Wondering where to begin with your small business web design? Here are five questions you can ask yourself that will help you get started!
Let me preface this post by saying that I dislike the term “small business”. I don’t think any entrepreneur should think of themself as a “small business owner”, because that almost makes it sound like your goal is not to succeed and expand. From now on I’ll be referring to these types of companies as local businesses, but I needed to use “small business” in the title because I know most people will be looking for web design pointers related to their small business.
Whether you’re a wellness-promoting business owner, a creative professional, or a freelancer, chances are you’ll want to have a website to help promote your brand and track customer engagement. While websites can include much more functionality than that, the basic functions that all websites should provide are getting you found and making you easy to follow. Here are five questions you can ask yourself that will help determine whether your website accomplishes these two things.
- Does your website load quickly and securely? A fast, encrypted website is crucial for building trust with its visitors. Many people will navigate away from a website that takes longer than five seconds to load on mobile or three seconds on a computer. In addition, active SSL encryption (https) has never been more important. Having an encrypted connection can make your website rank higher in search results, and it gives anyone filling out a form on your site peace of mind that their personal information is safe.
Pro Tip: I’ve seen lots of wordpress websites recently that have an SSL certificate installed, but it isn’t being forced so people are mostly visiting the site unsecurely. You can easily check if your certificate is being forced by opening a private or incognito window and typing in “http://” followed by your domain name. If SSL is enforced, you will be redirected to https. If you’re not redirected and you end up on http, mention it to your web developer or whoever cares for your website.
- Are all of your website’s links up to date? Few things can ruin a user’s experience on a website faster than clicking on a link and getting redirected to the wrong place (or a dead page). If you change the name of a page, for example, make sure you update its permalink and update any links going to that page. You also want to make sure that social media buttons and footer links actually go somewhere – sometimes these will be enabled by default, but will not automatically target your pages.
Pro Tip: If you add your website as a property in Google Search Console, you can see all of your internal links in one convenient place. This makes it easy to find any that are going to the wrong page and make adjustments accordingly.
- Is it flashier than it is functional? While it’s great to wow visitors, people don’t generally visit business websites for their entertainment value. Anyone browsing your local business website is likely to be looking for one thing – information. This means that while visual appeal is certainly important for small businesses, easy navigability is likely a much more significant factor in determining whether or not visitors convert.
Pro Tip: Animations can seem like a great idea when you’re adding them, but below-the-fold animations (those that happen beneath the initial print as you scroll) often don’t add much to overall aesthetic. If they are used, they should either be very simple or very special, but often getting rid of them and focusing on structure and layout is a safer idea.
- Does it carry the user to a clear call to action? This follows flash versus function well; some websites simply contain too much information; too many text boxes, images, links and buttons that can potentially pull the eye (and the click). Ideally your website’s design should draw the user along a planned path to your desired conversion, whether that is collecting their email via an optin, getting them to phone you, make a purchase, or something else.
Pro Tip: Data suggests that having one ask per page is often the best tactic. That doesn’t mean you can’t have multiple products on a single page for an ecommerce website, for example. But creating seperate pages for each service your company offers may be beneficial, both for browsing and SEO purposes. Of course, it really depends on the nature of your unique offering.
- Is your content fresh, meaningful, and up to date? Having a blog can come in handy for making regular updates to your website, but it isn’t entirely necessary. You can also add to the pages you already have, or increase the number of pages. The type of content is less important than the quality. Not only will your website’s visitors become disinterested if you post low quality content, but Google may also punish you in the rankings with it’s sophisticated algorithms.
Pro Tip: Two easy ways to make sure your content is fresh and relevant are to keep an eye on your competition and ask your website’s users for feedback. When you post links to your site on social media remember to invite comments and shares, and when you review a competitor’s site ask yourself how you can provide similar or superior value.
- (Bonus) Is your website powered by a good web host? If you’re not sure where to start, 5 CloudHost is a cost effective hosting solution that will work well for small and medium websites.
Small Business Web Design: Decisions
In 2019 I think it may be necessary for any local business that wants to be competitive to have a website. Ideally, that site should be designed, developed, and maintained by a professional, but consider what will be best for your needs. If you have an eye for design and are fairly tech savvy, or if you’re willing to dedicate a month or two to developing new skills, a website building service may work for you.
However, if you don’t have those skills or that time, or if you want a more advanced website with some significant functionality, I recommend hiring a WordPress developer to design and care for your online presence. This does require an investment, but the ROI should be easy to see. There are always cheaper options such as CB Profit Sites, but I wouldn’t recommend going in that direction unless it seems specifically geared towards what you want.
If you have any questions about web design, feel free to comment below or shoot me an email at email@example.com. I’m still offering free consultations to all quinte area businesses until the end of June, and I’d love to hear from you.