Posted by: Kevin McNally
That old adage about first impressions is a truism for good reason – we are constantly being judged on appearances, and today a company’s website is the first face many prospective clients see.
The importance of a website that provides up-to-date information, is straightforward to navigate and positively represents your construction company cannot be overstated. Ranking high on the “must have” list is current content. Far too often businesses with a long-time web presence maintain a static site, rarely altering written content or images, due to the misconception that it will be too costly to periodically update. Certainly, a major overhaul can be pricey, but for relatively little expense the addition of a content management system(CMS) allows business owners and specified staff members the ability to add pages, edit content, upload images and make other changes as necessary. Press releases, articles, testimonials, special offers and useful links can be posted with a CMS.
Perhaps most importantly for construction firms, a CMS provides the capability to include a dynamic photo gallery of completed projects. Since a picture is indeed worth a thousand words, commercial and residential contractors should incorporate high-quality images on their websites. For a relatively small cost, you can engage a professional photographer to take those all-important before-and-after custom shots. Photos of completed projects should be large and impactful, allowing visitors to focus in on construction details. A website that loads quickly is another critical element; in fact, that is the most reliable way to optimize traffic. Since building awareness of a website is essential to the success of a business, it’s important to incorporate search engine optimization (SEO) measures in order to increase “hits.” One of the best ways to increase search engine ranking is through the optimal use of keywords – knowing the specific words or phrases people are searching for and then targeting those phrases on your site.
Certainly much depends on the look and navigation of a company’s opening or homepage. Some businesses fall into the trap of overdoing content on the first page, placing the site in jeopardy of scaring off potential clients. Moreover, homepage information should be pared down to the essentials to allow visitors continued navigation on the website; the longer the visit, the better the prospect of doing business with the visitor.
While on the subjects of homepages and “less is more,” recognize that today’s most effective business websites do not embrace Flash as much as in the past. Flash – the use of animation tools and moving images – is best used in small quantities. Visual impact may be necessary at times, but it should neither blind nor annoy visitors. There exist numerous other changes that can add to the appeal of a business website. One example is experimentation with display fonts for large headers and titles. When used correctly, typefaces can make a bold statement about your business. Also, consider displaying your company logo near your navigation menu. Logos should be shown in a clear and highly visible location, but without being too large or overpowering. Classic website fonts – think Tahoma, Verdana or Helvetica – are best suited for a business website. Avoid the use of small caps, handwriting fonts or any body copy script that may prove illegible.
Navigation is critical to an effective website; therefore, it should be consistent throughout. Otherwise, visitors may become lost and look to your competitors to provide the information or services they seek. Maintaining a few social networking profiles – such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook – has become vital to business websites. Not only are they an excellent conduit to promote your company, they can also keep past and current clients up-to-date on your news, projects, staff changes, etc., and possibly generate interest and business. Bonding, licensing and insurance information should be included on a construction company’s home page, eliminating the need for prospective clients to go on the hunt for this vital professional verification. It may seem like a small matter – and something that is often taken for granted – but providing that basic information illustrates that you are aware of its importance. Maintain a dedicated page for photos and brief bios of your crew. It’s an unfortunate fact, but people can’t be too careful about allowing people on their property and into their homes. A friendly image and a few background details provided prior to the day workers appear at a client’s doorstep can calm any fears and also create a sense of familiarity. Consider adding a glossary of industry terms to your site. Construction terminology may be second nature to you and your staff, but recognize that some clients may not know a site plan from a blueprint. The probability of miscommunication is decreased when working with an educated client – not to mention the extra points you will receive for making a construction primer easily accessible. Go the extra mile by including a listing of municipal websites (such as planning board, building inspector, zoning board of appeals, assessors) as a customer resource.
It should also be mentioned that an increasing number of businesses recognize the value of having a mobile website in addition to a standard site. As such, website design must provide an optimal viewing experience no matter what the size of the mobile device, be it a tablet or phone. Website designers implement what is known as “responsive web design” to ensure that images, type and grids adjust to fit the screen the site is being viewed on. Ultimately, your company website is a window display for business. By keeping it current, contemporary, easily navigable and informative, you may enjoy increased sales.