The key elements of an effective small business website should be considered carefully before engaging any website designer. At its basic level a website should quickly inform the prospect what you do and what sets you apart from all the rest. It should also make it obvious how you can be contacted.
Attention spans are short so don’t waste time on a company history lesson. Simply tell prospects what you can do for them and why they should choose you in as few words as possible.
Website design businesses can get caught up in technical and graphics issues and forget the basics. It is important to brief the designer on your minimum requirements. Don’t clutter the home (or landing page) with too many graphics and leave plenty of white space.
Be Clear On Your Objectives
Ask yourself one simple question. When telling your peers about your new website would you rather say:
- My website is the most technologically advanced.
- My website looks great – or—
- My website generates a consistent stream of new sales leads.
It is not always possible to have everything so it is important to make the choice upfront before making the first step in the design process.
It may be your primary lead generating activity does not rely on your website. All you may need is something that builds your credibility. In that case, design and navigation are crucial.
If only enhancing the credibility (brand) of the business is important SEO and calls to action are less relevant. Clear, well written content is essential but the volume of content can be much less than a lead generating website.
If generating leads is the key activity then design issues may take more of a back seat. Three key items need to be in place:
- The website must receive visitors (traffic)
- A relationship must be established with those visitors
- Visits must be converted to leads, or better still, sales.
Only a small proportion of those landing on most small business websites will immediately take action and call.
Some may return several times before making a purchase. Others may click away to check out alternatives before returning and making contact. It is important to stay in touch with the majority who do not convert within the first few minutes or hours.
After all the hard work involved in generating website traffic, it is a waste if they are lost because they cannot find their way around the site. Website navigation should be as clear as possible.
Links between pages should be added to guide the prospect along a desired path. There should be specific calls to action (see below).
Design is great but if your prospects do not get what you offer and what makes you different within seconds then they are lost. If they have to spend more than a few seconds trying to figure out how to retrieve the information they need you have potentially lost them forever. The information on the website should match the intent that prompted the search.
For a lead generating website valuable, engaging content is your most valuable website asset. It is important to build credibility and give prospects a reason to return. A website that is updated often will bring in more traffic.
Content can be blog posts, how to guides, photography, graphics, pdf’s or video depending on what works best for the business and, more importantly, its prospects. An advantage of a blog is it can keep prospects coming back for more as the site is continually evolving.
Anything downloadable can be used to capture prospect Email addresses. This enables ongoing communication and relationship building with prospects.
Reviews And Case Studies
It is important not to underestimate the power of ‘social proof’ (Dr R. Caildini). Testimonials, recommendations, case studies and quality signals such as approvals or qualifications help persuade a prospect to choose one business ahead of the other.
Proof you can support any claims you may make is critical. To build credibility the website should present:
- Proof you can deliver.
- A professional image.
- Industry/market knowledge.
Genuine testimonials can be useful but case studies on what has been achieved for others are more valuable. Industry and market knowledge builds credibility further. Comment on what is happening in the market, perhaps on legislation or a market trend is one option.
Search Engine Optimisation
A website is of little use if it cannot be found when a prospect types a relevant phrase into the search engines. Unfortunately, best practice search engine marketing takes time, experience and effort.
Despite what some may wish to claim there are no quick fixes hence the activity can be relatively expensive. It is a mistake to blow the entire budget on the website design and development without keeping something back for the search engine optimisation activity.
Call To Action
A common small business website design mistake to avoid is the failure to add appropriate calls to action. Make it as obvious as possible what you would like the prospect to do next.
Many of the above elements are interlinked and all can be built into a website design given a little time and effort. A website design specialist will talk all day about the technicalities of website design. An SEO specialist can often become sidetracked by keywords or technical issues and forget the prospect experience. A graphic designer tends to be interested in graphics, not the all-important content. It is therefore important to continually refer back to the main purpose of the website.
An effective small business website should advise what you do. It should show you can deliver on your claims and it should guide a prospect to take the action you desire.