We all know the reasons why small businesses need a website.
- Drive traffic and engage visitors
- Convert visitors into customers
- Educate, inform and assure customers and visitors
- Provide convenience and in-depth information
In the physical world
When a person drives up to your place of business it’s your building, your signage, your staff and the services you offer that creates the FIRST IMPRESSION.
On the Internet it’s your website that makes a FIRST IMPRESSION to your visitors. Your website represents WHO you are, WHAT your business is and WHAT your business has to offer.
When visitors come to your website, they are considering a number of things about your business:
Am I in the right place?
Does this company really exist?
Can I trust this website?
Do I feel welcome on the website?
Will I find what I’m looking for?
As a small business website owner, you need to ask yourself these questions as well. Your homepage can be beautiful, but if it fails to instantly tell visitors who you are, what you do and how that helps them, they will leave without a thought.
The moment of truth is when a visitor first comes to your website. They probably came from an offsite link; perhaps from your blog or social link, so it seems that they are interested in your offerings so … this is no time to mess it up. Your moment of truth is the first impression.
- Professional Looking Design
Studies have shown that a website’s design has more value to a visitor than awards because the visual design determines the credibility of the website. If visitors don’t like the look and feel of the website, they will leave without entering.
That said, the investment in a quality website design can pay off with increased sales, thereby saving you money in the long run.
- Overall Structure of the Site
A good plan for navigating your website is essential. If a visitor can’t find what they are looking for or if they get lost in your website, they will get frustrated and leave.
- Keep the structure of your website and the navigation simple.
- The number of navigation categories should be between 5-7 main categories.
- A “Home” link is not necessary. Most visitors know that clicking on the logo at the top left of the page will send them to the homepage. By eliminating the “Home” link you will have made more space on your menu bar.
- Keep your secondary navigation to no more than three levels deep.
Using the right color in the right places will help to give impact and draw your audience in. Keep colors to a minimum (2-4 colors) and ensure that they relate to the logo or anything associated with your site. Consider choosing colors that relate to or are associated with your brand AND your target audience. Not all women like the color pink so don’t paint your target audience with a wide brush.
Web Page Elements
The elements we present below are the minimum and basic items needed on a modern and effective small business website. You’ll notice that we have not added elements that you might find on a large corporate website because your small business site communicates to your visitors differently than a corporate site does. Here are the elements you need:
- Domain Name and URLs
Your domain name (www.yourwebsite.com) should be as short as possible but still reflect the name of your company. Ideally, it should be simple to spell and not have strange spelling.
The URLs for interior page should have the spaces removed from between words and replaced by dashes “-“ not, underscores “_” between words.
- Company Logo
Your logo should be placed in the top left of your pages. This is a traditional location and most people know to look there to identify your company. It should be an image (.jpg or .png) no larger than 200 x 150 pixels and should be linked (throughout the site) to your homepage, eliminating the need for a “Home” link.
Your logo will help visitors identify your website and give them the comforting feeling that they are in the right place. By keeping the logo in the same place throughout the let’s your visitors know they have not left your site even if the layout changes.
Feel free to include a tagline in the logo image. The tagline should be relatively short and clearly describe your company mission.
- Main Navigation
Your main navigation should be descriptive, intuitive and clearly note the important main offerings of your website. Example includes: About, Services, Products, Pricing, Blog, Contact, Search. Choose single word options, if possible.
- Bread Crumb Navigation
If your site is large and deep you will definitely need to add an element called “bread-crumb” navigation. This navigation is placed at the left lower side of the page header and is formatted like this: Home > Services > Home Repair. This navigation helps your visitors understand where they are on your site.
- Search Bar or Icon
A search bar or magnifying glass icon linked to a search bar is also a helpful tool for a deep or complicated website.
A favicon is the small graphic that is used to represent the website and placed on the browser tab. The favicon can be as small as 16 x 16 pixels and saved as an .ico or .png file and added to the website using the CMS.
Items “Above the Fold”
In the area called “above the fold” (The “fold” being the area from the top of the page to the cut-off point of the bottom of the screen – at “full screen”) you should have elements that grab your visitors’ attention the second they land on your site. If you do get their attention you might get them to click around, subscribe or even, buy from you.
- Image or Slider
In order to capture visitor interest, it will be necessary to place a single, high-quality image or a few alternating images just below the page header. There was a time when a long series of images in a slider was desired, but testing has shown that this tends to confuse visitors and does not help to focus your Call to Action message. Using a single, high-quality, compelling image is suggested.
- Call-to-Action (CTA) or Headline
A “Call-to-Action” is a statement designed to create immediate response. It’s basically a sales pitch statement to let potential customers know what to do next. Keep the Call-to-action (CTA) short, to the point and effective. You may need to test different CTAs to find the most effective message. Your CTA should have a clear benefit, solve a problem or inspire curiosity. You should, generally, have only one CTA per page positioned in a prominent place, near the top of the page. Additional links or link buttons on the page are OK and should not take away from the CTA.
An enticing headline or CTA can increase the click-through rate (CTR). The CTR is the number of times people see your link vs. the number of times they actually click the link.
Items in Your Footer
The footer on your website is at the bottom of the site. It’s the last thing visitors see and can interact with. The footer tells the user that they have reached the end of the web page. The footer should also provide useful information, links and calls-to-action.
- Contact Information
Contact information placed on the right side of the footer will offer a second location (in addition to Contact Us page) for this important information and allow easy access for the visitor. Information to include is:
Link to contact us
- Various Secondary Information
Additional information to be added in the footer can include:
Link to most recent blog post – Limit to 3-4 articles only
A brief history of your company or mission statement
A chat or contact form
- Other information
Lower navigation that mirrors the main navigation