In 2020, digital communication was a critical channel for businesses and consumers alike. Internet usage spiked 25% in March due to lockdown orders in the US and remains higher than in pre-pandemic days, as the following graph of US broadband usage illustrates.
One of the most defining characteristics of this past year has been our collective resilience. Organizations of all sizes were forced to rapidly pivot from the established in-person business norms to new digital and hybrid solutions practically overnight.
Consumers have also shown a willingness to change their behaviors, for example, by shifting from in-person shopping, to buying groceries, household supplies, and other essentials online and having them delivered (or using curbside pickup).
Your website, an important touchpoint well before the days of COVID, is now more critical than ever. It’s how you can keep customers informed about safety protocols, hours of operation, and company news.
Your website must also provide information about product and service availability. For retailers, restaurants, and many small businesses, your website is the channel that allows you to keep operating, maintaining revenue and sales when your physical doors are closed.
At Ashworth Creative, we’ve had many businesses request information about building or redesigning a website, reorienting it to meet their customers’ changing needs. We understand that in an environment of uncertainty, pulling the trigger on a website redesign project might seem daunting.
And yet, preparing your business to weather whatever comes next starts with a solid digital foundation. The recent approval of two effective vaccines signals the start of yet another change—an eventual end to the months-long pandemic and its associated restrictions.
Now is the time to start planning your redesign or launch. Here are some essential things to consider for a website redesign so that you’re prepared to (eventually) get back to business as usual while ensuring that your website is crisis-proof (and COVID proof) in 2021.
Communication is Key
Your website has always been an extension of your business, serving as a virtual lobby or storefront in addition to (or in lieu of) traditional offline channels. When lockdowns and closings forced many organizations to turn to digital business spaces to reach customers, sell products or services, and connect employees, organizations that already had strong, consumer-centric websites were in a better position to continue working versus their less digitally-prepared peers.
A good website communicates clearly and effectively. Specifically, your website should:
- Focus on user-friendly design. User-friendly web design is modern, intuitive, and SEO-friendly. Your website should make critical information like hours of operation, safety protocols, and product inventory easy to find. But it should also be beautiful and functional—providing a frictionless experience so customers and prospects can get relevant information quickly.
- Contain updated, personalized, and shareable content. The foundation of a good website is its content, which should be developed in conjunction with an SEO-focused strategy, while also providing your audience with useful information that is up-to-date and easy to share. Your content tells the story of your business, products, and brand. It goes beyond the written word to videos, podcasts, photography, and graphics, all of which come together to attract and retain your audience.
Mobile first, user-friendly, and bursting with high-quality, relevant content—these are the ingredients for a website that works.
Making your Website COVID-Proof
A COVID-proof website incorporates all the elements listed above, but also considers the current environment of uncertainty. Consumer sentiment has changed rapidly throughout the past year, and it will continue to change based on the virus’s impact, though the distribution of vaccines will hopefully allow us all to get back to normal over the next several months.
While it’s hard to predict what’s going to happen and how we can prepare for it, there are things you can do to ensure your website (and business) will endure.
First, read the room. Make sure the messaging on your website and in your advertising and marketing materials is appropriate; your website should address customer concerns directly and authentically. What are you doing to keep your staff and customers safe? Do you have new pickup and delivery options available? Did you roll out a mobile app that can help customers place orders and communicate with you?
Consider leveraging video and other media like podcasts to stay engaged with customers and prospects. Videos can be featured on your website and posted to social media channels, while a podcast is a great, portable way to showcase your expertise around a given product or service.
Virtual events that incorporate video, audio, and written assets can also be presented on your website and leveraged on social media to further improve communication with customers.
Planning for 2021
For the last nine months, we’ve been in a holding pattern, uncertain how to move forward on projects and initiatives that are essential for business growth. But investing in a good website is a safe bet when it comes to meeting customer expectations, controlling the narrative of your own story, and showcasing products and services so customers can easily find, buy, and learn about them.
60% of customers expect brands to provide online content about their business, and more than half visit a brand’s website for product information. Your website is the best way to stay connected. It provides much-needed information to consumers who are eager to get back to normal and more than willing to do business online.
As we continue moving through 2021, now is a great time to reconsider what your website is telling your customers, and to prioritize a redesign that will enable you to focus on growth throughout this year and the next.