The other day my husband and I were looking for a new local restaurant to attend, so we searched for “local restaurants in Rochester, NY”. The first impression we got from some of the websites really determined whether or not we gave the restaurant a shot. Some websites didn’t have a menu on them so we didn’t know what type of food they offered. Some websites didn’t give us a sense of how the atmosphere was, so we couldn’t get an idea if we would be over or under-dressed — and the list goes on.
First impressions are everything and your website is your #1 sales tool in business. You need to make sure your website doesn’t turn away potential customers. As a small business owner, it may seem difficult to promote everything that you need to on your website to make your business successful. You might think you don’t have the time or resources to build a quality website, but there are lots of options and price points out there.
Many people attempt to reduce the costs by designing their own website using a free platform instead of hiring a professional to do it for them. While it is true that this can save you money upfront, it can also cost you a great deal in the long run. One of the first questions to ask yourself is: Can I design & build my website effectively that will get me the results I need? Here are six things to consider before designing a small business website.
1) How easy is it for you to design a website on your own?
There are platforms available which make it possible to design a website free of charge. However, designing a website is actually much more difficult in practice. You want your website to look professional. Evaluate how you should best spend your time. Is it gaining new customers or building a website? The last thing you need is to spend hours at a computer trying to design a website if you don’t understand web design in the first place. If you use a free platform to build your website, you could also be hurting your credibility. Invest in your own URL and hosting so that you can completely control your website and transact business.
2) What do you want to accomplish with your website?
You should know what you want people to do when they get to your website. Is your goal to drive sales, awareness, demonstrate thought leadership, offer a free quote or build your email list? Once you have a goal, determine your page menu and start developing copy for the site. Be sure to do keyword research on how people will search for your product or service before developing copy so that you can use the words your customers use to find your website. Whether you build the site yourself or not, no one can get started without a menu and copy.
3) Consider the User Experience.
First impressions are very important in business, but especially online! If you have a website that is difficult to navigate and does not engage the customer, there is no point in having a website. You must make sure your website is relevant and helpful in order to hold visitors’ attention long enough to get them to use your company instead of the competition. Make sure that the website garners positive attention and that you are not aggravating paying customers by having a bad shopping cart experience or leaving them searching for contact information. The entire point of designing a site is to attract more customers to your business.
4) Who Will Maintain Your Website?
It’s one thing to build a website, it’s another thing to maintain one. Technical problems can be a headache! Technical problems may also aggravate paying customers which can cost you money, and that is never good. Rather than spend more time than necessary working on the issues yourself make sure you have a maintenance agreement with someone to keep an eye on the backend of your site to make sure things run smoothly.
5) Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help.
If you try to build your website yourself, you may run into a challenge. If this happens, don’t be afraid to ask for a help. The worst thing you can do is ignore the issue; you never want to make a bad impression with your new website visitors. You may want to hire a professional designer from the start. A professional designer may also be knowledgeable regarding ways to drive traffic to your website.
6) Get It In Writing.
If you go with a professional designer or web design firm be sure to check references, verify any certifications, and get a scope of work in writing. Be sure to include an end date for your project. You want to know exactly who will be working on your project and who the project manager will be with. Never pay more than a 50% deposit before the work is complete with all your revisions.
Your website is a welcome mat into your business, do your homework and make a smart investment to make sure you build an engaging site that attracts new customers and holds their attention.
About the author: Siedah Mitchum is a web designer and has been designing quality websites for driven entrepreneurs and small businesses for over a decade. You can find her on Twitter: @siedahmitchum
Web Design Computer Key” courtesy of Stuart Miles / www.freedigitalphotos.net