Over the course of my 20-year career building digital experiences for tech companies around DC and Baltimore, I’ve met a lot of B2B/B2G tech entrepreneurs and C-suiters who are reluctant to invest in digital. Many tech companies in our region started on the basis of government contracts, which means building a business through RFPs, not marketing. That lack of investment produces an outdated or even perfunctory website, minimal social presence, and messaging that fails to communicate their impact. And as the company grows, their digital experience fails to grow with it.

This is not sustainable in 2019.

You already know this, but it’s worth stating anyway: A website is not only a marketing tool. Your website validates your commitment to building a company — not just a product or service. It’s an entry point into your company experience for potential recruits, prime contractors, government buyers (all of whom have other options) and anyone else who needs to understand what you do.

So yes, even your highly profitable tech company needs a well-designed website.

Cognition attempts to make sense of the world: emotion assigns value.

Donald A. Norman, The Design of Everyday Things

Experiences Affect Us

Have you ever decided not to try a new restaurant because of a lousy website? Trying something unfamiliar requires a leap of faith — a window into your potential experience. Diners need it. So do your potential buyers and recruits.

Websites exist for a multitude of reasons, but primarily they’re built to connect users with resources like content, products, and experiences. They need to meet users’ needs and speak to them on an emotional level. They need to actually work on the user’s device.

It’s Time for a Change

We all make judgments based on appearances. We are instinctively attracted to glossy, shiny objects. We judge books by their covers. We cross the street to visit a shop with a well-designed window display. Your audience will do the same.

You need an overhaul.

First, you need to answer three simple, but critical questions.

  1. What value do you bring to your customers?
  2. Is that value expressed clearly on your site?
  3. Does your site validate your credibility?

Step 1: Define Your Position

Even network engineers and cybersecurity analysts like a good story. To create your unique brand story, you need a messaging workshop. Here’s what you need to develop:

Clear Messaging

Outward facing expression of your positioning

Reasons to Believe

Why should our audience believe us?

Critical Support

What evidence do we have to show this?

Step 2: Evaluate and Transform Your Content

Having built a foundation for content through messaging, it’s time to develop content for the various pages of your site. In some cases, content from previous iterations of your site can be transformed. In other cases, you’ll need to start from scratch.

Either way, your copy should be hyper-focused, speak to users’ needs, and be easy to understand. Usability experts call this ‘reducing cognitive load.’

We call it throwing out the jargon and getting real.

Step 3: Design a Visually Compelling Website

Slow and steady may win the race, but dull and formulaic loses every time. Of course, your site should address user needs in an elegant manner, but that doesn’t mean you need to conform to an overly cautious, conservative aesthetic.

Look at your competitors. Do you yawn when you visit their sites? Set your company apart by creating something beautiful and unexpected. Don’t hold back. A site that surprises and delights the user will win.

Work with a Team

Avoid so-called “AI-driven” site builders. Steer clear of anything pre-packaged.

You may be tempted to hire a freelancer. Freelancers are often very skilled at doing one or two things, but finding one person that can act as eight individuals with different skill sets is a fantasy.

Don’t go it alone. What you really need is a team of professionals with years of experience in individual specialties — at the bare minimum, a strategist, copywriter, designer, and developer. Oh, and don’t forget an amazing project manager to keep everything on track.

“Your new site makes government contractors look bad*ss.”

One of my tech clients heard this from an associate after Fifteen4 designed and built a new site for them. Maybe looking bad*ss isn’t your biggest business objective. But creating a digital presence that matches the quality of your solutions should be.

Matthew DeVille

Matthew DeVille

VP of Digital

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