Guest Post: This post was written by Ella Davidson.
So you’ve got a budding business with a good old-fashioned brick-and-mortar location, and now you want to expand into the wild world of the Internet—a task that is admittedly easier said than done. Even if you offer in-demand goods or excellent services, establishing your presence on the web can be quite a challenge. Success in this endeavor depends heavily on the design of your website: its structure, its content, and its whole character down to the itty-bitty details. While the particulars of good web design will vary based on the nature of the business, there are certain universal elements to keep in mind while building a commercial website:
- Search Engine Optimization: Most people discover new websites and web businesses through the use of search engines, and you should be mindful of this fact while designing your site. There are several steps to optimizing your website for search engines and maximizing exposure.
- Keywords: Do some research to discover which particular keywords lead potential consumers to sites similar to yours; make use of these keywords in your text.
- Resubmission: Resubmit your website any time you make changes to ensure that the most recent version is available to web users and search engines.
- Track popularity: Keep a count of visitors to your site; analyze how your changes affect its visibility and popularity and make continual editions accordingly.
- Aesthetic Appeal: The appearance of your website should make a good first impression and should be professional, sharp, and representative of deliberate crafting.
- Consistency: The separate sections of your site should share a specific visual style that should be memorable and unique but not garish or gaudy.
- Avoid flashy graphics: In general it is smart to steer clear of flash effects; these can be taxing on lower connections and thus narrow your potential visitor base.
- Organization/Navigability: Design your website with the overarching objective of keeping it simple and easy for newcomers to navigate.
- Streamlined directories: A simple column of links on one side of your main page is a fine basis for organization—avoid overcomplicating things. The web user should be able to access as much of your site as possible from the main page; he or she should never have to work too hard to find a specific piece of information.
- Emphasize your assets: Guide the visitor directly to the best you have to offer. If you have strong images of products you are selling, display them boldly and clearly on the main page and elsewhere within the site.
- Quality of Content/Text: Well-written copy is essential; most visitors will quickly balk at the discovery of sloppy textual errors.
- Keep it concise: Copy should be tight, punchy, and forceful—certainly not long-winded or verbose.
- Write for an audience: Consider who your potential consumers might be, and write with the appropriate level of complexity and formalism.
- Ease of Contact: In order for your site to grow in exposure and popularity, you must forge and maintain relationships with your visitors.
- Display contact info: Make sure visitors can easily find your business’s email address, phone number, mailing address, etc. The more methods of communication you open up, the better.
- Build a mailing list: Provide a clear way for visitors to add their own email addresses to a mailing list; advertising to this strong base of potential consumers can be especially effective.
- Incentives for Customer Action: If you want visitors to do something, make it easy for them to do it!
- Underline it: If you’re selling a particular product, make the ‘order’ button stand out against the rest of the site without appearing silly or totally out-of-place.
- Give something away: Provide a reason for visitors to explore your site and patronize your business. Information is free; give away as much as you can in a well-organized, attractive, and concise form!
Follow these tenets—with a focus on visibility, self-promotion, and ease of access—and you will build a hip, functional website that will really give your small business a chance to compete with the big chains!