Back in the day (say like 5-10 years ago…haha), a “well-designed” or “futuristic” website came with tons of bells and whistles, literally! We have seen website designs that had animation running rampant on the site, fancy sites where you had no idea where to click. Remember the non-stop annoying pop-up ads that scared the crap outta you. Luckily, the web experience has matured a lot since those crazy days, thank goodness. Now simplicity reigns.
Think of your most basic online experience. What do you look for when you go to a company website? You want your information quick and concise. You don’t want to click through three pages to get the main phone number.
And now with an ever growing number of people consuming content through their mobile device or tablet, your website should be lean and mean for it to render quickly. You may be potentially losing sales if you website takes seconds to load.
Here are some items to consider as you plan your new website design, or if you’re considering a redesign:
Do-it-Yourself vs. Hiring a professional
While it certainly wouldn’t hurt to learn the basic of how a website functions in case you need to do a quick fix, don’t feel you have to go down the rabbit-hole of web design and development. If you don’t’ have the HTML and CSS skills to create your website to meet the standards of your business, then get some professional help. And, if you don’t know what HTML or CSS is…then definitely hire a professional.
Your focus as a small business owner should be in providing the best goods/services to your customer and building your business. If your passion is cooking or providing legal advice, don’t pull your hair out for hours trying to do web design. It’s okay to let go. Consider it as a service you would look for professional help, like your business taxes or business lawyer. You wouldn’t want to do all this work yourself, would you? It may save you some bucks in the short term, but you may be costing yourself money by opportunity cost of you not doing what you’re meant to be doing, and ultimately, you may have to hire someone to fix whatever you may have missed out from your initial build.
Now, if you do have coding/tech skills and have some time to design your site, you should look to build with WordPress. Why WordPress? Well simply, it’s a powerful Content Management System that can make your web development much easier than coding your site from scratch.
WordPress provides you a large community of users, a powerful and ever improving system for your website, lots of great themes that can enhance the look of your website without much hassle in design, and loads of plug-ins that can enhance your site. Plug-ins that help with security, search engine optimization, social media sharing, email capture for future marketing, photo and video galleries, and tons others are all available through WordPress.
WordPress.com or WordPress.org
Now, your company site should be building its website with its own hosting using WordPress.org software. This differs from the WordPress.com sites in that you and your company, not WordPress, will manage your URL and site. It may look unprofessional to see a mycompany.wordpress.com as your website. Stick with your own hosting and company URL. (Note: there are much more details to the differences to WordPress.org and WordPress.com, and we’ll discuss that on another post, or read this resource).
Consider responsive design
If you’re building your site using WordPress, consider a theme that has responsive design. Responsive design crafts your site to work on desktops as well as on mobile (phone and tablets). This may be an easy solution to make sure you website is available for mobile.
Your website shouldn’t be a patchwork of images, text, ads, logos, videos, or things floating around. You want to quickly convey to the reader what your website is about, and what they can look to learn from it. That’s it. Don’t scare your customer with flying objects. They spook easily.
Stick to a two-column layout, it’s the most common, and it’s easy to digest. If you go up to three columns you risk your site looking busy. Simple is better.
Each page should have it’s own purpose. An “About” page should give an overview of your company, a company history for example. The “Contact” page is simply how you want your customers to reach you, add a map if applicable. Don’t go mixing messages per page. You can always create more pages or blog posts. You want you customer to find exactly what they’re looking for with each click. Don’t leave them guessing, or wondering what a particular page is about.
Apple prides itself in its simplicity. There is no specific manual on how to use an iPhone or an iPad. You just intuitively know how to use the device when you open the box. This is how your website should work. The user must easily get from point A to point B without any trouble.
The user should easily know where the “Contact” page is and where your “Services” or menu of goods are located. The visitor must seamlessly go through your site, and get to what they need without much brainpower to figure it out. Don’t muck it up with loads of graphical menus, with a ton of options. Highlight what you want your customers to see and experience. If you have someone asking, “how do I find your phone number?” on your site, you need to correct that ASAP. **Hint, have your phone number (or main contact method) on the homepage, and on all pages using the header. You’ll thank me later.
The ability to capture email address is a MUST for any small business website. Let me repeat that. If you’re going to have one major goal from your website, it is to collect email addresses.
Your email list will be crucial asset so you can reach out to your customer with special offers and fresh content. This is key. A few options to get you started in email marketing are Aweber, Mailchimp, or Constant Contact. I use Mailchimp for this website, but the others mentioned are well-established and popular options. Infusionsoft is another if you already have a large database, but it can be a bit pricey for those starting off.
Building a powerful website takes time, and some good planning. You want to think of what your business objectives and how your website can be used to reach those goals. Write down what you business objectives are, think back to what are the items your target market may want on your site, and start mapping out the various topics and pages you may need for you company site. You probably already have some ideas mapped out from a business plan or based on other marketing initiatives.
Certainly look for advice from other business owners or web designers to see what works. Also, look at your competitor sites, and see what you can take for inspiration for your site. I’m not saying copy what they do, but certainly pay attention to what works for them. With some proper prep and planning, you’re on your way to start developing a great company web page.