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Customer engagement through design – making your website work

When it comes to websites and customer self-service portals, engagement is a measurement of how well they persuade people to do things, for example book a repair or pay their rent. Customers should choose to deal with you online, so you need to make it attractive to them. As you will know from using the internet yourself, if a company gets its online offering wrong, it can impact your opinion of them.

There are two principle considerations when reviewing your engagement strategy. These are:


Some of the golden rules for achieving great content include trying to make it beneficial, inspiring, funny, entertaining, challenging or shocking. Think about what makes you pay attention and you will be on the right track.   

You should always try to use engaging images. For example, if you are a housing provider don't simply show an image of a house on your website. Make the picture more compelling by for example showing someone very happily living in the house. This is far better for creating an element of desire.

Use video or animation where you can. As you may know from my recent Blog, ‘The use of video in communication strategy’, video really can speak a 1,000 words and statistics show that people increasingly prefer to engage through video rather than text. If you do create a video, do as we do and use social media to circulate it, promoting your website in the process.

Use user generated content where you can, such as case studies, testimonials and customer forums. These provides what is called "Social Proof" and it can be very powerful. We are all reassured when we hear real customers testify to the quality of a service.

Consider offering rewards or running competitions with prizes that will assist your organisations to achieve objectives, particularly those that create savings as they will be self-funding. A good example of this is Rosebery Housing’s Opportunity Store.

This is designed not only to encourage engagement but to help to improve the services offered by Rosebery, including those that provide social return on investment, such as encouraging customers to gain skills to add to their CV or help them to meet new people.

Try and create customer interaction where you can. Consider including 'like' buttons or request scores for particular web pages. This will help provide feedback as to what is popular.

Avoid using unnecessary text. Far too many sites have too many pages with far too many words that nobody reads.

Use Google analytics to analyse which pages on your website work. If you have pages that nobody ever visits or that nobody stays on for long, then they may not be worth having, so consider getting rid of them or at the very least changing them.

If we now turn to Design, here are some further points that you should consider. Always think mobile first. 2014 was the first year in which Internet access via mobile device overtook PC and the migration continues. We at 3C recently updated our website for exactly this reason.

Keep the layout simple. Make navigation clear and always include a search bar. Search bars are heavily used and they help people to navigate your site.

The font is also really important and sends a message about your organisation, such as ‘you can trust us’ or ‘we are fun’. Decide what works for you and then stick to it.

Colours do matter! Use soft pastel shades unless you want to shock. For example, bright red and yellow are considered shock colours and need to be used carefully.

As already mentioned, video is becoming increasingly important. You need to make sure your design is capable of handling video.

Where you can, include calls to action. As they say, if you don’t ask sometimes, you don’t get. Tell somebody what you would like them to do, don’t simply hope that they will.

Lastly, don't worry if information is what they call below the fold. This is where you have to page down on the web page in order to find something. It has been shown that this isn’t a problem for those consuming information.

So in summary, there is an art to making a website appealing so that customers have the best possible experience and choose to come back and use it regularly. Many say that websites need to be reviewed at least every two years and I would be inclined to agree.

Such reviews don’t need to be a complete redesign and are often to take advantage of advances in web technology and new methods of creating engagement and interaction. They needn’t therefore be expensive. If they can produce a small improvement in digital engagement with customers, they will swiftly prove self-financing, and proving this using web analytics is usually simple and easy… unlike so many other initiatives, where the results can be so difficult to measure.

Indeed, the continual assessment of your online engagement with customers along with regularly scheduled reviews as to how your engagement can be further improved should form a key component in your digital strategy.