Bart Wisniowski, founder and CEO of Advisor Websites in the Canadian city of Vancouver, estimates that his firm has created more than two thousand websites for advisory firms all over the U.S. and Canada.  He has the best seat in the house to watch the rapidly evolving state-of-the-art in website design and feature sets in this age of social media, video blogs and smartphones.  He and his staff are constantly talking with advisors about what they want and how they want to present themselves – learning and teaching and adding bells and whistles as the profession evolves.

“We’re launching websites literally every day,” Wisniowski says.  “There are always new developments, and we’re always running into cool stuff.”

In a recent interview, Wisniowski not only talked about the latest developments and trends that he’s seeing; he also identified some of the advisory profession’s most interesting and creative websites – which can be seen, with commentary, at the end of this article.

Creating a firm’s website, Wisniowski says, is like creating a financial plan: It starts with an assessment of goals and objectives.  “Are you primarily reaching out to your existing clients?” he says.  “Or are you creating an environment that will attract prospects and acquire new clients?  Are you active in social media?  Are you blogging?  In most cases,” Wisniowski adds, “there’s a combination of these things, but one or two of them is the main focus.”

Upgrades from antediluvian

At the most basic level, Wisniowski recommends that advisors give their website a visual upgrade.  The online experience is changing so rapidly that websites created five years ago tend to look antediluvian, stodgy and out-of-touch.  “Too often, we see the banner that is the same banner on everybody else’s website, with stock photography of a couple holding hands,” Wisniowski says.  “In the financial services world, there is a definite overuse of stock photography.”

This becomes most visible if there is a disconnect between the image and the view out the office window.  “If you do business in New Mexico, you should really have New Mexico landscapes and not ocean views on your website,” says Wisniowski.  “A lot of advisors are still hesitant about pulling the trigger on getting professional headshots and photography, but it makes a huge difference in how professional you appear to a would-be client who is checking you out.”

Usability is another issue.  Wisniowski says there are definite best practices when it comes to the way your navigation is laid out – although, as we’ll see in the actual examples, there is also a lot of variation.  He recommends having clear calls to action, big buttons to navigate by – and making the site easy to scan even without your reading glasses.  “One of the biggest issues that we see with some of the older websites out there is a small gray font,” says Wisniowski.  “A lot of the target audience for advisors is older people, and if you are making them squint on your website, they aren’t going to stick around.  Use large easy-to-read fonts.”

See full article on The Advisory Profession’s Best Web Sites by Bob Veres, Advisor Perspective