Over the last 18 years we’ve had the pleasure of working with a diverse range of clients, from eCommerce to financial services to charities to government bodies.
Often the most interesting (and at times challenging) clients to work with are large, informational B2B organisations. Business that do not sell tangible products but instead are subject matter experts, with a huge body of knowledge, all of which they wish to communicate with their users.
This results in very large and often confusing websites.
From a UX point of view, the main reasons for this are normally:
- Unclear site strategy
- Website internally focused
- Too many words
1. Unclear site strategy
We have often sat in meetings and asked the idiot questions…
“What is the purpose of your website?” or “What does success look like to you?”
Easy to answer, right? Apparently not. These questions are often followed by a long silence, some awkward looks around the room and then some mumbling about wanting to tell users what we do.
When developing a website, this should be the number one question to answer. Without a clear site strategy, there will be no way to measure if your website is effectively supporting your business.
You might be thinking its difficult to have success indicators when a conversion isn’t a tangible thing (like t-shirts sold, tickets booked, e-books downloaded). But it is possible.
Consider what action you want your users to take. Perhaps they can leave more informed or with a changed perception. Maybe it will result in a phone call or an email to your business.
Whatever you choose, make sure you can measure it.
2. Website internally focused
This one is inextricably linked with issue numero uno – without clear site strategy there is also no clear governance about what should and should not be on a website.
This often results in internal pressures winning and the website becoming increasingly flooded with internal news or products that are an internal priority but NOT WHAT YOUR USERS WANT.
Sorry to shout but this is key. As well as a clear site strategy you also need to consider how your customers wish to engage with you.
They have a goal, a reason for coming to your website, and they want to find information that meets that goal as quickly as possible. They might browse once that goal has been achieved but this should not get in the way of their initial journey.
To understand what your users want, you need to understand who they are and what motivates them. Persona research is a great way to get a clear picture of this and can act as a guide to the content your website should contain. It also allows you to say NO to pushy colleagues who feel their department or news is under-represented on the website.
If its does not meet one of these user goals, its not going on the website.
3. Too many words
When given a platform to share content, we can’t help ourselves but get a little bit carried away (just look at the blog section of our website!).
The problem is, users do not read content online. They scan it, picking out headings and keywords that match their goal.
If the answer to their question is buried paragraphs deep on a page, it is likely to be missed and the user will not achieve the goals.
Equally, if that content is written using internal language, jargon and acronyms it will not be meaningful to users.
In our experience, large B2B sites are the worst offenders when it comes to over complicating their content. Fluffy marketing language obscures real meaning and long, text-heavy pages make the search for useful answers time consuming and hard work.
As a start, cut your word count in half and read our guide for writing good content for the web.
So in summary, to have a successful B2B website (although this is true of any site really) you must:
- Have a clear site strategy and indicators or success (that you can measure!)
- Truly understand your users' goals
- Write content in a succinct and jargon-free way that is easy to scan