Most people understand the importance of having a website for their business, but high quality professional websites weren't always as obtainable as they are today. Thanks to innovation, website designers are now able to spend more time working with business owners on the content and message, and less time having to tinker with technical details, so they can now deliver even higher quality sites for a lower cost than ever before. Still, many business owners may have had websites they created themselves or by a friend and just want to make some basic improvements. This article is non-technical in nature, since it purpose is just to convey a few key ideas that will help keep you on the right track of not only improving your website, but the role that it plays in your business.
For a business, the primary purpose of your website is to help produce income by connecting you with the people who need your products or services. Your website fulfills a number of functions; it's the hub of your online presence because it won't come and go. All of those other things, though, all boil down to growing your online brand, and your website is where it all needs to come together so you can achieve your dreams. So, as you decide what things to include on your website or where to put them, ask yourself how if it will affect people's decision to do business with you. To do that well, you have to start by realizing they may not think about your field of expertise the same way you do, so everything that you do needs to be tailored to suit your typical buyer.
In designing your website, you also may want to drill down into your purpose a little further so that you don't fall prey to some common temptations. For example, if what you really want is for your website to generate phone calls, that end result should drive the design, either other forms of contact being not as obvious. It's very common to advertise every form of contact all over the place, but this is not always the best idea. It is better to guide your visitor to whatever it is you want them to do, whether it's call you, fill out a contact form, schedule an appointment, or buy something. Keep this end-result in mind as you think about what to include, and where to include it.
Your website should have a neat appearance. This is your store front – their very first experience with your company. A visitor should be immediately impressed with a sense of order, balance and professionalism. Subconsciously, they will infer from that what kind of experience they are likely to have with you if they contact you for service. To illustrate this, suppose you are walking down the street and there are two hardware stores next to each other. One is well lit, orderly, things are organized with signs to guide you, and inventory is in its proper place with related items logically grouped together. Next to it is another store, dimly lit, not so clean, and with stuff all over the place. Personally, if I'm working on a project, I'm going to choose the first store that I described because I will expect to be able to get in and out quickly with what I need. The same idea applies to your website. First appearance matters.
A few key considerations with presentation include:
1. Positioning should be based on research as to what converts well, not what you think is pretty. If you're making an art site for your hobby, design it however you want. But if it's for the business that feeds your family, focus on the results. If your website is there to make money, stick with high-converting designs until you are sure you have the knowledge to deviate and still have a well-converting site.
2. Spacing should be "just right." I realize that's quite subjective, but you don't want too much unused space, nor do you want things to be jammed together. This takes both an artistic eye and the technical skill to get things sized correctly.
3. Colors need careful use. You want to reflect your own brand, but you have to be careful in how you use color because too much bright color or glaring contrasts can turn people away. While it's your website, your customers will take your website as a representation of your ability to deliver a quality product. If you do painting or remodeling and the colors and spacing of your website are wild, they'll translate that to what kind of job you're likely to do inside their house.
It's important that where you have a Call to Action, such as a call now button or similar special purpose button, that the visitor's eye naturally gravitates toward it. This is part art, and part science, since this has received quite a good bit of actual research. The important thing with color is not to overdo it, and be sure the visitor can easily identify what it is that you want them to do.
4. Stick with simple, basic non-serif fonts for your main page text, for most applications, and keep special formatting such as bold and italics to a minimum.
Visitors should be able to easily find their way around your site without having to dig too hard for what they want. Think like someone who does not know your industry. Most people don't think like you or speak the language of your industry. In deciding on how to structure the navigation of your site, design it for the typical consumer. Make it fast and easy for them to find things.
If you are building an eCommerce website with a shopping cart, your product categories need to be organized from a regular consumer point of view, which may not be the same as how you might categorize things in your inventory system. Make it easy to edit the shopping cart, and reduce the number of steps involved in making a purchase. Consumers want to be able to buy things fast & easy, not click through a complicated multi-step ordering process.
People very often want and/or need things they may not have initially had in mind. Your eCommerce site should present related products, upsells, and product reviews, to both reassure visitors and offer more opportunities to buy. You aren't trying to trick anyone here; you are simply making an effort to connect them with products related to things they are likely to be interested in based on other products they've already looked at. As an example, if a person ordered a printer, they will likely need paper, and might be incented to buy an additional ink cartridge or specialty photo paper with a special one-time offer, that they might otherwise not have bought.
You may conduct your primary business activities during typical business hours, but when do most of your customers do their shopping and purchasing? If they have a problem during an attempt to make a purchase, you may completely lose the opportunity as they go shop somewhere else. After-hours support for purchasing is important for an eCommerce website, so you should offer multiple methods by which they can attempt to contact you for help based on the urgency of their need. This may have a cost to provide such support, but if you look at your website statistics and your abandoned cart rate, these may be clues that you are losing sales.
There are also completely outsourced solutions that offer purchasing assistance. This may not, at first, strike you as something you need, but you need to consider the type of services that you provide and when people are most likely to be trying to buy them. The trick to this is to first identify who your typical customer is, why they would be visiting your website, and what they would hope to accomplish in their visit to your site. Do they want to buy something with overnight delivery? Book an emergency appointment with you tomorrow? Or do they need someone at their house right now because of an emergency? Think through the scenarios in which people are going to be contacting you, and you will be able to tailor your purchasing support to support that.
Your website is always there, working for you 24/7/365. Customers may shop at any time. Be sure to monitor any email boxes or other contact methods at least daily, and preferably more often. Even if you don't have the answer, write people right away to let them know that you got their message, are investigating the issue, and give them a time frame in which they can expect to get back to you. By the time someone attempts to purchase, they are already invested in the decision and will be willing to wait, provided that they know how long it's going to be and the period of time is not unreasonable. Keep your customers well-informed and handle any issues promptly.
I've only just barely scratched the surface on website design considerations, but I hope if you're a small business owner that this gave you a few things to think about. If you need help with affordable website design for your business, please feel free to contact me.