We take a look at what you need to consider in terms of web design for your small business whether you outsource or go it alone…
The aesthetics of your site are the first thing a customer or client will see, so establishing an eye-catching and unique web design is going to be critical to keeping a user on your site. What’s more, a professional-looking and functioning website will help extend your business’ brand online.
When it comes to setting up a website, it is generally recommended to rope in the help of a professional web designer, but if budget is really stretched and you have the relevant knowledge, then it is possible to develop your own site. A good start for a home-grown website is an online web builder that provides you with the relevant software that can make the whole process a lot more streamlined than going it alone. Remember: if you’re going to outsource your web design to an expert, make sure you find someone reputable; don’t just rely on what their website says, but ask around and see if there’s someone that a friend could recommend.
Your site needs to reflect your brand identity; consistency across all aspects of your online presence and marketing is critical for professionalism. Your logo is likely to be your starting-position for such an identity, so think carefully about what you want your logo to signify, for it will act as a visual representation of your business values and corporate image. Your logo will be plastered all over your business cards, letterheads, website and may even cross over to uniforms or your product – if it’s necessary of course – so it’s crucial that you get it right at the beginning so you can carve yourself a cohesive brand identity.
For logo design, you may wish to draft in the help of a graphic designer, who can take your brief into consideration and accordingly create logos to reflect your business needs. Although there is a cost attached to this, ensuring your logo looks professional can make a significant difference to how potential customers perceive your company. Furthermore, choosing the right typography for your logo is key: without a clear font that reflects your business and its services or products, your branding may lack the desired effect. From your logo, a colour scheme can then be extended which will form the basis of any further design work to encourage consistency and familiarity. If budgets are tight – which is likely in such a gloomy climate – then consider creating your own logo and going from there.
Functionality of site
The ins and outs of how your site functions may not be the most thrilling aspect of web design, but the way your site is laid out is central to online success. Your customers need to be able to access your site quickly and navigate around your site with ease, so clear menus and sub-menus are essential – particularly the ‘About Us’ and ‘Contact Us’ tabs. Hayley Clare, Director, CWD Web design, says: “Once your prospective buyer is at your site, can they find what they want easily? Correct navigation is the difference between success and failure of a sale. Trying to dazzle customers with flash and clever stuff can get in the way of the final sale. They’re quite often there for a reason so get them to their destination quickly.”
A search bar is imperative too, so that your customers can find what they want, and when they want it. Don’t forget a home button as well so that a user can return to the homepage at any time. Additionally, don’t underestimate the value of creating links between different pages – only when appropriate, of course – as it will help users navigate to contextually relevant information or products.
Producing captivating content for your website is vital for keeping it up-to-date – and more importantly, your customers interested. Implement a consistent writing-style across all aspects of your site, as well as your marketing material; again, it’s all about coherency. The layout of pages should also remain the same, with simple things like the bolding of titles or the font colour of hyperlinks, for example – attention to detail can go a long way.
Focus on the copy itself: proof-reading for spelling errors is another area that simply cannot be overlooked. Sloppy spelling will automatically make your customer assume that your service or products aren’t up to scratch, and presumably that is a connection you do not want to make.
Incorporating SEO or search engine optimisation into your web content is all about making the most of search engines such as Google. By implementing SEO you can ensure that your site is more “searchable” and is thus more likely to appear at the top of someone’s search when they type in keywords related to your website. SEO can span from a fairly basic level to more in-depth methods, but the standard procedures include:
- Keyword research
- Link building
- Meta tags and meta description.
It can be quite a tricky practice to learn – especially with the myriad commitments that starting up a business demands – so it is likely to be worth contacting a few SEO agencies to see what offers are available to suit your business needs.
Attracting web traffic
“How are you going to get visitors to your website? Don’t just assume that because you have a website, millions of people will see it right away. The nicest website is useless if no one can see it. You’ll need a strategy to get that website up the search engines and in front of your potential customers. Getting advice on SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) can be very valuable. There’s lots you can do yourself and you can also speak to professionals who can help you.” (Hayley Clare, Director, CWD Web design)
Words: Jessie Bland
This article was first published in Your Business with James Caan in January 2012.