How does a small business owner, who is not web-savvy go about planning to build a website or hiring a professional designer to do this for them?
When you are casually browsing the web, you may see that not all websites are created equal. Some may keep your attention with a loud design that jumps out at you. Some others may have great content that keeps you clicking on their page. But then there are the sites that look unbalanced with poor design or bad content that seems misplaced in the design.
As you can imagine, a lot of small business owners go out and get a cheap website that was built without any planning or goals of what the site can accomplish for their business. They just want a site without giving any thought to what should be on it. This can backfire and give off the vibe your business is cheap or has a low quality to it.
Your small business website design should be a valuable informational asset to your customers and instrumental in marketing your business. It’s also not something you just piece together like a child’s wardrobe. Using strategy, your small business website will come together nicely and fulfill its purpose of bringing customers to your business.
Here are some helpful rules to use as a guideline when building an effective website from scratch.
Know Your Audience/Customers
You need to identify your target customers and then build a website that will resonate with them. Once you defined it, every future online marketing project from your website design to your social media audience can be created with a direct, consistent purpose. Sites built for a targeted audience have higher success rates than sites built for your designer or even yourself.
Content is King
Before you get started with your new small business website design, do your homework and develop a content plan. A site’s content should drive the design and not the other way around. Some questions to ponder during the content creation phase:
- Do you already have a logo? If not, you will need one for the website.
- What will be on your home page? Will it be image-heavy or text-heavy? An effective home page will serve as an introduction to a site’s content.
- How many pages will the site have? The essentials are home, about, products/services, and contact.
- Will the site include a blog? E-commerce store? Membership accounts? Courses? Each of these options will require consistent upkeep and attention that you need to be prepared for.
- How often will the site be updated or changed? If you don’t make updates yourself, you’ll have to pay and rely on someone every time a small change is made. To rank higher in search engines, you’ll need to consistently add content.
Your site should reflect your company image. Are you sleek and professional? Warm and friendly? Edgy? Your image should be reflected in everything that relates to your website and your company — from social media content to ads. Keep it consistent.
One of the most essential components will be your logo. If you don’t have one, get one created by your web designer or graphic designer. If you are lucky, you’ll have a web designer that is also a graphic designer such as myself. Your logo should be on business cards, ads, and all other content that gets shown off to the world. Design solutions come quickly and work best when a well-planned brand is already in place.
Products and Services
When customers come to your site, they should easily be able to determine what, exactly, you offer or sell. Use plain language to describe what you offer (not industry language), and be clear about how and where customers can place orders.
If you’re not comfortable with the first four steps, you can always skip to this one and look for a designer like myself or whoever you feel comfortable with, that can walk you through the planning process and lend expert advice on how to build a site that appeals to your target audience.
Here are a few tips for finding a website designer:
- Find a designer whose style you like. Be sure to check their portfolio to see the work they’ve done.
- Let the designer know upfront what kind of budget you’re working with. There’s no sense wasting time with a designer who is out of your price range (website design rates run the gamut from a couple hundred to several thousand dollars).
- Let the designer know if your site will require any special features or functionality like a blog or membership accounts or e-commerce checkouts, which adds considerable complexity to design, content, and code.
- Understand the designer’s job. A designer is not a copywriter. If you need other services such as a graphic artist or a consultant, let the web designer know so he or she understands how many people will be involved in the project, or look for a design firm that offers all of these services.
- Find a designer you get along with easily. There’s a good chance you and your website designer will have a long-term business relationship.
- Do your research and get some ideas together before you approach a designer. Find a few websites with designs you like and show these to your designer so they understand your style and taste preferences. Get a list of fonts and colors you are open to if you need a branding overhaul. If you have any images you want to use, get those too.
In this fast-paced world, a well-built small business website is critical to success. Whether you’re starting a brand new design or revamping an existing one, do your homework and don’t rush it. Take the time to plan carefully so you save time and money and get it done right the first time. Contact me if you need help with your journey.