The internet is a crazy place, and it’s getting crazier. As we’ve seen through the last couple of years, an online presence is more important than ever for small businesses. However, almost half of all small businesses do not have websites at all. It may be hard to believe, but it’s true, 49% of small businesses do not have websites. Part of the reason why so many small business owners do not have websites is that they are daunted with the task of web design and development. Unless web design is your business it can be easy to feel lost and not know where to start. I'm here to help fix that.
Are you a small business owner looking to create a brand new website for your business but not sure where to begin or what you need? Do you have a website already and are looking to make sure it's up to snuff with everything it needs? Or are you a web designer looking to brush up their skills for your clients? No matter the case, you’re going to want to keep on reading, because I’ve gathered together a killer list of 10 things every small business website needs. Without any further adieu, let's jump into the list.
Every Small Business Website Needs A Plan
Every well designed thing has to be, well, designed. In order for a small business website to look good or actually get you new customers, the details need to be carefully thought out before you start working on what it will look like. This is the basis of strong web design, brand strategy or marketing in general, so it’s definitely something every small business website needs.
Humans, by nature, tend to be impatient and want to jump straight into the action. I know that planning, strategizing and researching aren’t usually the most fun or exciting things, but going into a project that has as large of an impact on your business as your website does without a well thought out plan is a little bit like trying to win the NBA championship blindfolded. Just like you need to know where the hoop is to aim your shots, you need to know what the goals for your website are to achieve them.
A planned out strategy is vital to the success of your website, branding, and marketing.
To develop a solid strategy, you’re going to want to ask yourself questions such as:
- Who are my customers?
- What is the purpose of my website?
- How does my business stand out from the competition?
- If my brand were a person, what type of person would they be? How old would they be? What type of clothes would they wear?
- How would my customers search for my business? (More on this below)
Knowing which questions to ask is a whole job within itself, so if you need more help with this you can read another blog post such as this one on The 7 key elements of brand identity design by Lucidpress or talk to a designer or brand strategist for help to guide you through these questions and more to make sure you get off on the right foot. Doing it right the first time will save you money in the long run. Think about how much potential money you could miss out on if the entire plan is broken from the start.
Every Small Business Website Needs A Strong Domain Name
As a business owner, I’m sure you understand the importance of a good location for your business. Your domain name is, literally, the address for your website. Just the same as with a physical address, you’re going to want to make sure that people can find and remember where your website is.
Another way that domain names are like physical addresses is that some of the best ones are taken or very expensive. You can’t always get the name that you want. How difficult it may be to pick a fitting name often depends much on how unique your business name is. If you have an established business, there may not be much you can do aside from a total rename and rebrand, which may be off the table depending on you and your business. However, if you have not registered your business yet it may be worth considering which domain names are available before deciding on a name for your business.
Here are some things to try to do when picking a domain name:
- Keep it as short as possible.
- Make sure it is memorable.
- Avoid words that could be mistaken for other words.
- Use a common ending. (.com is better than .biz)
- Avoid hyphens.
If you want to check which domains are available, I recommend using Google Domains, which is also a great place to buy a domain.
Every Small Business Website Needs A Simple Sitemap and Intuitive Navigation
First off, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page about what these things are.
A sitemap is a bit like a flow chart, showing how all of the pages on your website link together. It shows you which pages you need to go through as you work your way to more and more specific content. It looks a bit like this:
Your navigation is the bar full of links that typically sits across the top of your page or is sometimes in a sidebar or a menu.
You need to make sure that your sitemap and navigation flow in a way that is intuitive to your customers. Use your market research, brand strategy and personal intuition to put together a normal, natural sitemap. Once you know what pages you need, you can look at other sites or ask other people how they would expect for those pages to be laid out.
Sometimes, people want to be creative with their web design. That’s great, a creative design will make your site stand out against the competition. But you need to be careful about where you let yourself be creative. The internet has been around for a long time now and there are certain conventions that are in place within the conscious or subconscious of your customers as far as navigating your website goes. Changing your sitemap or navigation too far from the standard is a surefire way to frustrate your customers. Then your potential customers will hate your company, so don’t do it.
Every Small Business Website Needs A Logo
I actually considered whether or not I should include a logo on my list of 10 things every small business website needs. Is that because it’s not that important? No, it’s actually quite the opposite! A logo is such a large part of branding and marketing that it almost surpasses the scope of this list.
Your logo tells the world who you are at a glance, it’s how people recognize and connect with your company. It’s what makes your business stand out from the crowd and invites people to get to know you better. Iconic logos are what drive the almost cult-like brand loyalty that you see for companies such as Apple, Nike, or Starbucks. You could almost say your logo IS your brand.
Your logo will go everywhere, your signage, advertisements, business cards, merchandise, products, and yes, your website. Your website needs to be an extension of your brand. It is one of the most heavily branded aspects of your business and having a clear, simple logo is key to making sure your customers know who’s site they’re on and that they’re in the right place. You’ll be hard pressed to build your brand recognition or reputation without a logo on your website.
Every Small Business Website Needs A Clear Overview
The average website visitor stays on a website for 15 seconds or less. That means you have less than 15 seconds to grab your visitor’s attention, tell them who you are, what you do and how you stand out.
You can do this with a catchy value proposition above the fold (the section of a website that shows before you scroll down), but be careful not to make it so catchy that it becomes vague.
Beyond that, it’s a good idea to have an “About Us” section of the homepage or to put that information on it’s own dedicated page. Here you can add information about the history of the company, where you’re located and who you serve. You can also put a photo of the business for easy identification.
For small businesses especially, showing off the personality of the company and it’s owner and employees is extremely important. I always advocate for small businesses to put a photo of the owner on the about page, especially if it is a service based industry where customers are likely to interact with the owner.
A page dedicated to what services or products you provide is always a good idea, and breaking out each service or product category into their own pages to really dig deep into the information is both informative for those who care while also being great for SEO.
Every Small Business Website Needs A High Conversion CTA
CTA stands for Call To Action. This is some sort of button that is usually found near the top of a webpage and all throughout the site. It tries to convince your customers to do what you want them to do on your website. For example, ours is a big red button that says “Schedule your free consultation”, because we want our visitors to get in touch with us. Here is a picture of it:
If you don’t have any CTAs on your website, users may feel lost after scrolling down the page. What exactly your CTA says depends on the goal of your website, which you can figure out in your strategy research and planning (See item #1). Some great high conversion CTAs might be:
- Try it for free!
- Create my account
- Click to sign up!
- Get a free bid
- View products
Did you notice that all of the CTAs listed above are clear and specific about what will happen when you click the button? Oftentimes if you try to be cute or original with your CTA copy, it can easily become confusing. Show your personality through your website and your CTA but make sure your buttons are clear. A button that says ”Begin your adventure”, for example, is full of personality but may scare visitors away from clicking on it for fear of what will happen when they do.
Another couple of the most important aspects of CTA buttons is that they are buttons and they stand out. A simple link does not grab your attention in the same way that a button does, nor does a button which is the same color as the background grab your attention in the same way that a high-contrast one does. Pick a bright, contrasting color for your button in order to make a site that not only looks, but performs, great.
Every Small Business Website Needs Varied and Easy to Find Contact Information
Nothing is worse than trying to find someone’s contact information so you can give them your money but not being able to. Okay, okay… some things are worse. But I think the point still stands. You need to make sure that once people are convinced they want to hire you that they are able to do it.
Depending on the business and site design, you may put contact information in the header, in the footer, on it’s own dedicated contact page or all of the above. You don’t want to make people have to look too hard for how to get in touch with you or they may leave for a competitor’s site which has readily available contact information.
Okay, great. You have some contact information in a few easy to find spots, but what does it mean to have “varied” contact information? Simply put, you need to provide as many ways for customers to contact you as possible. Phone numbers, address, email, contact forms and links to social media are some of the most common and useful types of contact information. If you only put a phone number down and you do not have a 24 hour answering service customers will not have a way to contact you after hours. Make sure that customers are able to talk to you in a way that they are comfortable with and at the time that they are available at.
Every Small Business Website Needs Social Proof
Social proof is a powerful thing. It was first coined in 1984 by author Robert Cialdini in his book Influence. Simply put, people tend to copy the behavior of others. If someone doesn’t know what to do, they’ll observe and imitate those around them.
How can this effect be used in marketing to sell your product or service? Imagine you are shopping for a new TV. You look online and see one TV has over 800 reviews with an average rating of 4.8 stars. Another TV has 200 reviews with an average rating of 2.6 stars and a third TV has no reviews at all. Which TV would you be most interested in? Most people are drawn to the TV with over 800 happy customers.
As a small business owner, you need to capitalize on any traffic you can get and boost your conversion rate as high as possible. To use social proof to do this, make sure you have customer reviews or testimonials on your website and plenty of photos of your product or service.
Every Small Business Website Needs SEO
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. You need it on your website. It doesn’t matter how well you design your CTA, how carefully you craft your value proposition, or how beautiful your logo is if nobody ever comes to your website to see them.
SEO is a really big job, and business owners routinely spend thousands of dollars a month hiring SEO specialists like us to make sure their website ranks as highly on Google as they can get it to. The online market is a very competitive place, and now more than ever, so if you have the budget I’d recommend hiring someone who has spent years studying the subject to take care of this problem for you. Any money you put into SEO tends to see very large returns on your investment (ROI). But what if you don’t have any budget to spare at all?
Here’s a few quick tips to get you off the ground:
- Do keyword research to determine which keywords are worth trying for.
- Use those keywords on your website pages, especially in headers, titles and URLs.
- Focus on fresh long form content, such as blog posts, around specific keywords.
- Get an SSL certificate and submit a sitemap to Google.
- Set up Google Analytics for improved ranking and monitoring.
- Optimize your website load speeds to be less than 2 seconds.
SEO is an ongoing process that never really ends, but if you keep at it (or pay someone like us to), you will slowly but surely see more and more traffic come to your site.
Every Small Business Website Needs Responsive Design And Development
Responsive design and development responds and automatically adapts to the screen size of the device which it is on. Small business websites need to be designed responsively because the majority of website visitors now are using mobile devices. If your website does not scale to phones or tablets, the vast majority of users will leave immediately.
Because mobile devices have taken over as the majority of website visitors, many web designers have begun designing websites for mobile devices before starting the design process for the desktop version of the site. This practice is becoming more and more common among designers.
Responsive design and development in a sense means that each website that is being designed takes twice the work as it used to before mobile internet browsers were common. This may mean that hiring a designer who is comfortable and accustomed to responsive design may be the best course for you as a business owner.
There's a lot more that goes into a successful small business website, but these 10 steps should get you started off on the right foot. To learn more about web design, branding, marketing SEO and more, take at look at our custom web design blog.
I hope this information helped you learn more about what sorts of things a small business website needs. If you want to build your own website, including these 10 things on your small business website then you'll already find yourself to be more successful than other business owners who have made their websites without doing the proper research. However, if this all feels like a bit much to handle on your own, go ahead and give us a shout and we'll be happy to help, whether that means you hiring us or just asking for some advice. We're here for you.