5 Key Principles to Build an Effective Website: A Guide for B2B Businesses
The building or upgrading of a B2B website represents a significant investment of time, money, and resources. It is essential to ensure that your website is effective and achieves your goals.
Numerous different factors play a role in making a website successful and useful. This post will explore five key principles that should guide you through the process. First and foremost, you need to define the variables that will inform your decision-making at every stage.
Your audience—in this case, your potential client—should be your primary focus. If you do not have a clear picture of your potential clients, simply list the top five clients you have served during 2022 and look for their commonalities. For instance, since we are the experts in building business-to-business (B2B) manufacturing websites, we keep those clients front and center when considering our target audience.
Unfortunately, your website cannot speak to everyone. Users, clients, and their needs are simply too varied and diverse. Instead, you need to talk to a specific type of person. What characteristics does your potential client have? What directives do they care about?
For example, let’s assume that we are targeting engineers. Engineers are curious, critical thinkers, and creative. Ultimately, engineers want to find the information they need as quickly as possible and move on with their projects or daily tasks. Thus, a site targeting them should have a robust search engine and easy-to-use navigation at a minimum.
Now that you’ve clearly defined your audience, here are the five key principles of effective B2B website design.
Offering a query auto-complete function in your website search bar takes a lot of guesswork out of the equation, increasing the likelihood that a user will easily find what they are looking for quickly and leave your site satisfied.
Take Atlantic Equipment Engineers’ website as an example. If I were to start typing in “titan…”, the website would begin to show me the various titanium products available and their corresponding SKUs.
Remember that a great user experience on your website will leave your potential client with an overall positive impression of your company. This greatly increases the chances that they will do business with you in the future.
B2B users are busy people, and need to be able to find their way around your website as quickly and easily as possible. Creating a well-constructed navigation system can be a challenge, but there are a few tricks you can use to make it easier.
Organize Your Pages and Categories Properly
First, keep it simple and be sure to use standard web language such as “About,” “Products,” “Services,” and “Contact”. All of these are commonplace throughout the internet and easily understood. Don’t be tempted to use jargon or try to be creative, as this will only confuse users. For example, “Products” should not be labeled “Solutions.”
Next, be sure to place all pages in the appropriate category and under the appropriate sub-heading. For example, any information about services you offer should be under the “Services” tab, items dealing with your company should be listed under “About,” and so forth. We recently saw a website on which a metal manufacturer had listed its custom welding service under its “Products” tab. Please don’t do that! It should have been placed under “Services”.
Ensure Your Site is Touchscreen-Friendly
More and more users have touchscreen laptops and tablets nowadays. Therefore, it is imperative that the desktop version of your site be touchscreen-friendly. We recommend using a standard navigation bar, not a hamburger menu, for this reason.
It is also essential that you use on-click navigation, not roll-overs. In other words, when a user moves their mouse over the main navigation item, a sub-menu must only appear when clicked.
Divide Your Products Into Categories
Many B2B organizations have extensive catalogs, comprising hundreds or even thousands of products. If this is the case, be sure to create categories and possibly subcategories to enable users to more easily find the products or services they are looking for.
We do not usually recommend showing pages beyond two tiers in your navigation, as this can be confusing and make the page appear cluttered. If you have three or more levels, we recommend creating “Listing” pages to enable users to dive deeper if necessary.
B2B users typically prefer to see as much information as possible about a product or service before contacting a technical salesperson to learn more or begin the sales process. Therefore, you must list as much information in an HTML format on your website as possible.
The information required for each product will vary slightly, depending upon your industry and the exact specifications of the things you sell. Here are a few that you might need to include:
- SKU (Item Number)
- Unit prices
- Quantity availability
- Lead time
- Highlight video
- Instructional video
- LEED credits
- Manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP)
- Export control classification number (ECCN)
- Chemical numeric identifier (CAS)
- Tables and charts
Downloadable documents are also tremendously useful. Remember our hypothetical engineer customer? Their needs are likely to be highly specific, and they will want to learn as much about your products as possible to ensure they meet those needs. Downloadable PDFs can provide useful additional details such as warranty information, LEED details, installation instructions, technical drawings, and material safety data sheets/safety data sheets (MSDS/SDS).
If you offer a wide array of products, it can be highly beneficial to showcase a few related products or accessories towards the bottom of each product page.
“People buy from people,” as the saying goes. Humans are social creatures, and having a name and face to connect with your brand helps to build the bonds that can create long-lasting business relationships. Therefore, it is always a good idea to highlight your employees and particularly critical customer-facing personnel on your website.
For each person, include the following information:
- Full name
- Nickname or preferred name if appropriate
- Title (position) at your company
- Link to their LinkedIn profile if they have one
- Direct telephone number
- Business address
- A brief bio
We recommend not showing individuals’ email addresses since spammers can easily spider them, resulting in inboxes bombarded with unwanted mail. Instead, implement a simple inquiry form that will allow users to contact the right person.
Calls to Action
At various stages in their journey through your website, users need to be told (or at least advised) what they should do next. This is known as a call-to-action (CTA), and getting it right is critical.
In the past, short-form button phrases were the norm, guiding users with clearly defined action steps. This can still be useful in some contexts. The key is to be clear, specific, and leave no doubt as to what you want the user to do.
When they first land upon your site, and as they journey through various pages, prominent buttons should guide users to key conversion pages. For example, you might have a button in the header bar clearly labeled with a phrase like “Receive an Estimate” or “Have a Representative Contact You.” If you’d like to educate users and prospective buyers about a specific product line, your CTA might read “Learn More About our Capacitors.” And if you would like to guide them towards contacting you through a general form, the CTA might say “Contact Us Now for Help & Inquiries.”
Lform Design: Your Partner in B2B Web Design That Gets Results
These guiding principles are just a few of the many things you will need to consider in your quest to create an effective B2B website that gets the results your business deserves.
If you would like to learn more about what makes a strong B2B website, check out our web design video reviews on our YouTube Channel. Here, we do a deep dive into existing B2B sites, discussing what is working well and what could be improved.
If you are looking for support to improve your existing B2B website or create a brand new one, you can book an appointment with Ian, our owner and head of business development, or fill out our Needs Assessment form to start the process. We value building long-term relationships with our clients and we look forward to supporting you with every aspect of your website needs as your business grows, scales, and goes from strength to strength.