web design

I don’t know what it is lately, but I swear it seems like 4 out of 5 companies I talk to are in the midst of redesigning their company website.

But I get it, times are changing fast, and consumer expectations are changing even faster. What was “acceptable” just a few years ago is now viewed as “not enough.”

Because the way consumer’s vet, judge, and decide on companies and products in the information age, the importance of having a GREAT website has never been so high.

And mark my words, this trend isn’t slowing down.

The bar will only continue to be raised.

Search engines and consumers alike will only get smarter.

That’s the world in which we’re all a part of.

That being said, because so many companies are currently in the midst of a digital overhaul, I felt it necessary to discuss 5 website features I feel are a must for success in 2014 and beyond. Here goes:

1.  A Home Page with Immediate Answers:

If you're looking for a model homepage that is the essence of intuitive, clear, and user friendly, the CopyBlogger homepage is the perfect model.

If you’re looking for a model homepage that is the essence of intuitive, clear, and user friendly, the Copyblogger homepage is the perfect model.

As many of you know, I speak a lot. And over the past few years, I’ve asked thousands and thousands of people a simple question: What makes you fall in love with a company’s website?

Far and away, the #1 answer (and it’s not even close) looks like this:

“I want to find what I’m looking for, and I want to find it quickly.”

Such a profound statement really, and so telling as to where we’re all headed on the web.

When it comes to a great website, consumers MUST be able to navigate IMMEDIATELY to what they are looking for. More than ever, their impatience is at an all-time low, which means the first 10 seconds of their experience on a homepage is utterly critical—either we give them what they’re looking for or they’re gone.

This means messaging should be clear, simple, and concise. Furthermore, excellent and intuitive navigation is a must. Ask yourself this very simple, 2-part question:

Within 10 seconds of being on my website, could a first time visitor:

  1. Understand that we (as a company) are able to solve *their* problem?
  2. Know where to go to get the answer to said problem?

I call this the “10 Second Rule of Homepage Design” and few companies do it very well.

2. An Education Center

Just having a "blog" won't be enough in 2014 and beyond if your goal is greatness. Health Catalyst (client) realizes this, and has created what they call their "knowledge center," which is literally full of all their education materials in a multiplicity of forms.

Just having a “blog” won’t be enough in 2014 and beyond if your goal is greatness. Health Catalyst (client) realizes this, and has created what they call their “knowledge center,” which is literally full of all their education materials in a multiplicity of forms.

For a long time, I’ve been discussing the concept that a “blog” should be thought of as a place where a business embraces the philosophy of “They Ask, You Answer”—and takes each question they get from prospects and customers and answers them in an honest and transparent manner.

As I look ahead to 2014 and beyond, I think the next iteration of a “blog” is the actually transformation of the name (something I’ve never liked anyway) to a more complete and robust educational experience—hence the Education Center.

In an ideal world, an education center is not only wrought with answers following the “They Ask, You Answer” philosophy, but it also is laden with multiple means by which a site visitor can take in the information—be it articles, videos, webinars, live chat, podcasts, utilitarian apps, etc.

Yes, this is a section of the site that doesn’t occur over night, but it certainly is feasible with enough focus, dedication, and commitment to truly being, as I always say, “the best teacher in the world at what you do.”

3. “About Pages 2.0”

I'm a big fan of the folks at Wild Boy Design. Their website, and their About page, exudes their exceptional personality and marketing zeal-- and tells a story in the process.

I’m a big fan of the folks at Wild Boy Design. Their website, and their About page, exudes their exceptional personality and marketing zeal– and tells a story in the process.

Most companies have an “about” page of some type on their website, but the truth is, most about pages do little to let others (consumers) have a real peak into the “soul,” and people, of the business. (props to Wild Boy Design above)

We’ve all heard the phrase: People buy from those they know, like, and trust.

Although this statement may not be true 100% of the time, it sure as heck carries the day in a very large majority of business transactions all over the world, again and again.

This being said, most businesses make a huge mistake when it comes to creating these personal relationships of trust well before the first “contact”—be it face to face, on the phone, etc.

For example, most companies have a sales force (be it 1 person or 1,000). To put it in blunt terms, the basic goal of each one of these sales professionals is to meet with clients and ask them for their money in exchange for a product or service.

This being the case, why would so many organizations essentially “hide” their sales staff from the world (digitally speaking) and wait for the opportunity to build necessary trust needed for said transaction? Wouldn’t it make way more sense to do everything in their power to enhance the “know, like, trust” factor long before first contact?

This is exactly why about pages (on a website) should truly allow others to get a feel for any employee who regularly works with clients and prospects. Just having a picture of the “team” in 2014 isn’t enough. Individual pages with more complete and personal information are critical. Furthermore, a site visitor’s visual senses should be spoken to as well, with photos and videos of the employee as well.

4. The Visual Learner

Companies like Element Three understand the power of visual on their website. As you can see from their homepage, they have a great mix of video, photo, and text.

Companies like Element Three understand the power of visual on their website. As you can see from their homepage, they have a great mix of video, photo, and text.

It’s no secret—video is a big deal. (see YouTube)

Photos are kind of big too. (see Pinterest, Instagram, Etc.)

The digital age has also ushered in with it the visual age—a time where more and more people, especially the younger generation, are choosing visual over textual when it comes to their preferred form of learning and communication.

Studies have shown that over 60% of all people are visual learners, and this isn’t a number going down whatsoever. In fact, it’s only going to continue to move in an upward trend.

This is exactly why great websites not only appease the visual learner, but exceed their expectations. It’s also why a company’s ability to excel at “visual teaching” will be a monumentally important part of content marketing success going forward.

5. The Pricing Section(s)

Whether you put your actual prices or not on your website is up to you, but no matter what, the subject must be addressed. In this photo, we see a snippet of the great pricing page from WPEngine.

Whether you put your actual prices or not on your website is up to you, but no matter what, the subject must be addressed. In this photo, we see a snippet of the great pricing page from WPEngine.

For 4 solid years I’ve been preaching from the roof-tops the importance of addressing the subject of pricing on your company website. At the time, when I started this movement, many in the marketing world gave me a hard time, making statements like, “The example of River Pools is not comparable to other industries.”

Boy were they wrong. :-)

Fast forward to today and with dozens and dozens of very successful clients under my belt, EVERY SINGLE ONE has embraced this philosophy with—often times—massive results.

Here is the thing: Ask a room of 100 people how they feel when they go to a website and struggle to find cost and price information.

100 out of 100 will use words like:

  • Frustrated
  • Mad
  • Upset

This is exactly why it inexcusable in my opinion to simply ignore a question that every single prospect and client wants to know about.

Does this mean you post all your prices, wages, and margins on your website?

Of course not. Heck, you don’t even have to list a single number if you don’t want to.

But you DO have to address the subject. You DO have to explain to the world why the answer is “it depends.” And ideally, you should do this openly and honestly on a visible and prominent section of your website.

Remember, it’s your choice as to whether or not you address consumer questions, but know this—if you don’t, someone will.

And that someone will earn the trust.

Your Turn:

So there you have it folks. 5 sections every great business website needs in 2014 and beyond. I’d love to know your thoughts on these 5 and would also ask what other suggestions would you add?

55 thoughts on “5 Profoundly Important Parts to Every Business Website in 2014 and Beyond

  1. Another excellent post, Marcus! Regarding tip #1 — the home page, I do not like using the words “I”, “we” or “company name” on the home page. Of course their are some exceptions, but I try and teach to use “you” and “your” on the home page.

    I have never liked the word “blog” myself as I feel business owners think Mommy bloggers and don’t take it seriously, although it seems to be changing. I like “education center” much better.

    Why do we not see more video on this site? I plan on supplementing my blog posts with a video in the New Year, been putting it off far too long.

    I have drank the kool-aid on your pricing philosophy and I agree with it, 100%. Great post and wish the Sheridan family a happy holiday season.

    • Adam, you’re a good man, and I truly appreciate your thoughts and additions to this conversation. And I love seeing more and more smart folks like you “getting” the pricing conversation.

      Happy holidays to you and yours as well!!


  2. Hey Marcus!

    Great stuff as usual! I’m focusing on building my company blog and have set some pretty exciting goals for this upcoming year. Reading through this article it really made me think about my “about” page. I definitely need to put some more work into it. I’m a huge fan of Ramsay Taplin’s “about page” from BlogTyrant. You should check it out!

    Another thing that has really been having me think here recently is home page design. I’m a web designer by trade and end up changing things all the time. From reading the post I would say that wouldn’t suggest per say having the homepage just the blog. I know from your pool website that it is a nice landing page – but The Sales Lion is more of a blog format after the fold.

    Would you ever suggest one style over another? As in landing page homepage vs blog homepage? Or does it entirely depend on the niche?

    Also I wanted to let you know that I mentioned you in my latest blog post about inbound marketing. If you don’t mind taking the time I would love to hear your thoughts! Lots more coming!


    • Vinny, very nice to meet you sir and thanks for such an excellent comment. I do appreciate it.

      As for static vs dynamic homepage, that’s a good question. I think if a website’s purpose is to have readers come back again and again every week, then it likely makes sense to go dynamic. If it’s more like River pools where they are a brief viewer of the site based on their buying process, I would think static home page is likely the better choice.

      But then again, I’m sure this could easily be argued based on each case. As usual, “it depends.” :-)

      Keep up the great work Vinny and happy holidays to you as well,


  3. A meaningful, clear and engaging call to action on the home page and above the fold.


    • Ah yes Ruth, I likely should have thrown that one in there too! :-)

      Hope you have a great holiday week ahead Ruth!!!


  4. Hey Marcus,

    There’s no doubt in my mind that this will become one of your pillar posts for years to come- you nailed the essentials. As someone who passionately speaks about this topic at seminars and in my day-to-day consulting, I’ll do my best to be brief in sharing my additional points :)

    While a great “About Us” page, blogging, and mixed media build trust through transparency, value through content, and engagement through relevance, respectively, this content is coming from one player’s perspective- the business. In essence, this content is telling prospects that when it comes to the quality of our offers and the breadth of our expertise, they should “take *our* word for it.”

    Of course, a great website- whether it’s B2B or B2C- builds the path to everlasting trust by offering multiple perspectives on the quality of the company’s products/services- because prospects want you to take a step further by saying “don’t just take our word for it- listen to what these consumers/businesses had to say about our products/services.” In turn, businesses who feature testimonials/reviews on their website are letting their customers promote their offer for them.

    This probably goes hand-in-hand with testimonials/reviews, but I always recommend adding a section for case studies on B2B websites. When a prospect encounters a case study where he/she relates to the customer’s situation, it puts the prospect in the customer’s shoes, allows them to learn how your company helped that customer be successful, and offers deeper insights into your expertise. And if that case study features a video… oh boy!

    What’s the purpose of a great business website? To create trust by providing incredibly relevant information that our target audience needs to make a well informed buying decision- whether they choose us or the competition. So when it comes to elements like pricing, free learning resources (i.e. blogging), and customer reviews, you can only win on the web if you put your true self, your knowledge, and your customers’ feedback out there. And if you don’t? Well, then there’s a good chance you’ll get the wrong leads while your competitors (who are featuring these elements on their website) are capturing all the right ones.

    As always, thanks for covering another engaging topic and for sharing your insights, Marcus. Hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season, and a happy and healthy new year.

    Keep changing lives,


    • Jeremy, I think I should just have you add a few paragraphs to every blog article I write man. Seriously, I really love how you word things man!!

      So when am I going to see you speak in 2014?? :-) Seriously, email me and let me know what your speaking plans are this coming year, as I’d love to help in any way.


      • Haha thank you so much, Marcus! It’s a privilege just having the chance to share my thoughts here in the comments section. As always, I’m sincerely grateful for your feedback and support, and you can expect that email with my speaking plans very soon.


  5. Marcus,

    Thank you for pointing out our About Us page to your readers. It is very important to us at Wild Boy that people know who exactly we are as people and then as a company. Only after that, then do we can talk business.

    We totally understand that some companies will not be a fit for who we are as a company, something you have talked about a ton! However the people who laugh at our fun and very transparent About Us page normally are great fits. When people ask us about beard trimming and synchronized chair dancing, we know we are close to a future business relationship and some rocking Inbound Marketing! : )

    Thanks again brother.

    • You’re very welcome George. I think you all are doing cool things and you do it with a flare and style that I find very refreshing.

      Keep it up brother and have a great Christmas!!


  6. Having a pricing page has been one of the biggest wins for conversion rate improvements we’ve seen. It helps keep those looky-loos on your site and engaged. You also help people overcome the “I’m sure that’s out of my price range” thoughts. It also keeps you in check with your competition’s prices, too.

    • I just wish everyone got the vision like you do Trevor. 😉

      Hopefully they will with time :)


  7. I would add #6, the “Contact Us” page. Make it easy to find AND easy to use. Great post as usual, Marcus.

    • Excellent point Sheryl. Sometimes I’m blown away by how hard it is to contact a company. The hoops can be ridiculous.

      Have a great holiday week my friend!!


  8. @Marcus, I really like your first point on being able to have immediate answers for visitors. @Jeremy, I also like your point about “What’s the purpose of a great business website? To create trust by providing incredibly relevant information”.

    However, here is my question. Marcus, you’ve addressed the TMI problem before (too much information). Do you see as one of the largest challenges looming for marketers in 2014? I do, especially as we start to account for more types of buyers and buying processes. As a buyer, I want the right message *for me* and I want it right there big and large. I don’t want another buyers message big and large taking up my sadly somewhat limited capacity and attention span.

    TMI is something that Hubspot has been accused of in the past :-) – and something we are continually working with our marketing. Context with content, I think they need to go hand in hand in 2014.

    Keep up the good work brother!

    • @David- love the additional insight and I whole-heartedly agree that context with content will be a key differentiator in 2014. Content with context certainly has the potential to accentuate relevancy, and for businesses with a long buying cycle this presents a unique challenge to create more content for their many buyer personas across the decision making process (or, said another way: presents a unique opportunity to educate with more meaningful information).

      Thanks for adding to the discussion :)


    • David, good to see you man. Your question really, in many ways, is the great debate going forward. What is too much? What is too little?

      Darned if I know :-)

      I really think this answer changes all the time, but I do know this:

      Businesses have to be willing to turn people off to turn others on.

      As to how far that pendulum swings—that’s the 50 million dollar question, isn’t it? 😉

      Thanks again man and happy holidays to you,


  9. Marcus:

    All great suggestions. I especially like the Education Center!

    Educating should be the foundation for the entire website, setting the tone for copy writing, organization and layout. Within seconds, especially on the home page, visitors should realize that this is the resource to help them through their problem(s), and they should easily understand where to find the the answers.

    One of my biggest gripes with bad company websites is that they don’t educate, they “preach” (the gospel of their company). They tout products, services, features, functions and credentials. They leave it up to the visitor to connect the rest of the dots.

    Frankly, I don’t care if you have 7 product lines, 12 college degrees and 22 certifications if I can’t get a feel for you and what you do for “me.”

    What would you think of a library that advertised: “Over 100,000 books – 13 Full-Time Librarians – Lowest Late Fines in Town!”

    Sound too ridiculous? Well, if you say your website educates, then you go on “preaching your own gospel,” isn’t that just as ridiculous?

    Credibility comes thru thought leadership, not features and credentials.

    Happy Holidays!


    • Marshall, I think you and I are a literal philosophical match when it comes to website design…and copy.

      Really, good stuff bud.

      Thanks again,


  10. Marcus – Spot on, as usual. Like Sheryl (above) I’d add one critical 6th element: a lead magnet or strong reason for visitors to interact with you. If you don’t have their contact information, you can’t engage with them.

    Thanks for your insights,


    • Scott, very good point. I think I should have added this, but then again, 5 just sounds better than 6! 😉

      Best to you!!


  11. Jim

    Not a “blog” but a “dynamic website” — an ever changing publishing platform, an interactive entity that forms the foundation of your marketing efforts (or something like that).

    At least that’s the term I use.

    • I’m down with that Jim. Great way to put it :)


  12. Marcus – great information once again. One additional thought to the great comments above, focus your content on your target (and current customers) and don’t worry about everyone else. By understanding the needs of your market segment(s) and speaking to them in your language you will be most effective.
    The 10 second rule is a great test!

    Richard’s latest blog post: Center For Creative Leadership -What Happens When You Take Marketing Seriously ?http://www.chiefoutsiders.com/blog/bid/100445/Center-For-Creative-Leadership-What-Happens-When-You-Take-Marketing-Seriously

    • Richard, extremely sound advice and I’m so glad you mentioned it here. I think what you’re describing is one of the hardest things a business ever does quite frankly. In many ways, they have to be willing to let go of the 80% that just slow them down—and then put all their focus on the 20% that really produce the success and sales revenue.

      Have a great holiday this coming week Richard,


      • Marcus- thanks and best wishes to you and your family for a wonderful Christmas.
        Companies need to focus on what produces 20% of their profit, those that do segment often stop at revenue without looking at cost to serve and other profit metrics.

  13. Great Article Marcus,

    Based on point 1 (the 10 second rule), if you sell a complex solution do you suggest going after the 20% of visitors that are your best potential prospects with the first message they see?

    Or dividing your message into multiple parts, like your 3 big boxes on thesaleslion.com?

    Thanks in advance,


    • Hey Rusty-

      I’m anxious to hear Marcus’ take on your question, but if I may add 2 cents worth…

      Instead of thinking about about dividing up “your” message, think about breaking down your target customers’ problems, in “their” terms.

      You mentioned the 3 boxes on http://thesaleslion.com. I like to call those the “3 Magic Buckets.” Every site we design has some version of the “3 Buckets.” Graphically, it’s good design, and there’s some psychological research that says offering 3 choices is optimal; no more, no less. Those three can branch off to three more, but no more than three on a page.

      Without understanding the complexity of your solution, I’d advise you to think about your customers’ buying process before your solutions. Visitors will come in all stages of their deliberations, from not really knowing which problem to solve to ready to select the best vendor.

      If you follow that logic, you don’t need to focus your 3-buckets on the best 20%. Ideally, your buckets should speak to the best 80%.

      • Marshall, extremely sound advice, very well said!

    • Rusty, that is a good question my man, and I appreciate you asking. I can tell you that at least 2 of the boxes would be based on the 20% that are my best potential leads/customers. At least, I think that’s most likely the case.

      Keep in mind too, there is a big difference between a “home page” viewer and a “land on a blog article” viewer.

      Many of the people that land on your home page already know of you and are directly looking for the service you offer (based on your optimized keywords for the homepage).

      I think a huge key is understanding quick ways of clear messaging for all your viewers—home page folks and blog article folks.

      Make sense?

      Keep learning and pushing man, that’s one thing I really, really like about you.


  14. Great post Marcus, I have a question – in your opinion, should the home page have most of the answers to the visitors questions or simply be a “road map” on how to navigate easily to the answers?

    • Andrew, great question. The purpose of the home page, in my opinion, is not to “teach,” but rather allow viewers to identify a match with their problem.

      Once they find the match, they make a click…and now the teaching starts.

      Make sense?

      Continued success and happy holidays!!


  15. Even in artist fields (artistic fields) these principles apply. For years people told us not to put prices on our websites. I found I was wasting a lot of time with lookielus and people that were not good candidates for my services. I’ve been playing around with posted prices and it’s helping!

    • Excellent point Angela. I have found the same with my companies and clients. Either we can work with bad leads, or we can work with qualified ones, but it’s our responsibility to get them there.

      Continued success!


  16. I see that what you are suggesting is being straight forward with design and functionality of a website and I think that is great advice. When I visit a new site looking for information and what they may offer I like having it right before me not clicking link after link and getting distracted or lost. I also agree with with the use of videos because I myself am a visual learner.

  17. Hi Marcus
    Great topic to bring up.

    My website is getting a revamp in 2014, so I am not a great example of a great website, but this is a newer service I offer – Website Inspection Review. (This is not a self promotion – but just to show the importance of your most critical real estate online and presence online) The demand for an incredible website has resurfaced.

    Your website instantly sets the tone/experience for your user. And they make their decisions within seconds.

    I also never liked the word ‘blog’ – thought it was odd sounding.
    I agree, an education center is more of what it should be about. Good name for it :)

    Absolutely on the visuals/video. Crucial.

    Ease of use/navigation is critical (user experience).

    Another important feature would be a FAQ section. Even if you only have 4, put it. Shows your transparancy and provides 0 wait time for the prospect or customer to get it. Expediency.

    And, always have a place on the top fold area for them to subscribe to something. Your list is your biggest asset.

    The one thing I have noticed is the color theme shift. When websites 1st started out in explosive mode (early 2000s), many went with traditional business colors of looking established (blue, black, white, silver, etc).

    Then Google came around and everyone in the world shifted to colorful websites – using many of the same colors as their letters. But as of a few years ago, the color shift moved back to a more mature color scheme and it’s now about the black/silver/blue/white two toned or two toned with a splash of color.

    So it will be interesting to see the preference over the next few years, as images/pictures and more graphics and video get added to sites more – which in and of itself, offers more color on each page.

    The best tip I have for everyone most of the time is keep it clean. Use your space wisely, make use of every inch – but that doesn’t mean fill it. It also means leave a lot of white space so its easier on the user’s eye. Simple is better than too much.

    Too much is confusing for some and with attention spans at an all time low being pulled in multiple directions, when people land on your site it is better for you to point them in one direction, just highlight the most important thing you want them to know about you/your business, then to leave them to have so many choices, they might not make any and close the website out.

    2 great resources to use to help improve your website are Crazyegg.com and the free version is clicktale.com (this actually is incredible for free). You will learn a lot about what people do when they land on your site. Allows you to make small changes that make big differences.

    • Jaxi, what a tremendous comment, thank you.

      I think for a long time I didn’t understand simplicity from a design perspective. In fact, I still suffer from it a good bit but have really pushed to move in that direction, be it my site or with clients. But your right—we must help viewers find what they’re looking for, without fillers, without distractions.

      And I’ll check out those tools you mentioned, hadn’t used them before.

      Thanks again!


  18. Pau

    I think you covered all the most important, aside from making sure the website is visually appealing and easy to navigate on all platforms including phones.

    I have made many decisions based on all the points you made. Just recently for example, I was looking for a good alternative to Skype to make cheap calls over the internet, and what made me decide wasn’t so much the pricing but the design, trust and service given by the sites.

    I also agree that having clear pricing information is vital. I hate it when a site forces you to click on the Add to Cart or whatever button for you to be able to see the price. Having a clear and easy to find ordering button is also very important and I have learned in doing affiliate marketing that websites that have a difficult to find ordering button, even when giving great products, have very poor conversion rates.

  19. This is an excellent blog post. I really like the part on including information on pricing on your website. You have made me rethink this. Well done and keep it up. Ryan @ryansauers http://www.ryansauers.com

  20. The tips you are mentioned in the post are quite useful. It is like a checklist everyone must follow. Most of the business websites owners pay least attention on the above points. They just emphasis only on showing thier superiority from others which is not going to provide any sort of leads.

  21. Very important points Marcus, I love the way you present you point of views through your post. Yes, I do agree that it is very important to concentrate on different points.

  22. Great site, happy to have stumbled upon it. This article was spot on, with all 5 points. #5: Pricing…YES!! I will almost always look elsewhere if I can’t find pricing on a site where I’m looking to make a purchase.

  23. What’s up, its nice piece of writing regarding media print, we all be aware of media is a impressive source of data.

  24. Excellent Post,

    Video and graphics is becoming more and more necessary for creating a memorable and trustable online brand.

    Thanks for the advice and example Marcus.

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