Building a Brochure Website that Sells - 12 Rules to Live By

Ten to fifteen years ago companies began launching their first websites in droves. It was a real time of change in the business community. You’d purchase some hosting, setup your site, and then review it a couple of years later in the hope that it added some value to your bottom-line.

This was the standard most businesses adhered to.

These days’ companies have what’s called a CMS-driven brochure website. This is usually built on a content management system such as Squiz Matrix or WordPress and is designed to showcase to potential customers what an organisations strengths are, and how their services and expertise can benefit the market.

The tragedy is, that most brochure websites don’t achieve this basic goal. In fact, most brochure websites discourage potential customers from making an enquiry either by confusing them as to what’s on offer or giving them the wrong impression about the quality of service they’re likely to receive.

To help out, we’ve created this list of 12 rules you should live by when creating your next brochure website.

Rule #1 – Your Brochure Website Must Be Responsive

If you’re going to build a brochure-style website for your company, you’re going to want to make sure your customers see you as innovative and someone that can add value to their business. Because your customers will likely review a handful of vendors online before deciding to make an enquiry, you need to make sure your site displays well on desktop, tablet and mobile devices if you’re going to stay in the mix. This means putting a responsive website design in place.

Responsive website design is a cost-effective means of essentially building three websites out of one. When building a responsive website, web developers will write rules to show, hide, expand or shrink content to fit certain screen sizes so that website visitors, regardless of platform, will receive a positive user experience.

Take the QUT bluebox site we recently designed and built for the Queensland University of Technology. If you view this site on an iPad, iPhone or laptop, all pages display perfectly allowing users to browse the site with ease...and the best part for the client is that it’s all designed using a single code base and some clever responsive design rules making it extremely easy to maintain. Cool huh!

QUT bluebox responsive website design by OSE

Rule #2 – Make Sure Your Site Loads Fast!

Because we live in a mobile-driven world, it’s really important that your site loads fast for your users. How fast? Ideally your pages should load in under four seconds, but the closer to two seconds the better.

A really simple tool you can use to test the page speed of your site is Pingdom. This tool is widely used to test the speed of your pages from multiple locations across the globe. For example, I ran a test on one of my favourite cooking websites Taste.com from the Melbourne server. It loaded in 1.82 seconds which is really good. However, from Stockholm the page loaded in 5.6 seconds. Ouch!

This isn’t a problem for Taste.com as their audience is primarily Australian, but if your site has a global audience this is something to consider reviewing.

Pingdom page speed test

Rule #3 – Don’t Sacrifice Usability for Interactive Features

Thanks to advances in CSS3, JavaScript, jQuery and HTML5, web developers have a fantastic array of tools at their disposal to build beautiful interactive websites for their clients. That being said, try not to go overboard implementing interactive features at the cost of best-practice usability.

As mentioned in Rule #1, your site needs to be responsive. This means that any interactive content you implement needs to be tested on desktop, tablet and mobile devices. What may suit a desktop device, may not suit a touch-based device such as a smart phone, so you need to do your homework before adding non-standard functionality.

It can be tempting to look at what others have done and try to emulate those designs, but remember that your users will expect a quality user experience before they any interactive features. So make sure you thoroughly research which features are supported by which browsers on which devices using a tool such as Can I use.

Rule #4 – Design Matters

If you’ve ever visited a website gallery such as CSS Design Awards, you’ll know that there are million different ways to present content on the web. Sites such as this are a great resource for reviewing the sorts of page layouts and overall designs that organisations in your niche are using to communicate to their customers. We even submitted the QUT bluebox site to this gallery!

What’s most prevalent when you visit a site such as this is that the standard for submission is very high. On CSS Design Awards there is a set criteria for inclusion and a panel that accepts sites based on their design level. Therefore, if you’re looking to develop a brochure website, you can get a really solid feel for the standard your customers will be looking for and current design trends that that may work for your industry.

What we love about sites such as this is that you can filter site designs by country, colour, industry and past winners of the ‘site of the day’ which can really help you identify some awesome inspiration for your site.

CSS Design Awards

#Rule 5 – Understand the Information Design Principle of “Siloing”

Before you set out to build your site you need to spend some time structuring your content. This is really important because your users will expect to be able to easily navigate your site if they're going to determine what you’re offering and how it benefits them.

Your site structure in terms of the top level pages should be based on a design principle called “Information Siloing”. Basically this principle is the process of grouping similar items together in a logical format. As shown below, retailer Hype DC has done a really good job of siloing their products between Male and Female products, then by type (i.e. Footwear and Apparel).

Information siloing is not difficult, but it’s amazing how many websites fail to structure their content effectively. By ensuring you have an easy to access menu and site structure like the one provided by Hype DC, you’re significantly decreasing the chances your users will leave your site and are increasing the chances they’ll spend more time on more pages on your site.

Hype DC Information Siloing

#Rule 6 – Product Imagery is a Conversion Machine!

A picture is worth a thousand words”. In the world of e-commerce, this is rule by which you should live.

If you’re selling any type of product or service online, by combining the text on your product pages with relevant, high resolution imagery you’ll dramatically increase your chances of an enquiry or a sale. Why? Because humans are visual beings and like to see and touch what they’re purchasing before making a commitment.

In an online-driven world, the ability to get as much visual feedback surrounding a product is vitally important because you literally can’t hold and test a product online. Combine your product imagery with product videos, and you’ll do extremely well. TennisWarehouse.com does this particularly well. Visit one of their product pages and you’ll regularly see an array of images combined with a product review video with experts from TW. This is a great real-world example bringing you that much closer to what you’re purchasing and has worked well for this retailer.

Tennis Warehouse product page

Rule #7 – Compare Pricing Models of Payment Gateways

If you’re running an e-commerce store, you’re going to need a method of collecting payments on your site. This means you need to consider the design, capabilities, and cost of implementing and utilising a payment gateway over time.

If you’re new to e-commerce or launching your first e-commerce site, you may be surprised to learn that there are significant differences between the majority of common payment gateways online.

Take the below price comparison between these three popular payment gateways at the time of writing this article. As you can see, the price you pay per transaction is vastly different meaning you can save big time if you have a medium to high volume of transactions going through your site.

Merchant Transactional Fees Limit
PayPal 2.6% + $0.30 Up to $2,500/month
Braintree 2.9% + $0.30 N/A
eWay 1.9% Visa/Mastercard, 2.6% Amex N/A

Rule #8 – Provide Multiple Methods of Contact and Support

Customers online use all manner of channels to contact businesses these days. From contact forms, to social media, email, phone, fax, SMS and even click-to-call technologies. That being said, you need to offer at least a couple of these channels support your customers and provide a well-rounded service.

For owners of brochure websites, we recommend using:

This will give your customers a variety of common channels to select from and is important because your customers will generally only contact you in two situations.

  1. When they're frustrated and need technical support, or
  2. When they want to make a purchase from you

In both of these situations you want to put your best foot forward and make it as easy as possible to support your customers. So don’t skimp on your contact channels as this can affect your online conversions much more than you think.

Rule #9 – Partner with a Professional Agency to Grow Your Site

One of the unwritten laws of Internet marketing today is that your audience wants to see new content added to your site on a regular basis. If you’re using a CMS which has been well setup you can add blog pages and static content on a regular basis, but if you’re looking to produce new web banners, interactive content and page designs; you’re going to need to partner with an agency to support your Internet marketing strategy.

At OSE we offer monthly support packages you can tailor to your needs. These packages allow you to purchase support hours for development or advisory as needed. By extending your marketing capability by partnering with a professional development agency, this is a great way to continue to enhance your online presence. Not only this, but Google will love you for it because new content is a ranking signal you need to consider if you’re going to rank well in search engine results.

Rule #10 – Your “About Us” Page Actually Matters

I recently read an article on NeilPatel.com titled “How to Create the Perfect About Page” and it really made me think.

When I looked into our search engine visibility using Google Webmaster Tools and the number of clicks coming through to our About Us page, I was very surprised. It turned out that this was one of our highest converting pages and people were spending a lot of time reading up on our company.

So what does this mean?

Basically don’t forget to include a detailed About page on your site. Put some time into it. My guess is that your site metrics are similar to ours. Use your About page to sell who you are and why you’re a great service provider. If people are actually taking the time to read your About page, chances are they’re thinking of converting in some way on your site. This top tip caught me by surprise and is certainly something we’ll be looking at closer as time goes on.

Neil Patel About page
Image Source NeilPatel.com.

Rule #11 – The Boring Stuff is Mandatory

When launching a new site, it can be easy to forget copyright and ownership information combined with Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy pages.

I totally get it. I’ve written a bunch of these pages in my time. I’ve consulted with lawyers, IP experts, and have drafted sections of these pages myself...and yes they are boring. But what’s worse, is having someone attempt to take advantage of you and your efforts online by claiming you didn’t have the appropriate legal messaging on your site.

When launching your next brochure website, make sure you include the following:

If you’re looking for assistance in this space, we recommend talking to a legal expert as a precaution before launching any site.

Rule #12 – Your Brochure Website is an Email Capture Tool

Because business is largely done online these days, you want to be building your email marketing database at every chance you get. Why? Because email marketing is the second most effective marketing channel behind organic search.

To do this, make sure you:

Each month you should be aiming to increase your email marketing subscriber count; but do so legitimately. There’s no point buying lists of thousands of emails as this is not only illegal, but the likelihood of you making a sale from this is virtually zero.

Services such as MailChimp allow you to track your subscriber count over time, and are a great way to build your marketing footprint.

MailChimp subscriber report

Conclusion

Building a brochure website is an exciting time in any businesses’ journey. But to do it right takes time, planning and consideration of a number of elements to get the mix right.

The above items are just a handful of the items you should consider when developing and launching a brochure website, but are a really good base to start from.

If you’re looking to launch a brochure website, ensure you tick off each of the above items, and your site will be far more likely to add real value to your businesses’ bottom-line.

Good luck, and if you need any assistance, please don't be a stranger.