To create a successful online presence, you need to ensure that you’re optimizing your website for specific users in your market. Every vertical should have key messaging points as well as unique elements that differentiate them from websites in different industries. Depending on what your business specializes in, your messaging, how you display that messaging, and the overall features of your site should be relevant to your target users. If you’re in the auto industry for example, you can’t expect to mirror the same design elements of a successful fashion site and have the same success.
However, as different as they might be in content or industry focus, every website shares the same core goals. Generating brand awareness, creating conversions, and bringing back visitors are always going to be the driving factors behind any approach you take in building your website — regardless of what your business specializes in. Brand recognition will always correlate to sales, so ensuring that your website builds brand value effectively when you structure your website is going to benefit your business immensely.
It’s important to explore what each vertical is doing online successfully, and understand how you can apply those elements to your business. The food and beverage industry is often thought to be unique online in both presentation and user engagement tactics, and while there may be some differences between a great food website and websites in other verticals, there are always things you can learn and apply to your business to increase online conversions. Here are 6 things that your business can take away from effective food website design to help your online business grow:
1. Imagery Conveys an Idea Better Than Text
There is no need to use copious amounts of copy to get across core messages to your audience. Using minimal text that is supported with excellent images is going to do a better job at conveying your central ideas than having too much text. You don’t want to start with a big paragraph and overwhelm the reader. Instead, showcase what you are known for and bring that idea across with the images you use.
New York City food provider, Baldor Foods, does this incredibly well. They are known for the highest quality fresh foods — you can tell right from the images and simple messaging. There isn’t a ton of text, the words they want you to focus on are a larger size, and the images are representative of the messaging they want to convey. These concepts are easily translated for any other type of business by keeping users engaged with great images and only using text when necessary.
2. Custom Images are a Worthwhile Investment for Your Business
When it comes to the food industry, one of the most valuable things you can do is invest in custom photography. You need to have images of your food, not stock images. Vendors or clients want to see authenticity, and investing in custom photography for your site is the best way to give them what they want. Showcase your products; show the user that they can expect the best from your brand. Nobody wants to read a paragraph describing food or a service, they want to see it. If your visuals don’t reflect your actual offerings, what’s the point in having images at all?
This holds true outside of the food industry as well, particularly when it comes to showcasing your employees in the workplace. No one wants to see a stock model doing something industry-related. Instead, show users who you are and what you do on your website — it will help build trust and ultimately make users feel more at ease buying a product or service from your website.
3. Users are On-the-Go
If you’re in the food industry, you can be sure most of your users aren’t going to be sitting behind a desktop — they’re on-the-go, so it’s essential that you have a responsive site to reach your audience on mobile devices. The mobile version of any food website should feature concise messaging partnered with images in order to effectively stress key points without overloading or boring the user with too much text — especially on a small screen. This is becoming increasingly true across all verticals, and as a result mobile should be a priority regardless of industry.
Furthermore, take the time to look at your various multimedia elements and consider alternatives if they are slowing down your website’s load times on mobile. Not everything that is suited for your desktop version is going to be fitting for the mobile rendering of your site — however, the overall look and feel of your mobile site should have branding that is consistent with your desktop version.
4. Structure your Site for Usability
Many food websites fail to think about developing site structure through the mindset of how the users should use it, instead of how their team uses it internally. This often leads to a development process that lacks navigation elements that are clear and easy to use. Remember that a simpler navigation is always going to be more user-friendly than something that is more complex and difficult for users to use. More specifically, it is important to note that users don’t go to a site and go to the top navigation when they are seeking more information — they start scrolling down. This is true from websites about food to B2B businesses, as you can see in this scrollmap of part of a page from Blue Fountain Media’s website:
While keeping that in mind, also consider that most of the important information should be above the fold so that it is clearly visible and gives users a good idea of what your company is all about in case they don’t take the time to look through the entire page. Tell a story to your audience as they scroll down, allowing them to learn more as they progress through, while still clearly providing all the “essentials” on the page.
5. Understand your Audience
When you are first starting to build your site or beginning a major redesign, you have to consider who you’re trying to reach before you begin creating new design assets for the site. Due to the nature of the online food and beverage business, it’s common to have existing clients and new clients and that need to be given serious thought in terms of how you want to best engage with them. As a result, many food websites are able to fulfill the needs of an audience that can vary from a regular customer looking to buy a single item, to wholesale buyers, and brands that are looking for a B2B food service.
When your business caters to existing clients you need to learn not only who they are, but how they use your site. For new clients, show them your selling points and give them reason to be interested in your business and to engage with you. Whether you are a B2B or B2C site, how different customers engage with your website is a vital thing to keep in mind. You should be able to fulfill the needs of both existing and new clients without marginalizing either of them.
6. Every Site Needs to Engage Users
In any vertical, you should be engaging users with content, stories or images and always have a call to action. Of course with an ecommerce site, it’s obvious that the CTA is a sale. You want users to see that “buy now” button and make a purchase. For informational sites, the CTA is just as important. For the food industry, having a set of categorized buttons that highlight products and services is a way to interact with users while also providing them further information that may set your business apart from others. You want users to engage with your site or complete a conversion, whether that is registering for your newsletter, following you on social media or registering for your blog feed.
Building an Online Presence Requires a Team
Applying effective elements from food and beverage or food service industry websites to your online business can be an extremely difficult proposition. However, when done correctly, it can pay huge dividends that will help increase your online return on investment substantially. A helpful way to make sure these elements are done right is to find the perfect digital agency partner to help you create the best possible presence for your specific vertical in terms of both design and usability. Whether you’re in the food and beverage marketplace or another industry entirely, finding an agency that specializes in exactly what you need can help make sure that you got all the elements that work for food industry websites and none of the ones that have no place on your business’ website.