environment to have a customer focus group test the website to evaluate the new user experience. This is the time when minor changes might be made to optimize the overall design and functionality of your site.
Launching. Once fully approved your website will be launched, at which time your new site becomes live.
Post-launch support. Your developers will typically provide post-launch support. Post-launch support can include performing updates, patches and fixes for your platforms or templates and troubleshooting functionality issues after your site goes live. It does not include changes or additions to design, content or functional elements. Post-launch support may be provided as a maintenance agreement that is free 60-90 days, then charged and renewed annually.
Best practices for B2B website design
Some of the best practices in developing a B2B website that meets your goals and objectives include:
Mobile-first design. Many B2B agencies make the mistake of thinking their business prospects are all researching and shopping for business products and services from a desktop in the office, and therefore a responsive design isn’t necessary. That’s simply not true. A robust marketing strategy means that you are nurturing prospects and contacting customers via email campaigns, targeted ads, and social media posts, which they are likely to see on their handheld devices. And those campaigns drive traffic to your site, which must be mobile optimized, or your prospect likely will not return. In terms of SEO, Google penalizes sites that aren’t optimized for handheld devices.
Accessibility. As well as being accessible on handheld devices, sites that incorporate accessibility best practices rank better in search results. This includes the use of alt-tags and proper page hierarchy, which means nesting headings and content appropriately and providing content in logical reading order.
Home page. An effective home page immediately informs visitors what services or products you provide, to whom, why they should buy, and how. Home page content should be clear and concise, and provide the following:
- What your company sells
- The benefits your service or product offers
- The industries your company serves
- Social proof, data points or testimonials
- A clear call to action (CTA)
- Intuitive navigation
About Us page. The About Us page is where visitors go to learn why they should invest in your brand. But it’s not just a place to talk about your company. It’s an opportunity to tell your brand story, what makes your company unique and what is important to your company, talk about your team and what’s happening behind the scenes. Your About Us page is also a good place to acknowledge your compliance with required certifications, additional certifications and licenses, industry awards and memberships, innovations, etc.
Blogs. Blogs boost your SEO when you provide trusted, expert content that answers the questions your audience is searching for. But keyword optimized content isn’t the only way to use blogs. They’re also an opportunity to provide thought leadership content that nurtures prospects and customers throughout the customer journey. B2B websites use blogs to provide trusted expert information that builds trust in your prospects and eventually converts prospects into leads and leads into sales. The key to effective blogging for B2B organizations is to use metrics that help you understand what prospects are doing and what they are reading so you can nurture them along their journey. When developing your blog, consider:
- Use an easy-to-read font style and size
- Do not turn on comments unless you have a moderator and a strategy for engagement
- Limit sidebar links to those that are most valuable to your audience
- Create pillar blog posts that work in conjunction with your sales pages, targeting similar keywords to capturing informational visitors rather than transactional visitors
- Not every blog post will have a CTA – use where appropriate
- Include social share buttons to get more traction from your posts
Lead gen forms. Your lead gen form is one of the most important aspects of your B2B website design. For a lead gen form to convert, it must be short, only asking for the information you require. Optimal places for lead gen forms include:
- Site-wide header
- Sidebar of a sales page
- A button or form on your Home page
- Blog sidebar
- Link within sales page content
- Gated assets
Other important elements to include in your B2B website design:
- Effective CTAs. A call-to-action (CTA) is only effective if it is visible, enticing and clearly communicates what the user is agreeing to. This means using an eye-catching design and proper placement above and below the fold. CTA language should be simple and direct.
- Attractive design and intuitive navigation. Effective visual design for a B2B website is clean, appealing and easily navigated. Visual elements are easily understood, relatable to your target audience and appropriate to the context of the page.
- GDPR and CCPA compliance. Any business that collects information from visitors in the European Union (EU) or California must adhere to their data privacy laws—even if you don’t sell to those locations.
- News or media section. Use this section to discuss your company news and achievements. This section may include press releases. Do not put this information into your blog.
- Don’t forget to link to important sales enablement assets, which provide important information to customers in the middle of the sales funnel. Whether or not you choose to gate your assets depends on their respective best uses for your prospects and your business. How will the asset be provided–is it an immediate download or an email? How will the prospect be contacted? Important assets for your B2B organization to provide on your site include:
- Product specs
- Installation or configuration processes
- Case studies
Common mistakes in web design for B2B
Building a siloed website. Underestimating the role and importance of your website across the whole channel strategy – what it should do, how much to budget towards it and how long it will take – decreases its value. If you build a website that looks great and provides information to your prospects, but doesn’t tie into your marketing strategy, you won’t get optimal usage out of it.
Lacking differentiation. Ensure your new site clearly defines what makes your company different from your competitors, so prospects understand quickly why they should buy from you.
Gating your best content. Gated content should be considered paid content. Visitors are paying for gated content with their personal information – which is at a premium these days – and therefore it must be worth the price. Never put content behind a form that is essential to moving the prospect forward. Assets that visitors may be willing to exchange their personal information for include infographics, how-to videos, informational eBooks, etc.
We-centric content. One of the biggest missteps a B2B organization can make is writing company-centric content. Content should speak to your target audience, their pain points and their goals, and provide a solution.
Too many plugins. Plugins pose a security risk. The more plugins, the larger the security risk, the more potential for functionality issues, update issues, integration issues. They also slow down page speed and slow-loading pages not only lose prospects but rank lower in search results. All this is to say, you need to be thoughtful in what plugins you choose.
Not accounting for seasonality. For obvious reasons, your B2B website design shouldn’t occur during your busy season, nor should you launch a new website right before or during a busy season. Instead, a new website should be launched during a seasonally slow period to help staff and customers adjust to the new interface and ensure business doesn’t stop during post-launch adjustments.
Neglecting your quality score. Quality score is the ranking factor that determines whether a landing page is relevant to an online ad. When content is irrelevant to an ad, it receives a low quality score and probably won’t be shown because it’s not considered relevant to the user. Prevent low quality scores by keeping landing pages in context to the ads they’re supporting.
Breaking your existing SEO. When done strategically, B2B website design can improve keyword rankings in search results. However, if you don’t carefully map any redirects and incorporate high-ranking keywords into your new website, you can break your existing SEO.
Using sliders. Sliders or carousels are one of the fastest ways to ruin your new website. They damage SEO and wreck a quality user experience. Putting valuable links or messages in a slider assures that they will be undetectable to the visitor.
B2B website design challenges and opportunities by industry
Overall, the differences between industry websites come into play not across the different industries but in what you’re trying to accomplish, your technical requirements, who your audience is and what your website goals are. The following list provides tips to differentiate your website within your industry.
- Agriculture is the perfect industry to mix the past and the future, describe the family business, new technologies and sustainability efforts. It is a unique industry that facilitates spectacular photos and videos. Other industries that facilitate spectacular product photography and videos include the real estate, construction services and food and beverage
- Manufacturing and industrial businesses have opportunities to shoot behind the scenes videos including videos of use cases and to discuss innovations. If your business is required by law to provide safety data sheets (SDS) or if you provide technical sheets, it’s easy to keep these documents up to date on your website and eliminate redundancies by integrating your document management system (DMS).
- Energy, oil and gas businesses have unique big data, cloud computing, and collaboration requirements for integration. Bring stakeholders together early in the development process to ensure all parties will have their requirements met.
- Whether your wholesale or distributor products can be purchased online or not, one of the fastest and most efficient ways to add products and update product specs on your website is by using an ecommerce platform and integrating your product database.
- Trucking and logistics have several needs specific to the industry. Features to include include a job board and carrier-specific content, an ordering and tracking portal, freight tracking and database integrations.
- For businesses in the highly competitive fintech industry to get the competitive advantage, their website must be their differentiator. Any business that provides technology services must back their expertise with a superior website.
- Websites for healthcare and banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) businesses must comply with data protection laws. This includes how and where they’re hosted, data privacy and security. If your site has special security needs, a closed-source content management system may be a better choice than an open-source system, which is more susceptible to hacking.
- Edtech and educational services must provide instant and easy access to the best tools, techniques and methods. Businesses in the edtech industry have the unique opportunity to use thought leadership to weigh in on the latest trends, regulations and technologies.
Know what to look for in an experienced B2B website design agency
The most successful B2B marketing agency for your web design or redesign will:
- Have B2B marketing experience
- Have a strong understanding of your industry and sales cycle
- Have a thorough web discovery, research and audit process
- Have an integrated online marketing strategy
- Request access to your marketing tools, data, analytics, etc.
- Request copies of your messaging matrix, personas, style guide, brand guidelines, and any recent market research and audits
- Know how to integrate your needed applications and technologies
Most importantly, a marketing agency that will create an effective website for your business will have an overall strategy to integrate the best B2B website design with your overall sales and marketing strategy, tying every touchpoint to nurturing content to guide the customer journey from initial touchpoint to marketing qualified lead to sales qualified lead to customer.