Now more than ever, having a strong online presence is essential for the success of small businesses. A website gives you more control over the flow of business, and connects you directly with your target audience. A well-designed website can serve as a powerful marketing tool, helping you reach a wider audience, establish credibility, and generate leads.
Nowadays, with website builders like Wix and Squarespace, you don't have to be a design or tech expert to create your own website. There are many free templates available, and with the right planning, you can quickly build, launch, and submit a stunning website to Google.
However, this doesn't mean that you should ignore key principles of web design because when done right, a website + a marketing campaign should be able to provide a clear return on your investment. This investment can be money or time (if you're building your website yourself).
Web Design for Small Businesses - 12 Tips to Create an Effective Online Presence
Let's dive into the importance of web design for small businesses and then we'll provide 12 essential tips to help you create an effective online presence.
1. First Impressions Matter
Your website is often the first interaction potential customers have with your business. A clean and professional design can leave a lasting positive impression. You also will only get 2-3 seconds before a visitor decides to continue exploring your website, or leave because you didn't do a good enough job convincing them.
This means you need to focus on your target audience (not how awesome you are), and convince them quickly that you understand their problem, you have a solution to help, and map out what to expect. Do this and you'll be well on your way to building trust and positioning yourself as an expert in your field.
Key things to focus on when it comes to your website:
Reflects your brand identity
Uses consistent colors, fonts, and logos
Answers the 5 key questions - what you do, who it's for, why they need it, why trust you and what to do next
Easily provides core information (phone #, email, where you're located/areas you service, and social media links) without making a visitor have to search
2. Mobile Optimized
With a massive portion of internet traffic coming from mobile devices, it's crucial to have a mobile-ready design. This means that your website should adjust to various screen sizes, providing an optimal user experience for both desktop and mobile users.
Need help visualizing what that actually means?
Take the window of your browser and make it bigger or smaller. Most websites will respond (resize elements on the page as you go), or adapt (adjust elements to accommodate a larger or smaller view).
Even if you feel that your target audience won't care about viewing your website on a mobile device, Google does! Google (and other search engines) will prioritize mobile-friendly websites in search results, so if you want your site to rank well, make sure it's mobile optimized!
3. Clear Navigation
The navigation of your website is not where you get creative for the sake of being different. Instead, make it as easy as possible for visitors to find what they are looking for quickly. If you don't, you risk them getting frustrated and leaving your website altogether!
Organize your website with a clear and intuitive navigation menu. Use descriptive labels for menu items and ensure that important pages are easily accessible from the homepage.
If you're unsure whether or not your navigation is simple enough, ask for feedback, and see how someone interacts with your website without being prompted or helped by you. Take notice of any areas that slow them down, or give them pause, as this could be where you lose a potential customer.
4. Engaging Content
You aren't going to want to miss this! Language is powerful. You can evoke emotions, transport your readers, and ultimately, convince them that they should do business with you.
High-quality content written specifically for your target audience is key to keeping visitors engaged. Provide valuable information about your products or services when you're first building your website.
AND, consider starting a blog to share industry insights or helpful tips. Engaging content can also improve your search engine rankings!
5. Contact Information
We touched on this earlier, but we're bringing it up again because you'd be surprised how often small business owners forget. You need to ensure that your contact information is prominently displayed on your website.
Include a dedicated "Contact Us" section or page with a contact form, phone number, email address, and a physical address if applicable.
The last thing you want is to spend time educating a visitor about how your business can help them only to forget to include how to reach you OR include outdated information. This will harm your chances of them reaching out because it will look like you're out of business, or don't care.
6. Call to Action (CTA)
Much like when you walk into a brick and mortar store and the sales clerk greets you and tells you about a sale, you want to provide a similar experience on your website.
Next to your engaging content, you'll want to encourage visitors to take specific actions on your website. This could be signing up for a newsletter, requesting a quote, or making a purchase. Make sure the language you use is clear, compelling, and strategically placed throughout your site to make the next step as easy as possible for a visitor.
7. Loading Speed
Slow-loading websites can deter visitors, and impact your website's rankings in search results. Remember, people are impatient, and they aren't going to want to wait a long time for your website to load.
This is a good example of a time where you might have to weigh whether it's better to have a cool animation, for example, or have your website load slightly faster.
Optimize your site's performance by compressing images, using efficient coding practices, limiting the number of fonts and animations used, and leveraging content delivery networks (CDNs) to ensure fast loading times.
Here are two free websites that can test the speed of your website:
Keep in mind that if you're using a web builder like Wix or Squarespace, you will be limited on how much you can impact page speed. There are definitely some things you can do that will help (like the ones we mentioned above), but since you don't have access to their code or servers, some things will be out of your hands.
This means it's important you do what you can on your end to make your site perform and load as quickly and efficiently as possible!
8. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
If you don't take the time to optimize your website for search engines, you're going to have an incredibly difficult time getting traffic from that channel.
There are so many websites out there nowadays that you need to implement basic SEO strategies to improve your website's visibility. This will need to be done when you're first setting up your website, and on an ongoing basis to continue optimizing both current and future site content.
Create a Strategy for SEO
Research relevant keywords, optimize your meta tags (this tells gives search engines a summary of what a page is about), and create valuable content that aligns with what your audience is looking to find.
If you're not sure where to begin, start Googling! You can search competitors and notice what websites are displayed and search results, and pay attention to which sites are given priority.
9. Social Media Integration
Like SEO, social media is another important traffic source for your business. Connect your website to your social media profiles (setup business specific ones if needed).
Don't forget to incorporate social sharing buttons to encourage visitors to share your content, and display your latest social media posts to keep your website current.
10. Security and Trust
Website security is important for building trust and making sure that visitor's information is safe.
Invest in an SSL certificate to encrypt data transmission, display trust badges for online payments, and regularly update your website's software to prevent vulnerabilities.
Most website builders will offer built in security with their platform, but you'll want to make sure this is communicated on your website.
11. Analytics and Tracking
Much like driving a car or flying a plane, you need a dashboard for your business that tells you how it's performing and what it needs.
We call this having optics on your business, and it's what will help you make data-driven decisions for your business.
In order to have optics, you'll want to use web analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, to gain insights into your website's performance. Monitor visitor behavior, track conversions, and make data-driven decisions to refine your web design and content strategy.
12. Regular Updates
The truth is that your website will never really ever be "done." There will always be tweaks, content updates, and improvements you can make - especially if you're paying attention to your data like you should be.
Keep your website up to date with fresh content, product/service offerings, and design improvements. Regular updates show that your business is active and committed to serving its customers. It's also good for SEO because it shows Google that you are committed to keeping your content fresh and relevant!
Web design for small businesses is a crucial aspect of building and maintaining a strong online presence. A well-designed website not only attracts potential customers but also enhances your brand's credibility and competitiveness.
By focusing on mobile responsiveness, clear navigation, engaging content, and other essential elements, you can create a website that effectively represents your business and helps it thrive in the digital landscape. Remember that web design is an ongoing process, and continuous improvement is key to staying relevant and competitive in the online marketplace!