On the surface, building a website to market your program may seem a daunting task. While it is certainly something you need to get right, getting the balance between utility, technical sophistication and beauty is easier than you might think.
Sticking to the following tips will ensure your program website hits the mark and does everything you need to create a great impression and ensure your program gets the limelight it deserves.
Pick a platform
If you pick the right platform, building a website can be as easy as drag and drop. We are often asked what platforms we recommend for an awards marketing website and our answer is almost always a SaaS platform like Wix or Squarespace.
These two platforms are WYSIWYG platforms (What-you-see-is-what-you-get). They allow you to drag and drop elements onto a page and allow you to see what it will look like as you go. Need a banner on the homepage? Drag it onto the screen, write your message and click save. That’s it.
Like Award Force, both Wix and Squarespace are SaaS cloud products (Software as a Service). Which means you pay a subscription fee to access the service via the internet on a monthly or annual basis. By using a SaaS cloud product, you get:
New software features released on a regular basis
You don’t have to update the product, download patches or technically maintain the software in any way
You can configure the software to your needs without specialised skills
If you don’t need the product anymore, you don't need to pay for it beyond your subscription agreement
Award Force is classed as best-in-breed-software, the best in its field; of helping you manage recognition programs. Wix and Squarespace are no different in that they do their one thing really well— help you build your website. Best-of-breed is purpose-built for your specific challenge and because of this, uses terminology specific to the task, is easy to use and normally offers a helpful step-by-step guide to configuring the software.
When shopping around for a platform, we suggest going with an easy to configure product (i.e. you don't need specialised skills) that focuses on doing one thing really well (no muddy waters). Wix and Squarespace are great examples of this.
*Note: We are not affiliated with either wix.com nor squarespace.com - just our opinion!
Decide what your website will look like
Apply one golden rule when deciding what your website will look like: Simple is best.
If you try to create too much, you risk overdoing it and creating an experience for your users that is distracting and cluttered. Great artists have two skills that separate them from the rest, the ability to know when to stop and the ability to edit, but if you keep to the rule of simple is best, you don’t risk having to chop and change later.
Chances are you have an existing brand identity you need to work with but that doesn’t mean you need to use your brand colours excessively to communicate that this is your website.
Pick neutral colours like light grey or white to provide your website with its primary colour base and use relevant pictures to bring your website to life instead. If you need to incorporate your brand into the aesthetics of your website, pick the primary colour in your brand identity and use it as the accent colour (i.e. sparingly).
We’ve intentionally left out “number of pages” and gone with information here because each award is different and number of pages would be based on the amount of information you need to disclose to your users. To market your program effectively, try to keep the information to a minimum and ask yourself, “what do I really need to communicate to my users?”.
We don’t like advocating for a cookie cutter approach but there are three essential pieces of information you need to communicate to your users to orientate them around what your program is all about and why they should care.
Tell them who you are, what your program is all about.
Who should enter/apply? (and who can’t!)
Why should they apply/enter?
Technically, you could do that all on one page but as we say, each program is different and it is up to you how you want to show that information to your users.
Picking a website address is important. This address is where people will need to go to find your website and again - simple is best. People hate complicated website addresses (URL’s). It is much easier to remember and type www.wbc.com than it is to type www.worldbakingchampionships.com. Long addresses lead to mistakes and loss of traffic to your website.
While we mentioned images under colour already, it is worth stating on its own. Images have a way of personalising a website that colour alone cannot do. Most people don't frame their favourite colours or put it up on their desk next to their computer screens, they put pictures of animals, friends, places, family that are important to them. The same can be said about your website. Use images that convey the meaning and essence of your program. Again though, go easy on the images, one great picture is better than fifty average ones.
Link it to your award management tool
Once people have become aware of your program, have been to your website and are interested in participating, they need a place to make their submissions. Ideally, you want a prominent button on the homepage of your site, along with anywhere else that it becomes relevant to direct your users to the place you will be collecting their entries.
If you do go with a platform like wix.com or squarespace.com, this is a question of dragging a button onto the screen, giving the button an appropriate label like “Enter here” and putting the web address of the place you expect your users to submit their entries.
In closing, remember these keys to success:
Choose a best-of-breed platform to build your website
Keep the design simple and clear. Less is more.
Place a clear and prominent button on your website linking to the place you want your users to make submissions.
If you follow the above, you will be sure to have a website that not only looks good, says the right things and does what is needed but markets your program effectively and efficiently.