The automotive industry has successfully repurposed its product designs by offering a wide variety of models in all shapes, sizes, colors, and price ranges, as opposed to the limited options available during Henry Ford’s era when the Model T dominated the market.
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:
The use of a standard navigation bar at the top of a website can negatively impact its SEO since the text used in navigation links is an important factor. It is unlikely that many individuals will discover a website by searching for generic terms such as “Products.”
When designing a website, it’s important to consider search engine optimization (SEO) and how the website’s design can impact its visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs). One common design element used on many websites is a standard navigation bar located at the top of the page. This navigation bar typically contains links to different pages or sections of the website, and it’s meant to help visitors easily navigate the site.
Of course, there’s some room for variation here: SaaS companies will usually include “Pricing” as the 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?
This approach is appealing due to its emphasis on safety, as it has been tested and proven. It eliminates the risk of perplexing or confronting site visitors and is well-liked by design committees for its simplicity and universality, which facilitates reaching a consensus. Additionally, it is an economical option, as there are numerous templates available for use.
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?
It’s important to keep this in mind when designing a website’s navigation and to use descriptive, unique, and relevant terms in navigation links to improve the website’s SEO and increase its visibility in search engine results pages.
How to Stand Out (and Ultimately Win)?
The majority of individuals, particularly marketing professionals, acknowledge the importance of standing out from the crowd, as exemplified by renowned figures such as Apple, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Lady Gaga, and pioneering national leader Desmond Tutu, none of whom achieved success by conforming to the norm.
Every product, service, or idea has something unique to offer to its prospective customers. This uniqueness could be in the form of a unique selling point (USP), a feature or benefit that sets it apart from competitors, or simply a different approach to solving a problem. It’s important to highlight this distinctiveness in all aspects of the product, including the website.
Here are seven ways to make your home page and website design as individual as your brand.
1. Seek inspiration. Check out design-oriented websites like Creative Bloq and Web Design Ledger for new ideas, trends, and concepts.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. Revisualize your home page. Add a background video from a site like Coverr.
7. 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.
Avoid relying on a committee and adopt a more positive outlook. Instead, create a website package that caters primarily to your target audience and reflects your brand, culture, and services. Strive to make your site unique and one-of-a-kind, standing out from the rest of the multitude of websites rather than just blending in.