The design of your corporate website is crucial. For many businesses, your brand's main website will be the first point of contact for consumers, and the center of your digital marketing efforts. A beautiful and functional design that invites users to engage with your brand online is as necessity.
What do you need for a great corporate website design?
I’ve compiled the best practices from these top-ranked corporate websites, as well as noted some things to avoid.
Before I jump in, however, I want to talk a little bit about website goals.
Every web property should have a carefully defined goal before it is created. Landing pages or lead capture pages are created to focus on selling a single product or capturing leads using methods such as offering free downloads or trials in exchange for personal information.
The goal of a dedicated sales page is to sell that product. The goal of the lead capture page is to gather leads.
A corporate website goal is typically to educate visitors about a business and build the brand’s persona.
Since the goal of a corporate website is different than that of other types of web pages, corporate website design will have a different set of best practices than a landing page or product page design.
What does a great corporate website design look like?
Let’s go over the top corporate website design trends outlined in the case study by Bowen Craggs.
Corporate Website Design Trend 1:
Corporate Websites are Editorial.
According to the research group, corporate websites have placed greater emphasis on applying editorial skills to corporate information.
Editorial websites are popular because they tell stories in simple and attractive ways. They are heavy on multi media like images and video, while going a little lighter on the amount of text per editorial story. This aligns well with trends we see of users reading less and skimming more.
Editorial sites have small tidbits of information that can often lead to more detailed description of a story, cause, or other information about a business.
Shell is one of the top ranked sites that uses rich editorial to show their brand in the best possible light.
Corporate Website Design Trend 2:
Sharing Information with Visual Flair
The goal of many corporate websites is to share information. But to do so in a way the visitors will enjoy requires the use of visual flair. The pages must be appealing to the eye upon first visit, and entice the readers to want to delve deeper into the stories shared on the website.
Siemens is one example of a corporate brand that uses visual flair combined with editorial storytelling to create a top-ranked corporate website.
Corporate Website Design Trend 3:
How are you making the world a better place?
Many brands focused on the positive aspects of their business. How are the giving back to the community? What changes have they made to their business model to reduce their carbon footprint? How amazing are employees that volunteer?
People prefer to buy from brands that are doing good in the world. They are willing to pay more for a product from a brand that donates to a good cause, that is more environmentally friendly, or is actively improving local and global communities.
A corporate website is the perfect place to focus on the positive impact your company is having on the world.
Nestle is ranked one of the top corporate sites, not because they are the cutting edge of web design, but because they do a great job highlighting the good they are doing as a company.
Corporate Website Design Trend 4:
Separating product brands from corporate site.
While many big brands do mention their products on their corporate site, most of the information on these products are on separate sites.
A corporate website should focus on company’s brand, and separate sales sites can be used to build product brands.
This might not apply to all business types. For some small businesses, such as a local café, it wouldn’t make sense to have a corporate site and separate product brands. A local business would do better having one website and focusing on ways of engaging with their local audience through niche listing sites, like Yelp, Facebook, or their local chamber of commerce site.
But for large companies with multiple product brands or labels, dividing the corporate site from the products is a good move. This helps users in their goal of leanring more about the business behind the brand, or those looking for careers or a way to contact the business.
Separating products from the corporate site allows the product sites to focus on their main goal: Making a sale.
In the same way, you can separate a global corporate site from location-specific sites. This can help service-based companies focus down on their target demographics, and better serve visitors that are seeking to buy versus those seeking information about the brand.
Corporate Website Design Trend 5:
Focus on ease of navigation.
This is important for any website, but particularly important for large corporate sites with a lot of content. Being able to quickly find exactly what a user is searching for is essential to a positive customer experience.
For corporate sites, they are getting visitors with a variety of goals. For example, some might be looking for career options, others might be searching for a way to contact customer service, while still others might be trying to learn more about a specific product or charity the company supports.
Helping visitors find the information they are looking for quickly and without frustration should be the goal of your design team. Carefully planned navigation, with an easy way to go backwards and forwards through the website is necessary.
Many corporate websites, for the sake of beauty, tuck away navigation which can make getting around a website difficult.
GSK.com does a great job with their navigation, offering a simple navigation that opens to a preview of everything a user can find under that navigation.
Web designers are continually attempting to tackle the navigation challenge, trying new ways of improving the user experience. The key is to balance beauty and functionality.
Corporate Website Design Trend 5:
Large amounts of content.
The reason for the importance of great navigation is our 5th trend, the vast amounts of content corporate brands are providing.
More content is great for search optimization, builds trust in visitors, and can also be necessary to provide visitors with the answers they seek.
What kind of content do we see on corporate sites?
Many of these large brands we’ve highlighted don’t have blogs, as trust in corporate blogs has dropped dramatically over the years. However, personal blogs by corporate leaders have become increasingly popular, such as Richard Branson
of Virgin Group.
But not all companies rely on blogs to share information. Instead, they regularly update the information on the homepage of their site, key real estate that gets the most views, anyway.
Content on the homepage includes news about the company, the good they are doing, and any exciting product developments.
Deeper within the site are vast amounts of stories about the company, how it was founded, its corporate teams, its locations, careers opportunities, information for/about investors, how they are doing good and their missions or values, product pages or links to sub websites, and more.
Any content marketer will tell you: “You can never have too much content.” I’ll add a small caveat: “As long as you have kick-ass navigation so visitors don’t get lost in your site.”
GSK, the site ranked top for excellence in design for 2018, has large amounts of content combined with excellent navigation, as I illustrated in the video in the last section.
Corporate Website Design Trend 6:
The main goal of many corporate sites is to provide vast amount of information in manageable ways. But some sites do a great job of really engaging the visitor.
Nestle, for example, has an Ask Nestle section. This is basically a well-designed FAQs area where users can search questions and read articles that tell the answers. If the a questions isn’t answered, they can choose to Get in Touch and are provided with all the different options for contacting Nestle directly.
Showing visitors how they can engage with your business is important. Gone of the days of just broadcasting your message to consumers.
Companies are now expected to engage with consumers on levels we’ve never before been able to. That means responding on social media to posts and mentions of your brand, including chat bots or instant messaging on your website, and making contacting your brand through your corporate website easy and transparent.
Nestle got a top ranking not only because of a beautiful design, but because it made engaging with consumers a top priority.
Corporate Website Design Trend 7:
Image and Movement
Simplicity is highly sought after in today’s design world. However, behind that appearance of simplicity lies amazingly complex code.
Beautiful imagery and movement that attracts the eye might look like simple embellishments to the end user, but to create those effects, and to make them appear beautiful on mobile and on desktop, requires a lot of work by design and development teams.
This is a challenge our creative director is regularly tacking for our clients. It is also why the top ranked corporate sites utilize movement in deceivingly simple ways.
See how the header slides into view on the GSK website?
Or the subtle movement of images on the Siemens homepage that draws your eye to their articles?
Each carefully chosen image and slight movement is designed to draw the eye to important text or images that enhances the website and makes the user experience better.
Corporate Website Design Trend 8:
These top ranked websites weren’t just designed and published to the web. Many of them are continually updated, polished, and tested.
Any marketing or web design professional will tell you the continual testing and tweaking of a site is the different between mediocrity and excellence.
Why can’t you just have a beautiful site designed and leave it for the masses to enjoy?
Design trends change quickly.
What was beautiful and avant garde last year could look clunky and passe this year.
Browsers update regularly.
Just like design trends change faster than most people change their sheets, browsers are always updating. What looked great on Google Chrome a few months ago might be broken or earn you a ranking penalty because it doesn’t display properly on mobile anymore.
Top ranked corporate websites are always being polished and tweaked.
Corporate Website Design Trend 9:
Light Color Schemes.
I almost hesitated to include this, because there are some great sites out there incorporating dark design themes. However, I couldn’t help but notice that all the top corporate sites on this particular ranking had light color schemes. A coincidence or perhaps a theme worth noting?
When doing some user experience research, most studies suggest that light or dark is less important than readability. Good contrast between text and background is essential.
However, as many large corporate brands want to appear trustworthy, humanitarian, and innovative, a light color scheme psychological will fill that goal better than a dark scheme.
I think a dark color scheme can be highly effective if used in the right industry, and with the right branding. As with any aspect of your site, this should be tested and considered with the context of your business.
Personally, if I’m doing a lot of reading, a light background is preferable. What color scheme do you prefer when browsing or reading?
A corporate website design will look different than a dedicated landing page or an ecommerce website. Keeping in mind your goals for your corporate website is crucial to having a well-designed site.
Corporate website design trends from top-ranking websites:
A trend towards editorial sites rich in content and current information keep visitors interested and informed.
Visual flair can be accomplished through the right combination of images, headers, and layouts.
Top corporate websites show how they are doing good and improving the world around them.
Separating product brands from your corporate message will help reach your website goals.
Encourage engagement in forms, chat boxes, polls, contests or other interactive elements.
Include large amounts of content in well-structured formats to ensure every visitor finds what they are looking for.
Navigation should be easy to understand and allow the user to move back and forth throughout the site without confusion.
The best sites incorporate complex design elements in deceptively simple interfaces to point the visitor’s eyes to the most important elements on the page.
A website is never finished. Always keep polishing and tweaking your corporate site.
Light color schemes appeal emotionally and can be best for large amounts of content.