I’ve been noticing that there’s a growing trend among the ‘big boys’ in their website layouts. In particular the homepage. So what is the new trend we’re seeing, what is the impact and why should we take any notice of the ‘big boys’ when we’re only small businesses ourselves?
This article explores the changes we’re seeing, what the implications are and what the benefits might be that we, small business owners can adopt when we plan our own websites.
The traditional layout
It’s been tradition that websites consisted of sidebars and navigation menus. Emails also followed this trend until recently with mobile devices. Now everything online has to be mobile friendly which means single columned. But this seems to have had an impact on full version websites too. Gone are the multiple columns. Here to stay are single column, fill the width images.
Big Boys – who cares?
The big boys have large marketing departments with resources and budgets to test and optimise everything they try out online so it’s worth taking note when a lot of the big boys are doing the same sort of thing. They online presence is of huge value to them and for many their web presence is crucial to sales as they have no other sales channel like brick and mortar shops do.
So here’s the main 4 things I’ve noticed that we small business owners can adopt.
I’ve checked out big retailers like John Lewis, Tesco, Amazon and online service providers like Bluehost, Constant Contact, Adobe and they’ve all ditched the sidebar on their homepage.
The impact is that there’s less confusion about what to focus on. Sidebars offered visitors a bunch of options to choose from, which could have meant they were confused about what to click on next.
Call to Action
A call to action is an instruction to the visitor what to do. It might be click here, order now, get started now and clicks them through to another page where they might order a product or find out more information. You can see that Amazon have many calls to actions in their homepage using images of a limited number of their products. As we know Amazon have literally thousands of products, but they’ve restricted the choice to what people are currently looking at and their best sellers. Clicking on the image takes them through to more details and purchase options for that product. Interestingly, they haven’t quite ditched the sidebar as it does appear below their headline advert for their Fire tablet product.
BT do this too. They have their main image featuring just one product and below that there are icons that lead you off to their most commonly visited pages.
Reduced Navigation Menu Options
Nearly all the websites I researched had very much reduced choices in the main navigation menu. In this screenshot, you can see that Adobe have almost completely stripped out their menu bar to just a menu button. They too have no sidebars and only feature one main product, even though they have quite a few more products.
Reduced Product Offerings
Constant Contact do this too. Like Adobe, they have a suite of products and rotate their product offerings on their homepage. Constant Contact are known for email marketing, but in this screenshot they’re featuring their coupons tool and use a video to promote the benefits of this particular tool. There’s a very limited menu bar, which means there’s very little to distract or confuse the visitor. There’s really only two choices – watch the video and create a coupon which then takes you to the login page or sign up to a free trial if you’re not an existing customer.
We small business owners do have an advantage over the big boys and corporates. We can adopt trends and changes early. We don’t have to wait for board room and shareholder approvals to implement anything. We may not have the big budgets to test, but we can watch what they do and take the best bits. The best bits I think here relate to reducing the choice to visitors and bringing to the forefront our entry products/services:
- No sidebars
- Always have calls to actions
- Reduce menu options
- Only feature one main product above the fold
It doesn’t mean we ditch half our offering. We just reserve them for those who’ve had more experience of being our customers and are therefore ready for the more complex/high end products/services.