Creating a website that hits home is vital for any franchise. If you want a web presence that draws in franchisees and customers in equal measure, there are a few things to bear in mind
Given that the internet is the first port of call for potential franchisees and customers alike, it is absolutely vital that franchises have an effective web presence. Get your website right and you can pretty much guarantee you’ll have a steady stream of quality leads coming in; get it wrong and you could extinguish any interest that visitors have in your brand. Putting together the perfect website certainly isn’t easy but, if franchises take into account a handful of key points, they can ensure they’re presenting the best possible face to the world.
Research high and low
First things first, any business building up its web presence will need to work out what kinds of people it is looking to attract. “Identifying who exactly will be visiting your site can help determine its style and content,” says James Hamilton-Martin, senior creative designer at PHA Media, the PR agency. “How do you want to be represented? Do you want to appear serious and corporate or fun and playful?” An example he gives is that of the British Heart Foundation website, which is designed to make it as easy as possible for potential philanthropists to donate. “[It] is dominated by simple call-to-action buttons and a persuasive sign-up process, all tied together in a simple-to-navigate, easy-access interface,” he says.
Additionally, franchisors should be giving as much consideration to their competitors as their customers. “Competitor analysis is always a vital part of the planning process,” Hamilton-Martin explains. Taking a look at how others in your sector frame their digital presence can provide an excellent insight into the expectations of the market. But Hamilton-Martin stresses that this doesn’t mean simply duplicating other people’s ideas. “The key to gaining an edge over competitors online is not to copy what they’re doing but to construct ways to make it better,” he says.
Keeping it brief
There’s no value in doing comprehensive research, however, if this isn’t effectively communicated to the people that will actually be coding a franchise’s site. “Before you send your website designer off to work their magic, franchisors need to be clear about what the business is looking to achieve,” says Dave Bowers, head of design at Evolutia, the web design and digital marketing agency. Creating a clear and comprehensive brief will ensure that a franchisor gets exactly what they’re looking for, as well as preventing a need for costly revisions down the line. “Changing the brief once work has commenced will lead to spiralling project costs and delays,” he says. “This is often a result of the project scope or website’s purpose being misunderstood.”
By mistake or design
Whilst aesthetics might not be your first concern, there are few things that will have more of an impact on how franchisees and customers respond to a website than the way it is structured and presented. “Consider what layout route you want to go down,” says Hamilton-Martin. “Do you want a visual site full of imagery and less reliant on copy or do you prefer an emphasis on text and information?” And regardless of which route you go down, it is vital that a franchise keeps the design as coherent as possible across all areas of its site. “It’s important to maintain the same style throughout; keep the layout consistent across each page,” he says.
Make it mobile
But, in this day and age, there is one design factor that is more important than any other: whether a website is mobile ready. “Technology is changing the way we interact and use data and information, so your franchise website needs to be up to the challenge,” says Bowers. He refers to research from mobile-insight specialists Mobilesquared, which says that by the second quarter of 2016 there will be 43 million mobile internet users in the UK. This means that no franchise can afford to ignore the huge proportion of potential customers and franchisees that will be browsing on a mobile phone or tablet.
In light of this, not only is a responsive design – which will allow individual elements on a site to better scale to the size of any screen – a must-have for any modern franchise but Bowers recommends franchises explore the wider opportunities that mobile represents. “Many new websites are built with mobile capability but [you should] use your website designer to find mobile solutions to existing business problems – whether that is sales conversion or customer care services,” he explains.
Once a franchise has launched its site, it would be tempting to think its owners can hang the mission accomplished banners and put their feet up. Unfortunately, nothing is further from the truth. “The hard work doesn’t stop once your new website is live,” says Bowers. Franchisors need to have an idea of how they will drive traffic to their new digital home; building a strong social media presence, utilising SEO and even pay-per-click advertising will become essential for franchises really wanting to make their mark on the web. “The launch of a new company website is more than just window dressing,” Bowers says. “It should mark a new stage in the development of the company.”
No matter what, it is vital that franchises give their websites the utmost care and attention. “I can only stress the importance of dedicating adequate time to planning, designing and building an effective website,” Hamilton-Martin concludes. “After all, in today’s world, the loyalty and commerce of a customer can be won and lost on the a click of a mouse.”