By OLIVER ANDREWS
How to Get the Best Web Design Services for Your Small Business
Are you ready to take your small business to the next level with effective web design?
Mastering the fundamentals of small business web design will elevate and empower you as a business owner. A great website can have a massively positive impact on your business, just as a low-quality website can have the opposite—which is why understanding the difference is crucial.
Let’s get started!
What we will cover in this article
You’re a Small Business Looking for Web Design Services
You’ve turned your idea, passion, or skill into a working business. You’re ready to start interacting with potential and existing clients, and you want a fantastic website to help you do just that.
Perhaps you already have a website, but it doesn’t excite or inspire you— and you get the feeling your clients and customers feel the same. Maybe you’ve received some comments on the layout or functionality of your website that were less than thrilling, but you’re unclear on how to go about fixing the issues.
Have you wondered why some website design services cost a lot and some cost next to nothing? Have you seen websites that impress you, and those that don’t, without being sure why?
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, having a website may not have seemed quite as essential as it does today—when everyone is working, shopping, setting up appointments, and hiring from home. Now is the time to put your best foot forward when it comes to your business’s online presence.
Understanding the Importance of a Good Website for a Small Business
Your website is the first thing most of your clients, or, if you’re an entirely web-based company, the first thing all of your clients will see. The importance of first impressions when it comes to person-to-person interaction is proven, and the same science extends to your website. Not only do first impressions matter, but they happen almost instantaneously. Studies have shown that it takes a fraction of a second for visitors to form an impression of a website.
The first impression isn’t the end of your customer’s experience, though. The ability of your website to work for you, and do it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, means your site is essentially the most valuable employee you’ll ever hire! Having a website make sales while you sleep (without crashing or confusing the customer) and even generate new business (see SEO optimisation, below), takes you from a passive to an active participant in the internet marketplace.
Figuring out how to cultivate the tools your website needs comes down to understanding the end-user: the person using your product or service. You can do this through online surveys, usability testing, and other forms of research. Once you understand who your end-user is, you should tailor your site to meet their needs.
What Makes a Good Website?
User experience, or UX, is one of the most critical factors in your website’s success. According to Neilson Norman Group, leaders in research-based UX, “user experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”
A good website considers this interaction in order to provide the easiest, most enjoyable, and most effective user experience.
Your website’s user interface, (UI) plays a big part in creating the successful user experience both you and your customers are after. The interface of your website is the space in which the interaction between human and machine occurs. A good website will have a UI that is intuitive, well-designed, and simple.
Design isn’t everything, though; style over substance won’t do. When it comes to your small business website, content is king. Website content includes blog posts, articles, helpful FAQs, product descriptions, and your contact/about us page.
If you make your website a one-stop-shop for all your audience’s questions and needs, even those they don’t know they have, they will continue to return, and share your site with others.
How Should I Build My Website?
To build and maintain a stellar website, you’ll need a content management system (CMS). A CMS is a program or application with which you can develop and manage your website’s content. Without a CMS, you’d need to start from scratch using HTML, Java, or CSS. Content management systems enable you to build a site with little to no technical knowledge—though many offer the ability to supplement and customise by using code if you so choose.
WordPress is the most preferred CMS out there for developers and non-developers alike. It’s free, easy to use, and allows for plenty of customisation. WordPress uses a simple block editor, it also allows for a range of different themes. You can also install page builders, some of which where you can drag and drop the elements to build your site, and it has thousands of free and paid design templates. It also offers extensive SEO support, which is excellent for a first-time site owner. You will need to supply your own hosting and domain name.
There are a ton of other page builders out there to choose from, such as Joomla, Drupal, Squarespace, and Wix. Each comes with its own set of pros and cons. Things to consider when selecting a CMS include budget, ease of use, SEO support, customisation, design options, and extensibility.
Understanding Domain Names
Your domain name is the URL users type into their browser to access your website. In other words, your website’s address. It is often the title of the website itself, but it doesn’t have to be.
Domain names should be easy to remember and spell. They shouldn’t be too long (the shorter, the better), nor use any special characters. You want your domain name to be catchy, and to reflect the purpose and personality of your business. You also don’t want a domain that’s too complex or long. It needs to be easy to spell and minimise people mistyping it.
Domain names should be easy to remember and spell. They shouldn’t be too long (the shorter, the better), nor use any special characters. You want your domain name to be catchy, and to reflect the purpose and personality of your business.
Before you settle on a domain name, you’ll need to check if it’s available. There are several companies, such as GoDaddy and Domain.com, that you can use to search for as well as purchase the domain name you want. These are called domain name registrars.
Most domains are cheap, about £15 a year, but others may already be owned and will require you to bid. If you aren’t sure who owns the domain you want to purchase, you can perform a Whois lookup.
Domain names are not the same as hosting, which we’ll get to next.
Now that you’ve got your domain name set up, you’ll need to get your website viewable online. That’s where hosting comes in. Hosting is where you rent space on a server to store files that make up your site, like the code and images. Web hosting makes those files available to view online. Every website you’ve ever surfed online is hosted on a server.
There are different types of hosting on offer, and you’ll have to decide which one is best suited. The four main kinds to get to grips with are; shared, VPS (virtual private server), dedicated and cloud hosting. For instance, shared hosting is ideal for basic sites like blogs and startups. VPS hosting would be the next step up, brilliant for small businesses and online stores.
The servers that host your site are run and managed by different web hosting companies. These web hosts provide the tech and services you’ll need to view the website online. They take care of the set-up and any technical issues you might have with the site.
Web host service providers aren’t made equal, however. You’ll need to do some research to get the right service. Not only do different providers have different hosting capabilities, but they also have different levels of security on offer. Get your critical cap on and be thorough in your search to keep your data secure.
Prices for websites, like anything, can differ hugely. WordPress and Squarespace go for anything between £2 and £10 a month. These sound great, especially when expensive sites can cost upwards of £12,000, then up to £4000 a month for maintenance. But the difference in these prices raises questions. A cheap site will save money, sure, but will you get the results you want?
You don’t want a website for the sake of getting a website. Focus on the return of investing. Remember, your website can help or hinder your small business. A well thought out, well designed and well-maintained website will push up sales and create a lasting reputation for quality.
As we discovered, when thinking about hosting, the different options available deliver different capabilities – both for set-up and maintenance of the website. Cheaper, simpler options don’t have luxury features or ironclad security. Whereas, something like an eCommerce website, where you buy and sell goods online, will always cost more. You have to weigh up what it is you’re looking for from your website and never forget about the return you want to gain from it.
Eventually cheap comes back to bite you. Whether it’s because there’s no maintenance or you can’t grow your site alongside your expanding small business; ultimately, you’ll know about it when buying cheaply.
Getting To Know Basic Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
SEO is about enhancing the quality of your content online so that a search engine will bring it up as a top result for keyword searches. Google is one of the biggest search engines out there, and studies have shown that the top five results on Google get 67% of all clicks. You can see why SEO is such a big deal.
There are two types to understand. On-page SEO is about everything on your actual website. When optimising this, think about content, quality of content and keyword research. Good quality, well-written content with effective use of keywords will help you make that top five.
Then there’s off-page SEO. You’d think Google would just bring up the most relevant content, but there are other factors to consider. Whether the search engine sees your site as trustworthy, has quality backlinks and promotion on social sites amp up your off-page SEO.
A lot of small business web design and hosting packages say they include SEO, but that’s not strictly true. Most of the time, it’s just some basic on-page optimisation and won’t increase your ranking. A reliable web designer has excellent SEO knowledge and builds your site with that in mind. You want an ongoing service that continues after the site’s built.
The Growing Importance Of Mobile-Friendly Websites
As phones become more powerful, surfing the web on them is the norm. In the last seven years, mobile traffic has increased by 222%. That alone shows you how important making your website mobile-friendly is.
So what makes a website mobile-friendly? Firstly, your page will need to have a responsive display. Without it, consumers will visit the site and have to scroll and manoeuvre their way around to decipher it. Not user friendly.
Legible fonts and text formatting also come into play. You’d be amazed at how different your page can look on a mobile. Awkward text formatting can mean that you have bulky paragraphs that look a mile long on the screen. Formatting is relevant for your images too. You don’t want consumers resizing images themselves to display your media.
A mobile-friendly site means that your users’ experience is vastly improved, which translates into them spending longer on your site. It also gives you an advantage against competitors who haven’t optimised their sites for mobile use. These benefits coupled with Google switching to mobile-first indexing, so they’ll use the mobile version of content to decide rank, means being mobile-friendly is more important than ever.
You Have A Website – Now What?
Having a new website is like having a new car. It looks great when you get it home, but if you don’t keep up with its services, there’ll be problems down the line. That could affect your reputation and your pockets.
To make the most of your site, you need to really look after it. Make sure to have regular catch-ups to ensure that your site relevantly reflects you and your company. Stay on top of the maintenance and keep adding fresh content. Most importantly, keep everything backed up and secure.
Different platforms all need different levels of servicing, so it pays to stay organised. It also pays to speak about an aftercare plan with your chosen web design company or agency. Website design businesses are a brilliant tool at your disposal, make the most of them and ask about available small business web design packages.
Like with most things we’ve discussed here, it’s about remembering that your website is an investment. The amount of work and time you put into it translates into how much return you’ll get on that investment and choosing the right web design for your small business is essential.
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Find Out How We can Help You!
Do you want to improve your company image? Or are you tiered of always having to go out and hunt for new work? Your website should be used as a tool that works for you 24/7/365! Theres never been a more important time than now to invest in digital.