As the owner and designer at HostMamas, we have seen our fair share of sites in desperate need of help. Let's face it. The Web is full of pitiful sites, and we're not just talking about bad design. There are many other elements besides how your website looks that go into making it customer friendly -- not to mention something that inspires prospects to actually do business with you (which is why most of you are on the Web, right?).
From thorough contact information to customer testimonials, here are the essentials that every small business website should have for it to effectively help you do business.
A clear description of who you are who your ideal prospect is. Yes, people need to know who you are, but if your website is focused on only telling your story without a bridge that connects it in a helpful way that solves a consumer or buyer's problem, your website likely to fail. Tell people this is the right website that they have been searching for and it will encourage them to stay longer and click around.
A simple, sensible Web address. Don't make things complicated. Enough said. People could misspell, forget, or move onto the next if you go with something to wordy. Also, avoid using dashes because those can be a nightmare when it comes to SEO.
Keep it user friendly and updated. Easy to read colors and fonts. Knowing where to place buttons, drop downs, search boxes, social media links. This is all important to keep prospects coming back and staying engaged with your site. The layout of a site is so insanely important, I can not stress it enough. There is a reason people make a living off doing this guys! Because it makes websites the big bucks when done properly. Also, by maintaining new content on a website shows customers they have reached a lively business that they can trust. The majority of pages on a website won't require constant updates, but there should be at least one page that requires some regular maintenance.
Easy-to-find contact information. You wouldn't want to lose a customer to a competitor just because you made it difficult for them to get in touch with you. This plays a part in design, knowing where to place this information and the wording to use. Might seem like common sense, but a lot of sites lack this. One of the biggest mistakes business owners make is to force only one way to reach them. The point is to make it very easy for users to communicate with you on their terms.
Customer references and testimonials. Yes, your business is the only "your business"- but these days a fitness guru, marketing guru (ah!), health guru, mommy blogger, etc. are all a dime a dozen. If you don't prove you have backing, then onto the site that has it. Honest words from others help make your products or services more tangible to customers who are visiting you online. People love stories. HostMamas has built their brand on it, so we know. And what do people love more than a story about a company? A story from people who have interacted with that company.
An obvious CALL TO ACTION. It is amazing the amount of clients we have talked to and asked, what do you want your website to accomplish? And they respond, we want it to look nice. Think deeper then that. What do you want your visitors to do? Sign up for a newsletter? Buy a product? Fill out the contact form? Be specific and it will empower your design to help your business even more.
Know the basics of SEO. Your website won't do you as much good if no one can stumble upon it. Become familiar with the SEO basics to make it more accessible by search engine. This means make sure your website is coded correctly and submitted to the big guy (aka Google.com). We have a SEO series with some basic tips, but things like correct keywords throughout your text, putting in plenty of links, naming your page titles and URLs correctly, and employing the magic of images and videos will all help boost your rankings.
A secure hosting platform. Having your online information hijacked is a nightmare, and, should it happen to your business, it could cost you customers. Make sure to ask your hosting company a lot of questions about their security measures and backup procedures so you can safeguard your site and privacy.