What’s one big difference between a global consulting firm and a small consulting firm?
Global corporations have massive budgets. They can afford the best of the best. They can hire top designers for their marketing materials and assets such as their website.
Small consulting firms and independent consultants don’t have the same sized marketing budget.
McKinsey & Company is a global management consulting firm. They are known as one of the most prestigious consulting firms in the world, if not the most. They have a world class brand built from decades of doing excellent work. McKinsey has also worked with some of the biggest companies in the world.
Their brand is what helps them stay on top. With such a prestigious brand, a company like McKinsey wants the general public, readers, and potential clients to “feel” their powerful brand in every piece of marketing material that they put out.
And their website is one of their most important marketing assets.
After browsing through the websites of the most prestigious consulting firms, McKinsey’s stood out to me the most. I think it’s the most well-designed and aesthetically pleasing out of the 10 or so I visited.
McKinsey’s homepage, as of April 2017, is clean, modern, and responsive. It establishes credibility and trust. It looks professional.
If I was drunk, angry, and stupid, I would have no trouble understanding what I’m looking at. I would have no problem reading through the website and navigating its pages. The browsing experience is intuitive, clean, and simple.
For reference, here are some screenshots of the design:
To people not trained in design, “good” design can feel like magic. You may like McKinsey’s homepage design (or you may not), but you don’t know exactly why.
Is it the colors? The fonts? The structure? A combination of everything?
Is it your perception of their brand that’s influencing what you think of their website?
And most importantly…
Does their website actually do anything for their business?
All these questions are important — and will be answered in this article.
In this article, I will guide you through McKinsey’s homepage design. I will break it down in a way that helps you understand what you’re looking at, and why it’s good.
Consultants can learn about improving their own website’s design from analyzing McKinsey’s homepage.
By the end of this article, you will…
- Understand some of the reasons why McKinsey’s homepage looks the way it does (from my understanding)
- Learn how to apply design thinking to your own website to solve some of the problems that you face in your consulting business
- Download my McKinsey Inspired Homepage Template that I built with X-Theme
McKinsey’s design works for them because it’s designed for their company. Their design is based on the history of their culture, their work, and their people. It’s designed to solve the problems that they face in their business.
Even though their homepage is well-designed, copying it won’t do much good for your business. You come from a different place, solve different problems, and do different types of work. Unless your consultancy is exactly like McKinsey’s, copying their design won’t help fill your sales pipeline.
That said, feel free to use my template as a starting point. Take it, tweak it, and season it to taste.
Better yet, hire a professional designer to work with you and build a solution for your specific business.
A good design solution is the result of consistent, good design decisions. You can’t skip these steps by copying someone else or using a generic template.
Breaking Down McKinsey’s Homepage
Let’s take a look at McKinsey’s homepage and see what we find.
From an aesthetic standpoint, the look of McKinsey’s homepage hit’s all the right beats. It’s what we expect from a company as prestigious as theirs. When people come to McKinsey’s website to look into their business, their website makes a superb first impression.
The white background, with consistent spacing, creates a clean, modern look. The different shades of blue mesh perfectly together. Blue is used frequently in professional services design because of its calming effect and ability to establish trust and credibility.
The Serif font found in the article headlines and the body text strikes me as the perfect choice. It’s easy to read, looks professional and articulate, while still being modern. The Sans-Serif font found in the smaller headlines plays well with the rest of the text.
The website is responsive and works great on any device. I tested it on many different resolutions, browsers, and devices, and it worked flawlessly. The design adapted to whatever I threw at it. With mobile usage on the rise and Google’s requirement for your website to be responsive, McKinsey’s website does an excellent job from a responsiveness standpoint.
Aesthetics are important, and users prefer to interact with and read content on aesthetic designs. That said, making something look good is secondary to solving problems.
Let’s take a look at how the website is designed.
At the top (often called the “hero” section of the website, or “above the fold”), we see a headline and a sub-headline, followed by a button leading to an article.
In the second section, we see a large image, with another headline and some introductory text. This is followed by a link to another article. This section also has a sidebar, which features links to categories — and more articles.
At the third section, we see three blog posts — with their featured image and their headline. Both the images and headlines lead to articles.
In the fourth section, we see an image of McKinsey employees. There is a headline and some text inviting applicants to apply at McKinsey.
In the footer, we see an opt-in module, as well as links to McKinsey’s social media profiles. The bottom-most section of the footer has buttons to download their apps.
So what can we take away from the design?
- 80% of the page links to their articles. Consider this: Besides the menu, the first 18 links on the homepage link to either their articles or the categories that McKinsey writes about (which lead to more articles). This is the most important takeaway from their homepage.
- There isn’t a heavy emphasis on their newsletter or opt-in. It takes up a small section in the footer and doesn’t have a strong call-to-action. This is intentional.
- They have an entire section of their homepage devoted to applicants.
What is McKinsey’s Homepage Designed to Do?
These takeaways describe the most important design aspects of the homepage. If you look at how their homepage is designed, you can apply design-thinking (a fancy term for critical thinking) to infer about some of the challenges that McKinsey faces. This type of reverse-engineering gives you insights into how they use their website as a business development and marketing tool.
Design is about solving problems within a set of constraints. In web design, your constraints are the reader’s screen. For companies like McKinsey who have the resources to hire the best designers in the world, they are incredibly efficient with this space. Every pixel and word on their website exist for a specific reason and to achieve a specific goal.
What do we make of the fact that ~80% of the links on the homepage link to articles?
I argue that this demonstrates McKinsey wants to remain an authority among the best consulting industries. One of the ways they can do that is to publish thought-leading, quality articles. And their homepage is the perfect place to put their articles in front of their readers.
In design, we make certain elements bigger or contrasting so that they draw attention. The large images, big text, and navy-blue links take up a lot of space and are all clickable. They draw our attention and get us to click so that we can read these articles. And that’s exactly what McKinsey wants us to do.
It’s safe to say that one of the challenges that McKinsey faces is remaining the most prestigious consulting company in the world. They need to publish quality articles consistently. And they need to use their website to put these articles in front of the world.
What about the small opt-in box with the weak CTA?
One of my biggest recommendations for consultants is to use their website as a lead generation tool. To do so, they need to capture website visitor information. You need visitors to opt-in to your newsletter to do this. If you look through my website, you will find countless opportunities to opt-in to my newsletter.
If I recommend this so strongly, then why doesn’t McKinsey, the most prestigious consulting company in the world, not do this?
Because they don’t need to use their website as a lead-generation tool. Their history, size, brand, and networking is global in scale. An independent consultant like me does not have the same resources available.
I use my website as a lead generation tool because that’s how that space is best allocated to solve problems for my business.
McKinsey doesn’t need to use their website to generate leads (at least not directly as I do). The space on their website, as determined by their team, is better allocated to sharing thought-leading articles and inviting top talent to work for them.
What about their section devoted to applicants?
McKinsey wants to hire top talent. To find the best fits for their company, they need to get a lot of applications to filter through.
They’ve decided that it’s so important to receive applications that they have dedicated a sizable part of their homepage for applicants. If you dive deeper into their website, they have an entire job application solution built in.
Depending on your consulting business, this may be the last thing you want on your website. You want more clients to contact you for projects, not have people pinging you with their resumes.
This illustrates how each consulting firm has different challenges and goals, and their website should aim to solve the specific problems that they face. For you, that might be attracting more clients. For McKinsey, it’s all about maintaining their position as number 1.
To do this, they focus on sharing their publications and inviting top talent to apply. How do we know this? By looking at their homepage and how it’s constructed.
The design of a website is about much more than aesthetics — it’s about solving business problems. McKinsey’s website looks superb. But more than that, it’s clear structure and organization tells us a lot about what’s important to McKinsey.
Even though they are the most prestigious consulting firm in the world, they have business challenges and aspirations like any of us. And they use their website to get them closer to where they want to be as a consulting firm.
If their goal was to gain more email subscribers, their homepage design would be terrible.
If their goal was to increase conversions on their contact page, their homepage design would also be terrible.
Since their goal is maintaining their position as number 1 (through their content and attracting top talent), their homepage is well-designed.
Do’s and Dont’s
Use this design as inspiration.
Looking at McKinsey’s simple homepage design is great for learning how to apply design thinking to your own business and your website.
Think about some of the challenges that you face in your business.
- Do you need a steady supply of leads so that you can win more clients?
- Are you looking to get more speaking engagements?
- Is positioning yourself as a trusted adviser to your potential clients important?
- Do you want to sell products or productized consulting to improve your passive income?
The goals you have for your business should shape how your website’s homepage should look.
- If you need a steady supply of leads…
Then make the goal of your homepage to capture lead information to your email list.
- If you are looking for more speaking engagements…
Then put videos of your previous speaking engagements up on your homepage, and create a CTA that invites speaking conference organizers to contact you to inquire about your speaking.
- If you want to position yourself as a trusted adviser…
Use lots of picture of you or your team, with language focused on how you can help your reader.
- If you want to sell products or productized consulting to improve your passive income…
Then your homepage should emphasize your products with CTA’s so readers can view and buy them.
Brainstorm some of the challenges that you face and use your website to help solve them. That’s what it’s for.
Share your expertise more
As consultants, one of the most important things we can do to generate more leads and position our brands as authorities is to publish thought-leading articles.
Notice the emphasis that McKinsey places on their content. Most of their homepage links to their articles.
Because you as a consultant are hired based on your expertise, it’s important that you can demonstrate this expertise. Do it by writing, and publish articles through your website.
You don’t have to emphasize your articles as much as McKinsey does, but it should play an important role in your website’s design. Credibility is more than aesthetics — it’s about backing up who you say you are. And consistent, quality articles do that for you.
Copy this design.
Unless you’re McKinsey, you don’t have the same brand, problems, and aspirations that they have. That said, even though their website has an excellent design, copying it 1:1 won’t help your business.
“The point is that to be truly adept at designing something, you have to understand how it works. You have to understand the nature of what you’re building, how what you’re building is perceived, and how you can use your tools to make your vision happen. Otherwise, you aren’t designing. You’re creating a veneer.”
-David Kadavy, Design for Hackers
Copying a McKinsey’s design is creating a veneer. If you want a website that is designed to solve problems the same way McKinsey’s does, you need to hire a professional designer who can learn about your business, the challenges you face, and how your website can help solve these problems.
Introducing the “X-Theme” McQinsey Template
Do you think McKinsey’s layout may be a good start for your consultancies website? Do you face similar challenges as them? With some tweaks tailored to your business, could this design help your consultancy?
Here’s how it looks:
Like I said before, don’t copy it. Take it, tweak it, and season it to taste. It’s completely customizable so your designer can make it match your brand. It’s also dynamic so your articles will adjust on the page as you publish them.
If you’re interested in improving your consulting website, then start with the challenges you face and where you want to be. Take notes. These will guide you and your designer on how your website should look.
What are some of the challenges that you face in your consulting business that you think your website could solve if done well?
Let me know in the comments below, or shoot me an email. I read and respond to every single one I get.