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6 Ways Defense Contractors Can Make Their Websites More Effective

Defense contractors who follow website design best practices can demonstrate something important in the aerospace and defense industry: technical proficiency.

Defense Contractor Website

As a defense contractor, your website can be the first impression that a prospective buyer, partner or employee is going to have of you and your firm.

Setting aside your website’s content (which is ultimately more important), if the basic design of your website is driving visitors away, you might be calling attention to your lack of technical proficiency. In the aerospace and defense industry, that is not a good first impression to give.

Even if your company has a great reputation, a poorly designed website can be like shooting yourself in the foot.

One metric that defense contractors can monitor related to website design and usability is their site’s bounce rate.

A bounce rate is the percentage of visitors to your website who leave without navigating to any other pages. While it varies by industry, most websites have 30 to 60 percent bounce rates.

That means that a large proportion of the traffic coming to your website may be leaving right away and probably never returning. And if the right kinds of people are visiting your site and bouncing off, you’re really hindering your business development and recruitment efforts.

To decrease your bounce rate and improve your site visitors’ experience, here are six things to keep in mind when designing or tweaking your website:

1. First impression – In a Stanford University study, it was confirmed that site visitors first evaluate a site’s design before deciding whether to stay and explore the content. Site visitors are subconsciously deciding if the site is credible and trustworthy. They also are making judgments about the company, its professionalism and its stability.

To make a good first impression, here are some things to consider:

  • Colors – Pick two to four colors and don’t try to make everything jump out.
  • Animations/music – Avoid them. Only use them in support of your site’s content.
  • Layout – Use a grid format, avoid clutter and remember that white space is your friend.
  • Typography – Make sure it’s legible.

2. Maintain consistency – The look and feel of your site should be as consistent as possible across all pages. The design elements include color, font, sizes and layout structure. Keep the navigation in the same place throughout your site.

Most sites have three page layouts: the home page, the content pages and the pages with forms (e.g., contact page, landing pages for pay-per-click campaigns, etc.). The consistency across your site will keep your visitors from feeling lost.

3. Use appropriate images – Be careful using stock photography. Stock photography is popular because it is readily available and affordable – and sometimes free. However, in a lead generation study by MECLAB, photos of real people outperformed stock photos by 95 percent.

Try to avoid fake representations of your employees or customers with stock photos of well-dressed, multigenerational, multicultural beautiful people. Marketing expert David Meerman Scott derisively refers to this tactic as “visual gobbledygook.” More importantly, website visitors are not fooled by it and tend to have lower trust in the company behind the site.

This article from HubSpot further skewers the overused practice of bad stock photography:

13 Hilarious Examples of Truly Awful Stock PhotographyMost marketers are pretty convinced of the importance of using visuals in their marketing. Think about it. There's the rise of Pinterest. The more visual nature of Facebook after the release of Timeline. The popularity of infographics. The general population's short attention span coupled with an overall aversion to reading.

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4. Navigation – Numerous studies have shown that the most important aspect of a website’s design is the ease in finding information. That’s why the site’s navigation is so important. If people can’t find what they are looking for, they tend to leave. The best rule of thumb is to make it as easy as possible for your visitors – if they have to think about where they need to go and how to get there, they tend to leave.

Here are some navigation best practices to keep in mind to help your visitors find what they are looking for and to reduce your bounce rate:

  • Keep your overall site navigation simple and at the top of each page.
  • Put navigation in the site footer as well.
  • Don’t offer too many navigation options on each page.
  • Use “breadcrumbs” – links back to each previous page the user navigated through to get to the current page – on each page so people will know where they are in the navigation trail.
  • Include a search box at the top of each page so people can search by keywords.
  • Keep your navigation to no more than three levels deep.
  • Include links in your page copy to other parts of the site, and make sure people understand what the link goes to.
  • Don’t use Flash and JavaScript for your navigation. Some mobile devices can’t see Flash, which can render the site useless.

5. Flash and animation – Go easy on this. While Flash animation is great for getting attention, it also can discourage visitors from staying on your site. People don’t like unexpected animations and noise. Plus, some mobile applications don’t have the capability to view Flash animation. If you must have animations, consider using the more browser-compliant HTML5 instead of Flash.

6. Accessibility – Your site needs to be accessible to a growing number of web browsers (e.g., Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, etc.) and devices (computer, mobile, tablet, etc.). Test-fire them all.

What do you think? Please join the conversation below. And if you found this helpful, please consider sharing it with your network.

The Principal and Founder of Artillery, Douglas Burdett is a former artillery officer and Madison Avenue ad man. He also hosts The Marketing Book Podcast, where he interviews authors every week about the latest in modern marketing and sales.

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