When it comes to small-business marketing, a great website can be one of the most effective and cost-efficient marketing channels out there. Here’s how you can create a visually appealing website that represents your business in a unique way.
1. Keep the design simple, fresh and unique. As the first thing potential customers see when they visit your website, the homepage is typically the most important part of a small business’s Web design. Make sure your homepage answers the critical questions new visitors will be asking, including who you are, what your business is and what can they do on your website. Consider the impression you want to make and the message you want to communicate to your customers and potential customers. The trick is not to overload your homepage, which can be distracting and confusing for customers. Keep it to no more than 120 words of text.
2. Consider that your visitors might be visiting from laptops, tablets and mobile phones. Avoid designing pages for a large monitor size or pages that use more complex features such as Flash animation or navigation. (Flash isn’t supported on the Apple devices.) Keep it simple and clean so your site is optimal for any device a visitor might be using.
3. Showcase your products and services. Make sure that your homepage clearly showcases the product or service you are selling. Most small businesses can benefit by including professional or stock photographs or videos. It is important that the product photos or graphical images and descriptions are clean, crisp and appropriate. You can have a great site design, but if your product photos look terrible, your prospective customers will think twice about buying your products.
4. Consider site load times. People are often impatient when browsing websites, and slow load times can determine whether people will be willing to buy your products or services or want to learn more about your company. Make sure that you audit your site’s performance on a regular basis by checking load times, site speed, correct formatting and continuity with the text and images.
5. Make your site easily accessible. Consider that people with certain disabilities (such as color blindness) will visit your site, and plan your design so that they, too, can learn about your products and services. Also consider how people with slower Internet connections will view your site and what you can do to improve their experience.
6. Organize your site to provide a great user experience. Keep in mind that when your prospective customers visit your site, they’re typically looking for specific information. They’re rarely going to read entire pages, and most people will skim pages quickly. A well-structured site that presents information in an orderly and organized way will be much more successful than one that appears chaotic or that is not intuitively arranged.
7. Content is critical. Poorly written content can quickly cause a visitor to leave your site. Don’t disregard the importance of well-written headlines; they can be very powerful and can mean the difference between a visitor reading the rest of the content or choosing to leave your site. Be sure to keep the content relevant—fresh and current material such as updated product information, business hours, price changes and new articles and white papers will keep users engaged and active.
8. Don’t forget search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM). SEO and SEM are highly specialized fields and require a substantial investment of time to learn. But SEO and/or SEM campaigns can provide great leverage to small businesses and, as a result, should not be ignored. There are literally thousands of qualified professionals who can help you with this, and executing your SEO/SEM strategy well will have a huge impact on your site’s success.
9. Turn to creative crowdsourcing for your design and written content. Crowdsourcing is the process of outsourcing tasks through an open call to a large group of workers, such as designers, writers, musicians or filmmakers. In an online creative crowdsourcing marketplace, business owners can post their creative projects and name their own price. In turn, creative providers worldwide submit their concepts and the buyer simply chooses the one they like best. The bottom line: Creative crowdsourcing a website design is quicker, less expensive, easier and offers a far greater choice of design concepts..
What website design tips do you have to build an effective site?
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OPEN Cardmember Michael Samson is the co-founder of crowdSPRING, www.crowdSPRING.com, the world’s largest marketplace for crowdsourcing creative.
Photos from top: iStockphoto, Thinkstock