As a digital agency catering to financial services, we have built lots of microsites for our clients. Oftentimes, it’s easier to spin out a microsite than to update a corporate website. However, without proper planning or a solid build process, issues can also occur on microsites.

Some benefits of having a microsite are:

  • Faster speed to build (weeks rather than months)
  • Having the option to keep it separate from the corporate site
  • Highlighting a single topic without distractions to other navigational areas
  • Hosting content which has a shorter shelf-life
  • Boosting SEO and conversion for select content without worrying about the SEO rankings of the corporate site

#1 Design and content silos

More common than you might expect, we’ve experienced situations where the design and content don’t work well together (kind of like an unhappy marriage). Therefore, we recommend thinking about how design and content will fit together earlier on in the planning process. A trick we use to illustrate the relationship between content and design is using longer lorem ipsum, or different lengths for similar sections, to highlight how different copy lengths could ruin a design.

Ensure your agency understands the audience you’re targeting, as what works for an advisory audience could be less effective with an institutional one. Open and transparent communication can help avoid making design changes at the build stage. Furthermore, some designs can allow for minimal changes in the build stage.

#2 Lack of project management

Missed the deadline once only to miss it again next time? We call this corporate dodgeball. To exit this game, lay out your milestones, deadlines and actions in advance to ensure timely delivery. Adequate periods should be given for the design stage, build stage and testing and amends. If the content is coming from a third party, proper time for reviewing and revisions should be accounted for. Most people underestimate the amount of time needed for translations. We suggest allocating a project manager to ensure things run smoothly.

#3 Lack of content planning

Sometimes, content isn’t clearly highlighted to users or laid out in order of importance. A common pain point is not having clear and concise call to actions (CTAs) as most CTA button texts are too vague. However, we know that each brand will be different so we recommend running some A/B testing to find an optimal CTA for conversion.

Try to create a user journey that is engaging. If the microsite houses public facing content which lasts longer than 6 months, SEO considerations should also be taken into consideration when planning the content.

#4 Violation of brand guidelines

We’ve seen designs put forward that are either too rigid (and not pushing the boundaries of the brand) or too wild (which gets shot down by the brand). This shows that designing for Asset Management can be like a walk on a tightrope. We suggest putting forward 2-3 different design concepts, from conservative to daring, so that stakeholders get different visual input and can combine elements. Make sure to take in the brand guidelines at the start of the project.

#5 Technically wrong

Time and time again we see teams or another agency design something without digital coding skills. They will put together designs that don’t really work in practice (kind of like an architect designing a structure that falls down when built). A common mistake is proposing designs that work independently on a tablet and desktop but are not possible to build within a responsive microsite framework since the sections cannot be stacked in the manner proposed. It is the agency’s responsibility to make sure that the designs proposed are technically sound. A benefit of using the same agency for design and build is that designers can talk to developers throughout the whole process, or at least this is what they should be doing.

#6 Mobile and browser ignorance

If a site is designed with maximum content on desktop, it could be overcrowded on a mobile. Unfortunately, we still see designs that are not optimizing for mobile or older browsers. Adopt a mobile first approach, test across devices, browsers and screen resolutions to ensure clients get the best experience. It might be useful to create fallback options for older browser versions, e.g. IE11 which cannot display certain animation styles.

#7 Death by table

Tables should be avoided as much as possible when showing data because they don’t display well on mobile. We always try to plot graphs or charts to be more engaging. If a table is truly necessary, make sure that this is designed to be responsive and readable on mobile.

#8 Image problems

Images come in all shapes and sizes but the low quality ones and ones that come in the wrong orientation are the worst. Make sure that high quality images are provided because you can always scale images down. By cutting edges to make the image fit, one will end up losing the meaning of the image they are portraying.

#9 Analysis amnesia

A microsite is a live marketing tool and teams should treat it as such. Unfortunately, it’s usually treated as a static project never to be revisited until there are glaring errors. At StoneShot, we continually optimize the microsite by making sure there is a full implementation of analytics scripts and tags followed by an analysis of engagement statistics once the project has been live for a while.

#10 Poor user experience

Google has just announced that user experience (UX) will become a page ranking factor, so UX just became more important. There are a lot of ways to have a poor user journey including having too many links, too many navigational elements and when it’s not easy to distinguish between certain sections of a site so the user ends up lost. For microsites, a common culprit is not having enough information, resulting in the user navigating back to your main site in attempt to get more information. Usability is crucial for microsites to it’s important to select the right URL structure and navigational elements for your site.

Want to know more about building microsites or have some use cases to consider? leave us a message here and we will get your relationship manager to get in touch with you.