Your website design is the face of your business, yet many small business owners spend little time thinking through what message they want their website to deliver. It is not enough to have a good-looking website, although that is obviously very important. The content, website navigation, and customer sales path are decisions you must make. Whether you are starting from scratch, or redesigning your current website, these five tips will help ensure you develop a high-quality, customer-focused website for your business.
1. Determine the Purpose of Your Website
You need to have a clear idea of the value your website can bring to your customers and your business. It is amazing how few business owners sit down with pen and paper and brainstorm what they want their website to do for them. Yet, it’s an activity that makes all the difference in the quality of your website.
In your brainstorming session, you need to ask whether it is mostly an informational brochure-type site, or do you want it to generate inquiries? Will it serve as a digital showcase for your products, or a place to share your thought leadership and establish your expertise? Do you expect it to generate sales? Will it have an eCommerce component? Do you expect to use it as a tool for active customer engagement? Will you have downloads of ebooks or other useful information?
Being clear about the purpose your website serves for both your customers and your business will set you up for success.
2. Create Good Website Content
Many business owners think they can save money by creating the website content themselves. And many of them can. But more cannot. Content creation is the number one thing that stalls web development projects. You may know your business better than anyone, but a professional website content writer knows about writing website content. A professional copywriter will be able to create copy that accurately reflects the key messages and spirit of your brand.
3. Organize Your Content
Second only to quality content, is the usability of your website. How you organize your content matters. Whether you have an eCommerce platform selling multiple products or you are providing thought leadership, it is important to organize your content so visitors can easily find what they are looking for.
This means using clear navigation in multiple locations – a navigation bar at the top of the page and down the left side test well with users and are a good practice. Having these two navigation bars allows users to easily browse for the information they need and quickly find where to download information or make a purchase.
If you are unsure how to structure your site, your competitor sites might have the answer. Either you love what they’ve done and want to emulate it, or you hate what they’ve done and know what to avoid.
4. Decide Whether to Use a DIY Template or Custom Web Design
There are hundreds of beautiful website templates and themes available for small businesses. Installing and updating these themes is easy, and allow you to very quickly launch a beautiful site. But is that the right choice? Or is hiring a web designer to give you a custom website design the more appropriate option for you? There are pros and cons to both.
Off-the-shelf templates or themes are an affordable option, and therefore popular choices for start-ups and small businesses with limited budgets. They can also work well for brands that need a simple website. However, if you don’t have a great deal of technical knowledge, modifying these themes can be time consuming and tricky. And they may not have all the functionality you need.
Developing a custom website, on the other hand, allows you to define almost every aspect of functionality that you would need-both in look and feel as well as the back end. But this freedom comes with a price. Development can be ten times that of a standard theme, and the time to launch your site significantly longer. If you have any software or technical aspects to your site, it is worth investing in test management tools to ensure that everything is running smoothly.
5. Decide Who Will Maintain Your Website
Content needs refreshing, and backend content management systems need upgrading. Websites must be maintained. Ongoing maintenance ensures links don’t break, malware doesn’t find it’s way into your code, and your content remains fresh. Chances are the person who maintains content will be different than the person who maintains the technical aspect of the website. That’s good. Just make sure you know who is doing both.
Think of your website as a living creature that needs to be fed, and what it wants is content. The person updating and creating content may be you, an in-house staff member, you a freelancer. Whoever it is, make sure they have a schedule and are on top of content maintenance.
Same with the backend updates. Whether you are doing it or you have a contract with your website developer, make sure you keep on top of security patches and software updates.
A quality website is so important for your business. It is worth taking the time to follow these tips. To learn more about what makes a great website check out “The 11 Essentials of a Successful Web Designer“.