Industrial and manufacturing companies have it tough. The internet is a fantastic tool for marketing and building connections with customers and clients, but in B2B, it can take more work to reach the right decision-makers.
It’s also distressingly common for B2B companies to put only a bare token effort into their industrial website designs. All they want is something functional, and they need to put more thought or action into things like the user experience, the SEO of the site, or its logical flow and usability.
Unfortunately, the world has moved past an era where “it exists” is good enough for a website.
Nowadays, even the decision-makers in business roles (your customers) will judge your site based on its appearance and usability. If you aren’t putting the effort in to make a good website, what else are you cutting corners on?
Large or small, your business deserves a good website. Think of it as an ever-shifting goalpost; years ago, having a website was a novelty.
"See How My Team at White Peak Can Drive Tons of Traffic to Your Site"
~ Tim Woda - White Peak, CEO
- SEO - unlock massive amounts of traffic from Google.
- Lead Generation - we create phenomenal campaigns that will fill your funnel.
- Google & Social Advertising - cost-effective paid strategies with an exceptional Return-On-Ad-Spend.
Later, having one was good enough, and having a good one was a novelty. Now, having a good one is necessary.
The best practices for web design, and in particular industrial web design, are many and varied.
Rather than write a list of hundreds of factors to consider, this post distills it down to a few best practices and tips you can use to reach that point of Good Enough.
Alternatively, you can reach out to us. As one of the country’s top 20 web design agencies, we’re happy to make your website great. These best practices are the kinds of design elements we consider essential.
We live in an era of short attention spans and very low thresholds for frustration. You need your website to present virtually any information a potential customer could need as quickly as possible.
At the same time, you can’t overburden your page with links, or it makes your site confusing and challenging to navigate.
Consider a page like Holland Supply Company. There are a few good things about this page, like the strong visual identity and the front-and-center description of who they are and what they do. One thing to draw your attention to is the menus at the top.
In fact, this website has three tiers of menus, all right there at the top.
- The top menu is site-level and brand-level options, the industries they serve, their contact information, and company information.
- The second menu line, meanwhile, is the “primary” menu line, given that it’s the largest of the three. It has specific options for the company’s services, like its cloud software monitoring system, gas odorization system, and general services. The third menu line, meanwhile, is a more specific list of products in the categories they offer.
If you’re a potential gas customer and you’re approaching this site, where are your interests going to focus? If you’re heavily interested in one specific service, like gas meters, it’s easy to find. The problem is that all these menus end up cluttered and need to be put in the right place. Otherwise, you might have to go digging.
Usually, you want a more restrained menu system. Common wisdom says to keep your top-level menu items limited to seven links.
Consider Primary Flow Signal instead; they have two lines of menus, but one is more of a call-to-action bar than a navigation bar.
The nav bar itself only has six items and a CTA (call to action) button.
If you know what you’re looking for, it’s easy to find it on PFS’s website. That’s the ideal you’re going for.
Keep Your Homepage Simple
Over-engineering is a common problem in the industry and is equally common in web design.
The internet has largely calmed down and matured from the wild west it was 10-20 years ago. We all remember websites built entirely in Flash and interactable video elements, right? They were always buggy, frequently slow, and difficult to use.
In industrial design and manufacturing, the more complex a piece is the more points of failure it has, the more engineering needs to go into it, and the narrower the tolerances.
The same goes for website design. The more complex a website is, the more points there are in a user journey where they can hit a roadblock and fall off the path entirely.
Consider HydroPoint, a water management company. Their homepage has simple menus at the top, and you see strongly-defined content segments as you scroll down. These content segments are excellent for SEO and user experience, as each section highlights essential information and gives users somewhere to dig deeper into the website if they wish to. You start with their services, reach some social proof and calls to action, find data about case studies and services offered, round the corner into media coverage and accolades, and finish strong with another call to action.
You start with their services, reach some social proof and calls to action, find data about case studies and services offered, round the corner into media coverage and accolades, and finish strong with another call to action.
No matter how far you scroll down the page, there’s minimal information on the screen at once. Essential information is listed higher on the page so visitors can quickly find the information they need. It’s all focused and categorized and gives you precisely what you might be looking for when you reach that point. It’s a fantastic example of a compelling homepage that eschews visual clutter in favor of the simplicity of purpose.
Make Use of Visual Elements
Vital visual elements and visual identity are essential for the modern-day internet.
Consider HydroPoint, again.
They’re a water company but less of a water company and more of a water logistics company. Now, look at the elements of visual design on the page.
- At the very top, you have a picture of a city. This picture has wavy borders, indicating a smooth flow of water. It also has a node-and-connection network overlaid on top of it, symbolizing the network of nodes and lines they manage in a municipal area.
- As you scroll down, you notice more wavy elements and heavy use of clean colors, mainly in the light blue spectrum.
- Everything is clean, using green and blue colors, with more wavy symbolism as you scroll down. Even many of the thumbnails for their accolades use the same color scheme.
While none of these elements specifically state what the company is or what it does, it’s all symbolic while being unobtrusive. There are no dripping faucets, water meters, or droplet symbols to rub the point in.
It’s subtle but noticeable and reinforces the company’s psychology.
Another way you can use visual elements to significant effect is back with Primary Flow Signal. PFS uses clear pictures of their products as headers for links, so even if you don’t know the specific name of what you’re searching for but can recognize it when you see it, it’s right there for you.
Always Have the Next Step
One critical roadblock to a potential reader or customer pursuing your company as a partner, client, or vendor is that they stall out in navigating and exploring your site.
No matter where someone is on your site, no matter what page or what position on a page, you should be able to answer the question of “what should they do next?”
There are many different ways to do this. Some of the most common include:
- Top bar navigation that scrolls with the user and is always available for further navigation.
- Sidebar boxes that scroll with the user, presenting a relevant call to action.
- Carefully spaced call-to-action buttons and boxes throughout the content, so there’s always something to click.
Moreover, you want to carefully consider why any given person might be on any page of your site and present appropriate next steps for them. It’s not enough to have a “contact us” page on every screen on your site; you need to understand that different users might have different needs and may be on your page for other reasons.
However, ensure you are staying moderate with these effects; only pick one or two, and use them in moderation.
It gets distracting if everything on a page is highlighted and wiggling with animations.
Pay Attention to Modern Accessibility
There are two forms of accessibility that you’ll want to keep in mind as you design your website.
The first is mobile accessibility. Over 50% of all web traffic today is performed on a mobile device, with several limitations. They often operate on slower connections, have much smaller screens, are vertically rather than horizontally oriented, and aren’t capable of rendering as much in the way of fancy code.
The typical solution is to restrict the kinds of code and scripts you run and use a responsive design.
Responsive design is standard, and you can test it on any computer by dragging and resizing your browser window.
See how the site changes, including the positions of elements on the page, the number of menu items and the menu format, and more. It adapts to any device used to view it.
The other kind of accessibility is more along the lines of handicap accessibility. The guidelines for accessibility are still being hammered out and improved. Still, more and more legislation is pushing for websites to be accessible to those with motor impairments (who might not be able to click on elements on a page), visual impairment (who may need screen readers to navigate), and other barriers to using your website.
Don’t Forget SEO Best Practices for an Industrial Website Design
Like it or not, you’re a business on the internet, meaning you must play by the rules.
It’s no longer sufficient to have a website that exists solely as a resource page that you hand out via links on business cards and emails; you need to be visible in Google’s web search index, on social media, and in other venues. All of this means complying with the core concepts of Search Engine Optimization.
A lot goes into SEO.
Primers like this can be a great place to start, but it’s often better to work with a web design and marketing agency to handle the details. There’s so much ground to cover, and the industry is mature enough that starting from scratch now is operating at a severe disadvantage.
Tim Woda is the CEO and founder of White Peak Marketing. He has been on the founding team of five successful start-ups and his digital marketing campaigns have acquired more than 800 million customers for his start-ups and White Peak’s client companies. Tim has been featured by The New York Times, Fox News, Forbes, The Huffington Post, and more. Under Tim’s direction, White Peak was selected as one of America’s Top Digital Marketing Agencies for 2021 by MarTech Outlook magazine.