- Now that you have your new business up and running, the next, and perhaps most important step, is developing a good website. It's important to not simply focus on getting a website up and running, but to ensure it's a great website.
- Just like everything else in life, websites have rules. To ensure your website does what it's intended to do, there is a set of "golden rules" that should be followed.
- From choosing an easy-to-remember email address to which pages are essential for your website, understanding how to design your website will ultimately help your visitors have a memorable visit to the site.
So you just started a new business, and while you know that every new business should have a good website, you don't know the first thing about website design. Here are the 12 golden rules of small business website design to follow whether you're building your company website yourself or outsourcing it to an individual or company.
Make sure your website address is easy to remember.
Your 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.
Use navigation methods that are clear and straightforward.
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 dropdowns 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).
Post your company's contact information.
What good is your website if no one knows how to reach you? Include a page with your address, phone number and e-mail address, and make sure there's a prominent link to your contact info on your homepage. "The best place for the contact information is the top left or top right corner of the homepage," 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 sidebar, or even in the top right corner, which helps the visitors to find it more easily."
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 a.m. Including a page with frequently asked questions allows your target customer to quickly find the information they're seeking day or night without having to call or e-mail your business. It's also another chance to help establish and build your brand on your website.
Include customer reviews and testimonials as well.
Honest feedback about your product or service not only helps customers decide if that is exactly what they're looking for, but it also makes your business more tangible. Customer reviews offer insight into your business that you might not have thought to include in other areas of the site.
Don't forget to include social links, too.
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.
Include an 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.
Create an About Us page for your site.
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.
Pepper your website with various calls 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.
Provide useful content to visitors.
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.
Use a responsive format.
People rely on their smartphones more than ever when it comes to finding businesses, so your website should be mobile-friendly. It's estimated that the use of mobile searching will only increase as time goes on. You should have a responsive design, which means the website is able to detect the visitor’s screen size; whether it is a tablet, desktop or smartphone, and will change the layout accordingly.
Ensure a great user experience for your visitors.
Regardless of whether visitors are coming to your website by way of a mobile device or a desktop, your website should communicate the message as quickly and clearly as possible. Your website should have quick calls to action and an effective homepage. Each page of the website should be linked to every other page to ensure your visitors aren't lost and they always have somewhere to go.