Technology and product designs tend to become more diverse over time. For example, 20 years after Henry Ford focused his production on the Model T and said customers could "have one in any color, as long as it's black." Auto makers today offer hundreds of model choices in all sizes, colors, shapes, and price ranges.
And two decades after most service station beverage coolers began stocking a handful of popular beverage brands, the selection exploded to include bottled water (often in multiple sizes and brands), flavored water, fruit juices, energy drinks, chilled coffee concoctions, and more.
But after more than 20 years of business website design, most brands and agencies (particularly in the B2B space) seem to have converged on an almost-uniform standard—boring, uninspired, templated, and unoriginal.
How to Be Boring (But Safe)
Most business websites today follow, closely at least, the same predictable design approach. The wireframe of far too many B2B website home pages (Go ahead, pause briefly from reading this to check out a dozen or so websites, then come back—I’ll wait.) looks very much like this:
There's the standard navigation bar across the top - which is horrible for SEO, by the way, since the text used in navigation links matters. How many people will ever find your site searching for "Products"?
Of course, there's some room for variation here: SaaS companies will usually include "Pricing" as main menu item, while vendors of more complex and expensive offerings will substitute "Services" in that slot. Edgy.
There's the requisite large header image, most commonly a stock photo with no distinctive relevance to the business.
There's the validation of customer quotes and logos. There's the three or six or nine feature call-outs.
And there is the color blue. So much blue. Ever wonder why blue is the most popular color on the web?
The allure of this approach is safety. It's tried and true. There's no risk of confusing or challenging site visitors. And design committees love it--its blandness and commonness make reaching consensus easy. Plus, it's cheap. There are lots of such templates available.
The problem is: if your website looks like every other website in your market space, why should prospective customers believe your company, or your offerings, are really any different?
How to Stand Out (and Ultimately Win)
Most people—marketing professionals especially—understand the value of being different. Apple. Elon Musk. Richard Branson. Lady Gaga. And that ground-breaking national leader Desmond Tutu. None became successful by blending in.
Neither did V3*Broadsuite. Notice our home page defies many of the conventions detailed above.
Your product, or service, or idea, isn't a commodity. It's distinctive. It offers your prospective customers unique value. Your website should reflect that.
Here are seven ways to make your home page and website design as individual as your brand.
- Use descriptive navigation. As noted above, nobody searches for "products." Make your menu buttons match your specific products and services. "Mobile Phone Accessories," "Residential Plumbing Services," "Enterprise Event Software"—whatever it is you sell, precisely.
- Seek inspiration. Check out design-oriented websites like Creative Bloq and Web Design Ledger for new ideas, trends, and concepts.
- Utilize original photos. On how many websites have you seen the same picture of the smiling young woman wearing the headset, on the Customer Service page? You've probably lost count. And you know she's a model who's never answered a customer support call in her life. Instead of using the same mock-worthy stock photos as every other website, hire a professional photographer to take shots of your facilities, people, and products. No other website will have your unique images.
- Add an interactive diagram. If you must have a large header image on your home page, do something different with it; a collage, original imagery, short video, or an interactive diagram created with a tool like ThingLink.
- Get creative with design elements. Investigate web design sites to experiment with different patterns, web fonts, and icon sets. And play with colors other than blue.
- Revisualize your home page. Add a background video from a site like Coverr.
- Be clear and compelling. Along with the same home page layout, stock photos, and heavy use of the color blue, another all-too-common website element is marketing-speak. Everyone offers "innovative solutions" to "streamline workflow" and "optimize processes." Ugh. An incredibly valuable way to differentiate your site is simply to write in plain English. Concisely describe right up front what you sell, who you sell it to, and why you're the best. That simplicity alone will set you apart, and compel site visitors to want to explore further—even (or especially) if your home page doesn't look like every other one they've seen.
So, ditch the committee. Don't be so blue. Design a website with your prospective customers in mind, first and foremost, but also one as distinct as your brand, culture, and offerings. Make your site the one in a million that stands out, instead of just another one of a million that blends in.