Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
What did we do before websites? Do we even remember a time without them? Not likely. In 1992, there were ten websites online; fast forward 30 years, and there are roughly 1.14 billion made up of 50 billion individual web pages, with three new sites being created every second! That’s a lot of information and competition if you’re a brand or a business trying to get noticed online.
Today, the garden variety website is ubiquitous, with many of them indistinguishable from the next. But it’s still the number one tool brands and businesses have to share their value and vision with their best customers. For a franchise brand or business looking to grow, franchise website development is critical. Your website must be memorable, easy to navigate and SEO optimized. And that’s just the beginning.
What goes into high-functioning, hardworking franchise web design and development or a complimentary consumer website? Plenty — and it starts with understanding their primary purpose.
Shaking hands with a brand
A brand is a lot like a person. It is unique and has a personality. It has strengths and it has challenges. It appeals to some and disinterests others. So, how do you introduce your brand to the right people? How do you let them get to know it? The answer is your website.
A brand website’s primary purpose is to humanize it, to tell its story in a way that resonates with readers, to introduce the people behind it and to share its history and values enough so that a brand or business stops being what it sells and starts being why it does so. The best websites reiterate a brand’s purpose — the reason it exists — so that consumers or investors can identify with it, see themselves in it and therefore want to support it through purchases or by becoming part of it.
Humanizing a brand takes skill. Designers, writers, marketers and brand leaders must all collaborate to decide on the most important information and how it should be shared. Voice, tone, vocabulary and branding elements like colors, images, logos and slogans must all be considered and integrated, in a cohesive fashion, so that readers aren’t bored or confused, or worse, distrustful of what’s in front of them. Remember, your audience could be anywhere visiting any one of the billion-plus websites out there! Don’t blow your chance with them; always assume it’s your only chance. Make it stick.
Nailing the nuts and bolts of franchise website development
Knowing how to identify, articulate and share the purpose of your brand or business involves a lot of soft skills — abstract thinking, creativity, patience and much more. If you’re going to commit resources to build an effective website, particularly one for franchise development, you should consider partnering with branding and franchise digital marketing experts. They’ll be able to help you pinpoint what’s most important about your brand or business, what distinguishes it and how to share its value propositions with your best customers.
These experts will also be adept at the nuts and bolts of building a user-friendly and engaging site that rises above your competition. That means they’ll make sure your website is:
- Easy to find: a hardworking website does you no good if no one can see it. A good marketing team will make sure yours has the right domain name and incorporates SEO best practices, keyword research, robust content and more to drive traffic to your site.
- Easy to navigate: best practices suggest you limit your menu bar to five clearly labeled tabs, with related pages beneath them as pull-downs. Additionally, a Google search will often take a visitor to someplace on your site other than the homepage, so it’s essential to offer a straightforward way to get to it from any place on your site.
- Beautiful: the best websites strike the right balance between color, images, and content, limit the number of fonts, and use short paragraphs, bullet points, and pull quotes to break up a page, keeping it appealing to look at and easy to read.
- Accurate: all information about your brand should be current and regularly updated as it changes. Additionally, it should be easy for readers to contact you, either through a form fill or phone number. All pages should be proofread for grammar and typos.
- Authentic: this is extremely important. Your website should contain helpful, informative content that is meant to offer value to the reader. Google pays close attention to the authenticity of your site and will penalize you if it detects otherwise.
- Mobile friendly: mobile responsiveness is a major factor in how Google ranks websites algorithmically. Better rankings mean your website will show up higher in search engine results, potentially beating your competitors.
- Fast: Nothing frustrates a website visitor more than slow-loading pages. Don’t believe me? Studies have shown that 40% of people will abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. The need for speed is real.
- SEO optimized: will Google love your website enough to let people find it? It will if your site is SEO optimized with the right keywords and robust content that establishes your site as an authority in whatever industry you’re in.
The bottom line is a lot goes into creating and maintaining (adding content, checking for broken links, updating information) a brand or business website that engages your best customer long enough for them to want to find out more. High-quality franchise web design and development by a reputable agency can cost thousands of dollars, and if that price tag gives you pause, remember, your ROI — an increase in brand awareness, engagement, leads and conversions — should increase more than offset the cost. You’ve got to spend it to make it, and the right brand website can help you do that.