Decisions, decisions, decisions.
With so much progress and innovation happening in the web design field these days, small businesses have ever-multiplying choices when it comes to designing their dream sites… but that also means ever-multiplying decisions! So whether you’re a restaurateur, a realtor, or anything in between, here are five helpful ingredients to keep in mind as you’re cooking up the perfect online image for your business.
You’d be surprised at how much traffic a website can lose if potential clients can’t locate certain information within their first thirty seconds of browsing. At the very least, your business’s contact information should be clearly visible on your homepage, particularly a phone number and email address. One point of contact works best here; first-time visitors can become confused if they are referred to multiple people within the company. So if you also want to provide a detailed staff contact list, link to it on its own separate page. Your homepage should also prominently display your hours of operation and full street address. Many users will also appreciate a link to a page with driving directions, a map of the area, and/or parking and accessibility features where relevant.
Every company wants an attractive, professional, brand-unique look for its site, but no one should exchange functionality for fanciness. In particular, be aware that many visitors may be turned off by media content like sound or video that automatically turns on when a page loads. Ditto too much use of Flash. Images liven up a page, but only if they’re specific and relevant, like pictures of products, locations, or staff. Low-quality images, generic stock photographs, and clip art will do your site no favors. One more thing to keep in mind: if you decide to use an image-based navigation menu, consider duplicating all links as plain text elsewhere. That way, users with accessibility issues won’t get lost.
A good business website is sleek and professional-looking, but it’s not entirely about surface appearance, so go deeper and give people specifics about what you can give them. Use clear, precise keywords to describe the products and services that you offer or the fields that you specialize in. (Bonus: this can only help your search-engine hits.) Whenever possible, try to be transparent about your selection and prices. These days, online menus are almost de rigueur for restaurants, but it doesn’t stop there. Everything from hair salons to rental agencies can benefit from providing at least a few sample pictures and prices of their favorite offerings. If you’re running a larger site, you may also want to consider enabling a search function, so that it’s even easier for customers to track down exactly what they want.
There’s no such thing as modesty in advertising, so it’s never a bad idea to tell your visitors how well your company does its job. Listing your awards, professional accolades, or places on Best Of lists is a good start, but it’s not the only way to get the word out. For example, if your company does great consulting work for a important organization or caters major local events, think about setting up a page to describe those projects and accomplishments. If you want to share praise that you’ve received from others, it’s best to refer to mainstream media reviews or respected experts; rely more on those sources than on the testimonials of random customers. If potential clients want that kind of information, they can find it on Yelp. Speaking of which…
More and more businesses are using social media to reach out to and broaden their customer bases, so don’t get left behind. At the very least, it’s a good idea to create accounts for your business on Facebook and Twitter, and then to maintain a presence there. The more online activity your business generates, the easier it is for potential clients to read or hear about you. If you need some ideas on how to get the ball rolling, start by checking out this collection of Twitter tips from Small Business Trends.