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The secret to designing a great business website

Posted on: December 22nd, 2022 by Bjørn Ivar Knudsen No Comments
SmplCo UX Supremo, Bjørn Ivar Knudsen, reveals what your website needs to drive growth

Firms often come to Smpl asking about website design and development. The conversation usually goes a bit like this (once we’ve all got tea and coffee and biscuits, of course): 

  • Client: ‘Can you build us a business website?’
  • Smpl: ‘Of course. Why?’
  • Client: ‘So people can see what we do and get in touch with us, if they want to.’
  • Smpl: ‘Are you sure that’s all you want to do?’
  • Client: ‘What else do we need a website for?’
  • Smpl (cracking knuckles in a purposeful way): ‘Well…’

At this point we start to explain that in 2023 websites should – no, must – be much more than just static pages of basic information.

Of course, if your heart is set on the basics, we’ll suggest some excellent web services where you can achieve all that quickly and cost-effectively.  

But, be warned, doing that would be a missed opportunity. Big. Huge. And that’s true no matter what kind of firm you are.

‘To harness the power of your website, you’ve got to ask one Very Big Question…’

UX specialist, Bjørn Ivar

What makes a great company website?

Done well, business website design offers a place of great opportunity for you and your firm.

It will create a place where many customer journeys start. Where you:

  • build understanding and trust in your brand
  • generate leads
  • collect data to diversify and optimise your offer
  • provide customer service
  • … and so many other things

Get this right and you don’t just have a website, you have a dynamic business tool that will build your brand, give you competitive advantage, generate sales, and grow a loyal customer base.

You don’t need to be at the cutting edge of technology to leverage the power of websites. You could be in the most manual, traditional firm on earth and still use your site in all sorts of ways to grow and sustain your business.

But to do this you must first ask one Very Big Question:

What is the purpose of my website?

The answer is usually a mixture of several elements, but you will still need to focus so you can deliver on your customers’ needs.

With that in mind, let’s look at the most common purposes that drive successful business websites.

Smpl's Bjørn Ivar sitting at his desk, checking out our website
The author, Bjørn Ivar, searching for purpose

1. Lead Generation

Some sites – for example, e-commerce – exist to sell you stuff straight away, but this doesn’t work for other businesses. 

You might be in an industry where people need time to understand their own needs. They might want to assess your competence or whether you’re the one to deliver what they want (many service industries fall into this bracket). 

In this case, your goal is to get people to submit their information, often in return for a ‘fremium’ service (e.g. introductory service modules, specialist reports or templates, a bespoke assessment of their needs, or such like). This allows you to follow-up with a call or email later.

Many providers go much further. Their website design strategy rests on them becoming domain experts.

They do this by offering in-depth (free) education across their area of expertise, building trust and rapport with customers in the process.

Whatever your tactics, a lead gen strategy may well mean sales take place away from your site (unless you are selling a digital service, e.g. SaaS). But no matter where that commercial relationship begins, your site will have been a crucial element of the customer journey.

2. Sales & customer service

If you’re primary purpose is sales, then you need to be thinking differently about your website.

With a sales site, you’ll need to focus more directly on the value customers receive by making a purchase (and, often, the benefits they’ll lose by not buying something there and then).

You’ll need to make sure you can quickly adapt promotional materials (text, photos, videos, etc) and pricing and – crucially – you must offer a streamlined, user-friendly checkout process.  

Customer support also needs to be integrated into the site to ensure customers can swiftly follow-up with questions, concerns and, if necessary, returns.

Businesses often don’t pay enough attention to customer support on their websites, which is a big mistake. Poor customer service can do serious damage to your brand. Conversely, you can use it to build loyalty, drive repeat sales, and lower product returns. 

Woman is working in the office, looking angry and frustrated
She’s getting poor customer service. Don’t make her go through that again.

3. Other purposes

Lead gen and sales are where many businesses focus their sites, but there are other purposes that we’d be delighted to tell you more about if you drop us a line.

Examples include:

  • Information: this is the case for news websites, which often deliver vast volumes of information that they can place ads alongside, while also promoting subscription packages, events, and so on
  • Education and entertainment: from training packages to video streaming sites (and everything in between), sites use education and entertainment to make money from purchases, subscriptions, adverts, and more
  • Community building: some sites exist to facilitate connections between people, like dating sites, social media, and directory services
  • Service delivery: here we’re talking about organisations that are funded and mandated to deliver certain services (e.g. a government department or non-profit organisation)

In each case, different rules, structures and processes will apply if you want to deliver the best possible service for your customers.

What comes next?

Once you’ve got your website purpose clear there’s still more to do if you want a company website that surprises and delights your customers.

You’ll need to consider things like:

  • Design & function: your site needs to be visually appealing, polished, and professional, as well as work quickly, correctly, and as expected
  • User experience (UX): you need obvious, logical navigation, with structures and search capabilities that cater for those looking for something specific, as well as others just browsing
  • Fluency: you need to offer content that is topical, relevant, and engaging for the audience, and deliver it in ways they want and language they understand
  • Platform optimisation: you’ve got to look good on desktop, mobile, tablet (or whatever new medium has appeared since you started reading this…)

There’s a lot more to talk about, but I hope this convinces you that great opportunity lies in getting your business website design correct.

If you want to know more about it, we’d be delighted to have a chat about your options. The Smpl coffee and tea and biscuits will be waiting…

To tap into Bjørn Ivar’s expertise, as well as the deep experience we’ve got across Smpl, get in touch.
You can email our MD Andreas, just leave us a message here and we’ll come straight back to you.

How to make your SaaS start-up plain sailing

Posted on: December 22nd, 2022 by Bjørn Ivar Knudsen No Comments
Entrepreneur (and SmplCo UX Supremo) Bjørn Ivar built an industry-leading SaaS company. He has made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to. 

My Big Idea came after I overheard an accountant complaining about how bad their employees were at logging business travel mileage.

They were saying how much money could be saved if there was a program that could create and keep travel records.

‘Hmmmm,’ I thought…

Two months later, I’d created a prototype for something that would determine travel destinations and distances and store them in the cloud.

I tested ‘Quicklog’ on my friends, and – to my great surprise – most were really impressed with how it worked.

When we sold the company to telematics leader Abax ten years later, my little start-up had grown into the largest company of its kind in the country.

Based on my experience, I’d say building a Software as a Service (SaaS) company is challenging but hugely rewarding, and I’d recommend it to anyone.

BUT… there are certain things you need to think about if you want to create and grow a successful SaaS company.

So, here are the Five Most Important Things To Consider if you’re asking how to set up a SaaS business…

1. Do your product & market research

Before you can get going with your SaaS start-up, you need to make sure there is a market for your service. You need to know you are solving a problem… and that has to be a real problem!

For example, a robot that cleans window might make sense theroetically, but the reason no one’s rushing to market with one is it’s relatively cheap and easy to clean windows, so it’s not really needed.

Robot with spray in hands cleaning the window in the kitchen
Not now, thanks.

You need to do your qualitative and quantitative research – get people to try it – or you won’t know if you are solving a real problem. 

If you want to survive as a SaaS business you have to create something that delivers value, and keeps doing so year-after-year.

The acid test of this only really comes when it’s time for customers to renew their subscription. Is it good enough for them to pay twice…? If they do, you know you’re onto a winner.

2. Get your business model right 

Once you have identified a market for your service, you need to develop a business model that will be profitable. 

This includes working out:

  • how you will generate revenue
  • how much you will charge for your product or service
  • how you will manage costs

One of the great things about SaaS is it doesn’t need much manpower – you don’t need to have 300 employees to start seeing customers heading into the funnel (and when you do it is one of the most exciting and rewarding things ever!)

You can subscribe to some webservices – almost for free – and it can just be you in your basement getting on with it.

The other big benefit is you can do something once that then generates revenue automatically (that’s why software companies become so valuable so quickly).

So, you need to be clear how you will generate Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) and Annual Revenue (AR). 

Then you need to automate everything as much as possible, so the business is generating recurring revenue without you needing to worry about that.

Then you can focus on developing and updating your service to keep your customers surprised and delighted.

There’s a reason SaaS start-ups quickly get such high valuations… The repeat revenue opportunities.

Bjørn Ivar

3. Get the tech right

Perhaps the most obvious statement ever: technology is a major factor in the success of any SaaS business. 

But it’s easy to get the wrong tech or have so much of it that you drowning in complexity. 

You need to identify a tech stack that will provide the features and functionality necessary to deliver your product or service. 

Be ruthless in your decision-making and don’t fall into the trap of buying funky, shiny things that don’t serve a customer need or enable you to serve those needs.

4. Don’t ignore the legal side

This may sound like another obvious point, but it’s really important. There’s plenty of poor geniuses who didn’t get the structures right or protect their idea properly.

Lawyers will help you:

  • choose a business structure
  • register your business
  • protect your intellectual property
  • comply with all applicable laws and regulations 

So, lawyer up and make sure they’re a good one.

5. Know what you’re going to do next

SaaS can be very lucrative and rewarding but it’s tough. You’ve got to be ahead of the game. 

If someone comes up with something cheaper or better than what you’ve got then you’re dead meat. 

You need to monitor the market, the needs of your customers, what your competitors are doing, and keep improving your offering.

All technology is cutting edge… until it isn’t

If you do all these things your plans will grow in tandem with customer needs (and that includes the needs they don’t know they need yet!)

It’s absolutely fine to start with a basic product, but be ready and able to add new services (and to remove them as well, just like Google did with Hangouts when it realised no one was using it).

Keep monitoring your customers’ behaviour and use the data to your advantage.

Be honest: are they willing to pay for your new widget? Even if they’ve paid are they using it? (If they’re not, they won’t keep paying.)

There’s a lot more to think about, but if you get these things right then you’ll have as good a chance as anyone to create and grow a successful start-up.

Good luck! And if you want to chat more about your SaaS start-up, I’d love to help.

To tap into Bjørn Ivar’s expertise, as well as the deep experience we’ve got across Smpl, get in touch.
Click here to email our MD, Andreas, or leave us a message here.

“This is what all innovators should do…”

Posted on: November 17th, 2022 by Bjørn Ivar Knudsen No Comments
SmplCo’s UX supremo, Bjørn Ivar Knudsen, on the random comment that inspired his market-leading tech firm, the size of fish, and having unresolved issues with Lego

Lego stole my idea*

I’ve had a burning desire to create things for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, I would send letters to all manufacturers suggesting how they could make improvements or telling them what new products they should make.

I was really into Lego, so a lot of ideas were sent there. I rarely got a reply, but one of the Lego directors wrote back saying he appreciated my feedback and my idea was good, but they already “had it in their idea bank” Yeah, right!

* They may well not have

Simplicity is a genetic thing for me

It all goes back to an undiagnosed problem with my eyes, which gave me great problems with keeping up at school. Even though I was smart, I struggled to read and learn like the other kids.

This forced me to learn in other ways. I would read a little, listen a lot, look for practical angles, and work out how to simplify issues to make them easier to understand.

Basically, I was smart enough to understand that things could and should be made simple so everyone – even a fool like me – could understand them.

Eventually, taking complex problems and finding simple solutions became a career for me. This is what all innovators should do: make their solutions simple and relatable.

That’s the exact reason why we created Smpl, to help people do that.

My biggest success came from a random comment

I overheard an accountant complaining about how bad their employees were at logging business travel mileage and how much money could be saved if there was a program that could create and keep travel records.

Two months later, I’d created a prototype for something that would determine travel destinations and distances and store them in the cloud.

I tested it on my friends, and – to my great surprise – most were really impressed with how it worked. When we sold the company ten years later, Quicklog (as it became) was the largest company of its kind in the country.

This is what all innovators should do: make their solutions simple and relatable.

Bjørn Ivar

I like to help small fish eat the big ones

We live in a world where start ups can kill off established companies, and where small teams in big, legacy organisations can radically change them.

I love it when this happens because that means the passionate, the creative, and the energetic people – the ones who aren’t afraid to ask difficult questions – are winning. If that’s you, let me know, and we can start to work out how you’re going to change the world.

Find fuel and friction

I’ve built several companies, but it wasn’t until I started Quicklog that I did it with people who were unlike myself. This was crucial to our success.

When you are trying to do anything innovative – whether it’s starting a company or designing a new product – you need people around you who will constantly question what you’re doing. That can be business partners or an agency like ours.

You need to challenge each other – to create that friction – or everything happens in a bubble.

But, a warning: this only works if there is mutual respect. That comes from experience, talent, and everyone doing what they are supposed to do. That’s the fuel that will drive you.

If you want to find out more about how we can bring your Big Idea to life faster, more efficiently – and considerably less stressfully! – than anyone else, we’d love to hear from you.
Click here to email our MD Andreas, or leave us a message here.