Here are the five issues you need to consider when creating a website for your small business
So, you’ve got the green light for your small business website design project. Now you need to decide how the site will look, and how it will work.
It’s a big decision. Whether you’ve been through the process of creating a website for your small business many times before or you’re an absolute beginner, the choices you make now can have a major impact on your business.
At Moodia, our primary objective is to help you choose the right web designer for your business. But the advice you’ll read here also applies if you decide to go it alone.
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Plan, plan and plan some more
When we ask our partner companies for their perspective on small business website design, the comment that comes up most often is: “We wish the client had thought this through before they came to see us.”
We can sympathise with this viewpoint. Clients have always gone to see designers expecting to have magic dust sprinkled over their half-spec’d projects. Over the last couple of decades the web has only made things worse.
All too often, designers find themselves wasting valuable face-to-face time decoding the client’s ideas and explaining basic working concepts when they really want to discuss issues of look-and-feel and client engagement.
Moodia’s Essential Small Business Website Design Advice
What do you know – we came up with a list!
You can relax though! It isn’t one of those learn-to-speak-Geek features where we offer to explain concepts like AJAX scripting or CSS pre-processors in human terms.
Instead, we want to bring a few key topic areas to your attention before you talk to a designer. Thinking about and discussing these themes will help you to go into your small business website design meeting with realistic expectations and a clear sense of direction. It might even save you a lot of time further down the line.
So, what are the essential elements small businesses should consider?
1. How will your site contribute to your business?
This one might seem obvious, but it continues to cause confusion.
Many small businesses just want a website that acts like an easy-to-access, digital sales brochure. Others expect to shift some or all of their transactions online, using the website to record orders and take payments from customers.
If you’re in the latter camp, you need to be aware that web designers tend not to involve themselves in the nuts and bolts of e-commerce. You’ll need to talk to a specialist transaction provider – thankfully the UK agencies that we work are all experience in e-commerce and so will be able to help you get on the right track.
The point here is that a website can be a magnificently powerful tool for a small business – or even a medium or large on for that matter! – and so you should be fully committed to the role you want it to play. There is no point hoping to boost sales by selling products through your site only to opt for a cheap, basic site that cannot support e-commerce functionality.
Moodia’s Advice: Discuss with your team what everyone wants to achieve from your business website and then review the list. Focus on the most important and realistic ideas. You can always expand your offering later.
2. How mobile-friendly will your site have to be?
Over the last five years, internet usage has been moving off the desktop and onto smartphones and tablets. More than half of all visits to websites are now made by mobile users, and serious commercial websites have long since accommodated the smaller screens and limited interactivity of mobile devices.
Strangely, many small business website designs continue to act as if mobile-friendliness is an optional extra. This results in poorly designed and un-optimised sites that visitors find difficult to navigate or engage with, which results in fewer conversions.
Consider how often you use your mobile device to check the weather, or email, or social media. You probably do it without thinking about it. Now translate that into a global community and you can see that there are so many opportunities out there for your business to capitalise on in terms of mobile traffic.
Moodia’s Advice: If you are in any doubt on the matter, it’s best to assume that your site should be fully optimised for a smartphone. Can’t do any harm, can it?
3. How do you plan to maintain your content?
For many small businesses, producing the company brochure used to be an annual task. The web has changed all that, because search engines like Google love new – and high quality – content.
The effects of the ‘Google Dance’ are felt most strongly in the retail sector, where many different businesses compete for the same niche, but they apply to all websites to some extent.
When creating a website for your business, your plan needs to incorporate a steady flow of new content. Blogging (now included under the ‘social media’ banner) is a tried-and-tested way to keep things moving, but it isn’t the only alternative. Creating entertaining or informative articles backed by appropriate customer keyword and intent research will help you stay on top of your game too.
Content needn’t be just writing either; you can also create infographics, charts or video content, as well as e-commerce shop listings and more.
Regardless, you should consider creating a long and short term content plan, so that your team are all on the same page and know who is creating what and when.
When discussing your small business website design project with agencies, make sure to ask about the content management systems (CMS) available to you. Ideally you want an intuitive back-end interface that makes it easy for you and your team to manage and post content without too much hassle.
Moodia’s Advice: Now that you’re thinking about content, perhaps consider who will actually write all that text for you — and whether you need help to devise an SEO strategy for your business. Get in touch today to discuss your needs.
4. Did you check the domain?
Your domain is most likely to be in the form ‘blah.com’ or ‘blah.co.uk’, and it’s so, so critical to your website that it can’t possibly be understated. For example: Imagine if a competitor has already nabbed your preferred trading name- nightmare! All the customers looking for your site will find your rival’s site instead, leaving you to rue all of those lost sales.
While some web design companies might register a domain for you, it’s much better for you (and gives you more immediate choice!) if you do it yourself in-house. This might be considered an afterthought, but registering a domain should be one of the first things you do in any small business website design project you undertake.
And don’t worry – domain registrations are quick and easy to get sorted.
Moodia’s Advice: Many domain registration sites offer package deals on Domains – so you could pick up a .london or .org alongside your much more popular .com or .co.uk. Use these extra domains to park re-direct links to your main site – this will help you control how your brand is portrayed online.
Visuals are absolutely key in any small business website design project and while your chosen designers can certainly produce artwork, they might not be equipped for photography. Although, many design studios speciliase in a range of creative disciplines or work with freelancers who they can call upon when needed, so you should always check whether they can deliver the visuals you need before going your own way.
Ok, so if your agency can’t deliver the images you need, then you have two basic choices: do it yourself, or hire a pro. The latter tends to be preferable if you’re including portrait or team shots, although selfies can be effective on a blog.
The last option, of using stock photography, can be awful unless you know exactly what you’re doing and can ensure that all stock imagery will be on brand. If you insist on going down this third route, then there are many, many stock imagery websites that can help you out.
Moodia’s Advice: Imagery can be a tricky customer to deal with. You want your website to look incredible but don’t want to go over budget in doing so. Stock imagery gets a bad reputation, but there are increasing amount of hi-quality sites that offer free images. Our favourite is Unsplash, which has some incredibly beautiful imagery up for grabs.
So, there you have it – the Moodia ‘List Of Five’ for Small Business Website Design. We don’t promise that it will take all the tension out of your first website discussions, but it may help you make sense of what your designers are telling you.
And, remember… our service remains the best possible way for small businesses like yours to reach out to the best UK web design companies. Get your website started today by completing the form at the top of the page.