So you just started a new business and you know every new business should have a good website - but you don't know the first thing about website design. Anyone can claim to be a small business website design expert, but only the design companies that implement the following are worth talking to.
Here are the 10 golden rules of small business website design.
1. An easy-to-remember web address - The web address is not the place to be too clever - you want to make the site easy for potential customers to find. Avoid numbers, which confuse web surfers and dashes, which can be problematic for SEO. Also, go with a .com domain because that's what people are most familiar with, as Ron Wright, the founder of business Web design and online marketing firm Accentrix, told Entrepreneuer.com.
2. Clear navigation - It's tempting to want to differentiate your site by using fancy Flash presentation and one-of-a-kind web design, but doing so might make it difficult for your customers to find what they are looking for quickly. It's best to use standard practices when it comes to site navigation - use drop downs with clear headings that appear on every page, include a site map, and make sure the search bar is easy to find (the top, right-hand side of a page is a good rule of thumb to follow).
3. Contact information - What good is your business if nobody knows how to find it or get in touch with you? Include a page with your address, phone number and e-mail address and make sure there's a prominent link to it on your home page. "The best place for the contact information is the top left or top right corner of the home page," John Zhuang, of Web-design and SEO-optimization firm Winning Interactive told Entrepreneuer.com. "It is also a good practice to include contact information in every page of the website in the footer or side bar or even in top right corner, which helps the visitors to find it more easily."
4. FAQs - The beauty of the internet is that customers can learn information about your product or services on their own time - even if that's at 2 in the morning. Including a page with frequently asked questions will allow them to quickly find information they're seeking day or night without having to call or e-mail your business. It's also another chance to help identify your brand on the website.
5. Customer reviews and testimonials - Honest feedback about your product or service will not only help costumers decide if its what they're looking for, but it will also make your business more tangible. Customer reviews often offer information or insight into your business that you might not have thought to include in other areas of the site.
6. Social links - If you're a smart business owner, chances are you're already marketing your products and services on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, FourSquare, Pinterest and the like. Build up your followers and reach customers where they spend their time by including icon links to your various social media efforts. Include sharing features on your content pages so visitors can easily "Like" a blog post, Pin a picture, or Tweet about a cool product you have.
7. Information capture form - Even if your business is only open during the day, Monday through Friday, new customers are visiting your website 24/7. Give the impression that you're always open by including a form on the site that new and existing customers can fill out to ask questions, seek quotes or provide feedback. You'll get the added benefit of collecting valuable information (e-mail addresses, phone numbers, etc.) from the people who are interested in your brand.
8. About us - Customers love being able to put a face to a business - so make sure to add information about the people behind your company, its history and what drives it. It will help differentiate your site from others like it and make your business seem more legitimate and relatable.
9. Call to action - After customers have found the information they needed on your site, tell them what to do next. Sign up for your newsletter, request a free estimate, follow you on Facebook - anything to get them to engage more with your business.
10. Useful content - Beyond information about your business, give your site visitors a reason to come back. You can become the go-to source of information about your field for customers by providing original, well-written articles or blog posts. Think beyond the specific product or service you offer for ideas on what might be of interest to your site visitors. If you run a local farmer's market, offer a harvest calendar and recipes; if you run a temp agency, keep a blog about office life trends. This will show them you're not only passionate about your business, but also about your customers.
Find more information on small business website design on Business.com.