Your website represents who you are and what you offer. As a residential PV installer or commercial solar developer, you’re looking to build a long-term relationship with a customer, whether through a one-time purchase with ongoing service or a PPA that could be ten or twenty years long.
So, potential customers are going to examine a solar website carefully for evidence that the company is one they can trust. When people see your site for the first time they’re asking:
- Is this site credible?
- Is it trustworthy?
- Is this a professional company?
- Is this company stable?
- Does this site make me feel welcome?
- Am I in the right place?
The biggest mistake for a solar website is to fail to establish credibility within the first few seconds of a visit. That’s why you need to ask yourself all of these questions when designing your website.
No second chances
Now, design may not be the most important factor in a website overall. And often solar marketers put too much emphasis on how a site looks instead of it works. But appearance does play an important role in making a good first impression.
Visitors first evaluate a site’s overall design, including its use of multimedia. Beau Brendler, director of Consumer Web Watch noted: “While consumers say they judge on substance, these studies demonstrate that consumers judge on aesthetics, and get distracted by bells and whistles.
So, after spending all this time developing great, valuable content that visitors can’t find anywhere else on the Web, does this mean nothing matters but a cool color scheme and fancy flash animation? Fortunately, it doesn’t. The Stanford study noted specifically that while a site’s design is the first indicator of quality, it isn’t the only one: “the visual design may be the first test of a site’s credibility. If it fails on this criterion, Web users are likely to abandon the site and seek other sources of information and services.”
With that in mind, I offer some tips for a great website design:
- Proper use of colors: Use the right colors for your audience and to draw attention to select elements. Don’t try to make everything jump out. The result will be just the opposite – nothing will stand out. Avoid a chaotic mix of colors on your website and instead pick two to four colors for your template and marketing materials. Consider a minimalist design with neutral colors to make photos of beautiful solar panels and impressive arrays stand out.
- Animations, gadgets and media: Avoid anything unnecessary. Using Flash animations because they look cool is the wrong strategy. In most cases it’s best not to use animated background or background music. Only use media and animations to help support content and information. Photo sliders, once the hottest thing at the top of homepages, are now on their way out because visitors confuse them with ads and don’t click on them.
- Layout: Create a clear navigation structure and organize page elements in a grid fashion (as opposed to randomly scattered). Also, don’t be afraid of white space and avoid clutter! A clean look will put the focus where it belongs — on your convincing text and appealing photos.
- Typography: Make sure your website is legible. Use fonts, font sizes and font colors that are easy to read. For easier page scanning, use bullet lists, section headers, and short paragraphs. If your site is English language-based, make sure information flows from left to right and top to bottom.
While design is important, don’t forget that offering great content is what your visitors are ultimately after. A well-designed website might convince visitors to take a closer look but they won’t look twice if the content isn’t useful and well organized. After all, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
— Erik Curren, Curren Media Group