Construction website design versus usability

A website creates a global identity for your construction business. This makes website design a critical factor in your success online. Websites are like a first impression, which as you know, are lasting and difficult to change. Visitors need to be attracted to your website within a few seconds because many people do not have the time or patience to go through all the sites that feature in search results.

Give visitors a reason to stay on your site, explore it and hopefully return. You might ask, ‘but how do I do this?’ One of the best tips is to ensure that all the relevant content and information that prospects need to make a qualified decision is easily visible and available on your website. The homepage is like a shop window, if there is nothing attracting you to stay and go inside, you will just leave.Design your homepage so that it guides the user through to the most relevant pages quickly.

If you are targeting specifiers or architects, install simple web applications like product selectors that will make their job easier. Providing a valuable resource for them will instil loyalty as they will continue to visit your site for information which could result in future business. See Richard Burbidge (below) as an example of a construction company making use of online applications to simplify the customer journey, giving them the necessary tools they need and thereby increasing lead generation.

What makes my website stand out from the crowd?

Providing the information and resources that your target audience wants and needs. Your website should not be about you, but about what you can do for them. Basically, you want to have a website that gives your target audience what they want, so that there’s no reason for them to look anywhere else. Your website design and usability can be the deciding factor between a visitor staying or moving on.

You only have a few seconds to entice visitors and retain their interest long enough for them to find out what you do, how you do it and why you do it in a way that is best for them!

If your website is unattractive and does not provide this information straight away, the prospect is likely to carry on searching and probably end up being ‘seduced’ by one of your competitors. Now this is not what you want, so how do you ensure that your website always makes the best impression? Simple…it is a balance between beautiful, professional design and customer-friendly usability.

To ensure that your website is appealing and appropriate, hire a professional web designer. It will be worth the money and your clients will trust a professionally designed site more than one that looks like it was a quick 10 minute job. Especially with the use of preview tools in search engines, such as Google instant previews, it is vital that your site looks professional at first glance. Consult with the designer and make sure that the image you want to portray is illustrated by the web design.

All the important information should clearly visible and easy to find. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas so that together you can develop the perfect website for your business. Website design includes three perspectives (designer, client, and customer) that need to be in sync so that a good website can be turned into a great one.

The difference between a beautiful site and a user-friendly site

Usability should be a top priority when building/re-designing a website. Of course, some companies want to appear ‘cutting edge’ but what’s the point when your site is completely useless at doing what it is supposed to do – be the information source and ‘face’ of your business.

How many of you have visited a website and thought, ‘wow that looks great!’ but your impression quickly changes. You struggle to navigate the site and can’t seem to find any useful information. The fancy flash graphics means that the page takes ages to load; gradually that first impression you had seems completely irrelevant now whilst your patience starts to fade…What a wasted business opportunity!

It is such a shame when great companies fall down on simple points such as having a website that users want to visit and not run away from as soon as they realise that there is nothing of value behind that pristine exterior. Improving the usability of these websites could drastically improve their SEO and increase site traffic.

Benefits of planning website usability into the design

  • Increased user satisfaction because it is easy for them to find what they are looking for. This can translate into brand loyalty and trust.
  • Increased user productivity which can lead to sales.
  • Reduced long-term development costs that could be incurred from correcting design mistakes.
  • Word of mouth, social media, recommendations and other free marketing will increase if users are impressed and satisfied.
  • Positive press coverage could be a result of great website usability.
  • A higher rate of repeat clients, which improves your competitive advantage and profitability in the long run.
  • Savvy use of keywords in website content can increase SEO and make your website rank higher in search results.

The three perspectives involved in website design

1. The Designer

For them difference between a good web design and a great one is aesthetics. The designer’s aim is to get the page looking as attractive as possible using the latest design features and presenting information in a highly creative manner. Their argument is that striking graphics have the unique ability to capture the attention of people who would otherwise be uninterested in taking the time to hear what it is you have to say. However, besides looking beautiful the designer also needs to ensure that:

• They know the ‘core’ audience that the client wants to target so that the site is designed with their needs and preferences in mind.

• The web pages interlink with each other to provide easy navigation for users- documents, articles and blogs should contain direct links to one another as well as external links which help SEO.

• Although a flash design can look impressive, it increases the loading time of websites and this could increase the chance of visitors leaving the site.

2. The Client

Their main concern is to have an effective website that meets company goals and objectives. This could be turning prospects into business leads by luring visitors in and retaining them long enough to ensure they know about the business and are motivated to take action (phone call, e-mail or further research on the company). Of course aesthetics is still an important aspect, but the end product is likely to be a slightly less-attractive, but therefore more on-target, version of what the designer originally had in mind.

3. The User

They are the most critical group because essentially the end-user is the most important judge/critic. Their main concern is whether the website is functional and all valuable information is readily visible and accessible. That means, easy to use, easy to read and easy to navigate back and forth from the important parts of the site.

**Truly great design can therefore be described as a website that successfully integrates these three perspectives to create a final product (website) that is beautiful, effective and functional! But remember that it is not enough to merely pick out and select some elements to please all the parties. Instead they are have to be in sync with each other to ensure that the design is attractive enough to catch and hold a user’s attention, the content strong enough to effectively communicate your message to the user and the site user-friendly enough to motivate the visitor to take action.

If you have any questions or would like some advice about designing or re-designing your website please contact us on 01908 671 707 or comment below.

About Stuart Dinnie

Stuart has worked in the world of digital marketing for over 15 years. With his measured and planned approach, he has delivered robust digital strategies for construction companies to achieve real business growth. He now heads up the team at Pauley Creative as Managing Director and is leading his team & clients towards digital marketing excellence. He’s worked with over 100 construction clients; helping them on their digital transformation journey, providing sustainable strategies that return year on year incremental growth, delivering award-winning websites and adding value from board level to marketing assistant.

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