For businesses that have been operating for some time, the concept of having a website may seem like a secondary need, or a “nice to have” rather than a business essential. Perhaps your business has very little reliance on web-based customer contact, so you may feel you are doing alright without one.
Whilst this may have been true ten years ago, things have most certainly changed, and in the days of Web 2.0, having a professional, clean and attractive web page to represent your business online is a must.
Your website is the online face of your business. Often, it is the first impression your customers get of you. First impressions count in business, so you need a website that accurately represents who you are as a business and what you have to offer. Your website needs to be brand-consistent and representative of your company vision and values. It should also have character and be an extension of your brand’s “personality”.
Web 2.0 technology has allowed a new wave of “consumer creators” to not only consume online media but actively participate in sharing and creating content. In theory, literally anyone with a PC and Internet access can create a website.
However, your business website is not just another website! It is an essential part of your marketing strategy that has the ability to reach millions of potential customers. Your online customers are also more likely to be “consumer creators” themselves, and will be a lot more savvy regarding what does and doesn’t make a good website.
You should carefully plan how many pages you need, what types of page they should be, and how they are connected. Ideally, you will write and finalise your website structure before you do anything further.
- Consider what type of business you run and the type of information people will come to your website to look for. Ensure this information – or a direct link to it – is the first thing they see.
- Make sure the site is not bloated with pages. Have only the pages you need to contain your content.
- Carefully plan your menu structure to ensure the site is easy to navigate. Ensure the sub-menus are relevant to the parent menu they reside in.
Your site’s visual components are the first thing your visitors will be struck by. Most people surfing the web for products and services will not read a word of the content if the look of your site puts them off.
- Choose a colour scheme that will be consistent across your whole site. Refer to a visual colour symbolism chart to ensure the colours you choose are conducive to your message.
- Ensure that the look of your site is brand-consistent, and that your company name and logo appear on every page.
- Make sure your main menu is easily accessible from every page, and that content is clearly marked with headings.
- Don’t make it busy. People will simply click elsewhere if there is too much visual input to process.
- Avoid excessive use of banners and place advertising widgets wisely.
Once the structure is settled and the design is finalised, it’s time to create the “meat” of the site. This is the information your visitors are here to find, where you can create a message that will entice casual web surfers to click a little deeper. This is also the pathway to the sales section of your site.
- Less is more. Don’t say it in a paragraph if you can say it in a sentence; don’t say it in a sentence if you can say it in one word. The visual aesthetics of blocks of words is just as important as the graphic design.
- Choose your font wisely. Certain fonts carry certain preconceived messages and can prejudice your communication. If you are serious about business, you will choose a serious font. If you are running an arts endeavour, you will choose a more casual, yet elegant and appealing font. (Pro tip: you will never use Comic Sans!)
- ALL CAPS IS SHOUTING ON THE INTERNET! Shouting at your customers has never been good business practice.
- Spelling, punctuation and grammar are non-negotiable. You will lose credibility in the eyes of your consumers if you have:
- Randomly Capitalised words,
- errors’ in. punctuation,
- unnecessary italicisation,
- sentences that are all mashed together so you don’t really know where one ends and the other begins and there’s a mix of grammar or have wrong the use of adverbs and conjunctions.
With smartphones becoming the primary way consumers use the Internet, it is vital to ensure your website looks and performs just as well on a tablet or phone as it does on a desktop machine. Having a non-mobile-friendly website restricts your market access.
- Use a website template that has either native mobile compatibility or a native mobile-friendly sub-template. If your choice of template does not feature this, consider using a supported plugin.
- Consider creating a mobile-specific menu that appears on mobile devices instead of the main menu.
- If you conduct sales through your website, you should strongly consider developing a dedicated smartphone app that your customers can use.
- Make sure your site is compatible with email and contact forms for your customers to contact you with.
Reliability and Stability
If your website is regularly offline it will not be good for business. You want your site to be your ever-present brand representative that is available to your customers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Of course your site will occasionally be inaccessible due to scheduled maintenance or server issues, but these times can be minimised.
- Choose your web host with care. There is an abundance of web hosting providers, but not all of them can offer the reliability your business site deserves. Check their customer reviews, and go with the host that is known for stability and little to no downtime.
- Don’t ignore your site! It may be up and running, but you need to check in regularly to ensure you don’t miss important updates or error messages.
- Check that there are no broken links on your site. (A broken link is a link that goes to the wrong page, or a page that no longer exists).
- Don’t add very large images to your site, as they will hamper its performance. Post videos via a link to your YouTube channel rather than loading them onto your site.
As you can see, creating and maintaining a website is no small thing! Many businesses employ staff dedicated to ensuring the company’s web presence is well maintained and functioning. However, if you are running a small business and don’t have the know-how yourself, spending money on website creation via an agency is a good investment.
A good web development agency will have the knowledge and ability to ensure your site is well-structured, visually appealing, content-rich and fully functional. They will involve you in every step of the process, provide support and ensure you are educated enough to maintain your site into the future.