How To Design A Website For A Small BusinessAs a small business owner, you've probably researched all the reasons you need a website for your business. You may also already know what your site should include: a mobile-friendly design, media elements that load quickly and look good, tools to help you get found in searches, social media tools, and tools to make selling online a snap. But unless you're in the website design business, you may not feel confident pulling these elements together on your own. Today, we'll cover the must-have elements of a good website for a small business and go over your options for creating those elements.
1. Overall Design or TemplateThe first and most important element for effective small business websites is a design that works well on all types of devices, especially smartphones. That's because most online searches happen on mobile devices now, and Google is in the process of rolling out a new mobile-first index that will rank mobile-optimized sites higher in search results that websites that aren't mobile-friendly. For a small business website design that meets mobile-first standards, you can hire a designer, if you have the funds and the time to wait for a custom-built site. You can also shop around online for a mobile-optimized template you can adapt to your needs. Or you can use a website builder that comes with a library of mobile-friendly templates to ensure your site works well, even if you choose another look for it later on. While you're looking at mobile-friendly templates, keep in mind that there are certain pages and sections that customers expect to find on every business site. These include your home page, a contact page (although you should include contact information somewhere on each page of your business site), an about us page, a portfolio if you sell services, and an online shop page if you sell products. To simplify and speed up your site creation, look for a website builder that has pre-built pages and sections you can tailor to your business needs.
2. Multimedia ElementsThese days, pictures are probably worth more than a thousand words, because smartphone users would rather browse images and watch videos than try to read lots of text on a tiny screen. When they're properly formatted, tagged, and optimized, images and videos can help your site rank higher in search results so more prospects come your way. And a custom favicon (that little image at the top of the browser tab, like the wee Snappy on the tab you're reading right now) not only helps your business with branding but also makes it more useful as a bookmark or toolbar icon for your frequent customers. You can find downloadable tools and WordPress plugins to help you with tasks like image optimization, schema markup, HD video embedding, favicon design, and more. If you decide to use a website builder, those tools will already be baked in and accessible in one place, ready to use.
3. Get Found and Track Your PerformanceImages and mobile-friendliness aren't the only elements your site needs to rank well in search results. There are a number of SEO best practices your business website should follow, like using the right keywords and other metadata to help local shoppers or prospective clients around the country find your business easily. How will you know how well your SEO is working? That's where Google Analytics comes in. Tracking the performance of your posts, social media campaigns, keyword search results, and more is critical to getting the most from your business website. As with the other elements of your site, you can take on these tasks one by one, using resources like Google Analytics Academy to walk you through the steps you'll need to follow. You can also find WordPress plugins to help you with SEO and analytics, or you can use a website builder to save time by providing all those tools.
4. Social Media ToolsSocial media is important for reaching new customers, establishing your professional expertise or product awesomeness, and making sales. Many small business owners start out ambitious and motivated and end up overwhelmed by their social media programs, because it can feel like a full-time job to manage your social media posts, comments, offers, and sales. It doesn't have to be that much work. To get the most from social media without focusing on it constantly, get the right tools. If you have the budget, you can hire a social media manager to handle your posts and responses for you. A less expensive option is to use a third-party tool like HootSuite or Buffer to post your content on your channels at pre-set times, although it will still be up to you to load those links into your schedule. There are also plugins that will optimize your website posts to display well on different social media platforms. The simplest solution is to choose a website builder that gives you all the tools you need to handle your social media program. A good site builder will make it easy for site visitors to follow you, share your content, and buy your merchandise while they're on Facebook.
5. E-commerce ToolsFor online retailers, e-commerce tools are the main reason for having a website. These include your online store, an inventory tracking system, an easy-to-use shopping cart, popular payment tools like PayPal and Square, and a way to run promotions with coupon codes. You can add the elements you'll need one by one and follow the integration tutorials for each one, or you can use the suite of e-commerce tools provided by your website builder to get your shop up and running faster.
Design Your Small Business WebsiteDesigning a website for a small business takes some time, research, and experimentation to get things set up just the way you want them. With an all-in-one service like the HostGator website builder, you can spend less time working on your small business website design and let it work smarter for you.
Important B2B Website Best PracticesSelling B2B presents some unique challenges:
- You’re often selling products that are less fun or interesting than a lot of B2C products, but that serve a practical purpose.
- You may have to reach and convince multiple contacts in different positions at the companies you work.
- And especially for high-priced B2B products, you have to expect the decision-making process to take some real time and work.
1. Keep Your Design Clean and Focused.If you try to stuff too much into one page on the site, it gets confusing. A clean design is both nicer to look at and makes it easier for your visitors to find the information it’s most important for them to see. If you don’t have a good designer on staff and don’t have the budget to hire a professional, that’s actually not a problem these days. You can get really far with a good website builder and by using pre-made templates. These are already designed by skilled professionals who have an idea of what works best in a business website, so it gives you a head start in getting your design right.
2. Have a Consistent Color Scheme.It can be jarring to encounter entirely different colors moving from one page to the next on a website. Your brand may already have a set color scheme you use for things like your logo or promotional materials. If you do, stick to that for your website. If not, take time now to figure out the color scheme you want to use for your brand moving forward and make sure every page on your website makes use of those colors. It will give people a unified experience across pages and provide a visual shorthand for how they think about your brand.
3. Emphasize Your USP on the Homepage.We’ve already established that you don’t want to try to do too much on the homepage (or any one page), so to use that space wisely, you have to figure out the most important information that you want every person that visits your website to know. This is your unique selling proposition (USP): what’s the primary benefit your product offers? For HostGator, it's powerful web hosting: For B2B brands, your USP probably has something to do with helping businesses make more money, save time, or do their jobs better in some tangible way. Figure out the main reason your customers buy your product and use that to determine the messaging to put front-and-center on your website. All the detailed information you have about the features you offer or the specifics of how your products work can go deeper on the website for people who decide they’re interested in learning more.
4. Create an Intuitive Site Structure.Everyone who visits your website should have an easy time figuring out what’s on it and how to find the information they’re looking for. The way you accomplish that is by making sure you design it with an intuitive structure. For smaller websites, this is usually simple enough: your menu will include your homepage, about page, and a page for each product or product category. For larger ones it can get more complicated and you’ll want to think through now how best to organize all the pages your website is likely to have over time. Your goal should be for a user to never be more than three clicks away from any other page on the website. That keeps navigating your site manageable for visitors.
5. Use the About Page to Humanize Your Brand.You know intuitively that you relate better to people than you do brands. Your website visitors do too. No matter how much work you put into building up your brand, at the end of the day, your customers will have an easier time caring about the people behind the logo. So give them a chance to see who you are on your About page. Your other pages should be more focused on your brand and product messaging, but the About page gives you a chance to introduce your team. Share pictures of the people behind the brand and some information about each of them. It doesn’t all have to be business related either – Jan in accounting could share that she’s a dog person and super into Star Wars. That alone probably won’t get someone to choose your product, but knowing they have something in common with the people behind the brand can help make them feel connected to the brand and more likely to want to work with you than a competitor that feels more distant.
6. Make It Mobile Friendly.Over half of all internet use now happens on mobile devices. People are increasingly using them for business tasks along with games or other fun browsing. That means your website has to be accessible for users that visit it on their smartphones. When working on your design, make sure you test out how it works on mobile as well as desktop. Are the buttons big enough to easily click on with your finger? Is the font easy to read? Is the design responsive (meaning you get the same content and visuals, but they change to look good on each device you use)? If you’re using a website builder or template, look for one that’s clear about being mobile friendly. (Note: all of the templates in HostGator’s website builder are!) And if you hire a designer, be clear from day one that the mobile experience of the website is a priority.
7. Use Graphics and Video to Bring Your Product to Life.This is particularly useful if you sell something like a software product that’s hard to describe fully in words. Screenshots or videos that show how the product works and what it does can be useful for helping visitors visualize what they’d be getting. Many people are visual thinkers who will appreciate your website more if it helps them learn things visually as well as through the wording you choose.
8. Minimize Jargon.Speaking of wording, avoid going too deep into industry-specific terminology. If someone outside of your industry wouldn’t understand the language you’re using, then it’s probably best to find another way to say it. You want everyone that comes to your website to be able to understand what you’re saying. Jargon can both make you sound out-of-touch (or like you’re trying too hard) and potentially alienate visitors that don’t understand it.
9. Make CTAs Clear and Easy.Your website will probably have a few main goals – things like:
- Get visitors to get in touch for more information
- Get visitors to sign up for our email list
- Get visitors to start a free trial
- Get visitors to purchase our product
10. Perform A/B testing.It’s always hard to guess at what people will respond to. Once your website has launched, the best way to know what’s working is to test it out. A/B testing lets you see how people respond to design changes or different wording. You can figure out if one style of a CTA button consistently works better than another, or which of two headlines gets the most clicks. Over time, you can make changes to your website that improve the results you get and collect a lot of valuable data on what works to make your future website changes and marketing campaigns stronger.
11. Create Original Images.Images are an important part of a solid B2B website. They influence how visitors interact with your website and how effective your messaging is. Research shows that people are 80% more likely to read content that shows up alongside an image (or a few) and 64% more likely to remember the content they read. It’s pretty easy to find cheap stock images online, but there’s a real value to taking the time (or hiring someone) to create original images on your website. Original photography performs better on websites than stock photography and original illustrations and animations can be a way to further differentiate your brand.
12. Have a Blog.The downside of blogging is that it’s something you have to continually do – you can’t do it once and be done. But the upsides of blogging (when done well) make the work well worth it. Having a blog on your B2B website:
- Improves your SEO
- Gives you a way to reach and interact with more people in your target audience
- Gives you a space to answer FAQs (making the jobs of your sales and customer service teams easier)
- Helps you build an email list
- Positions your brand as a thought leader in your field
13. Pay Close Attention to Analytics.Google Analytics makes it easy for you to track how your website is performing over time. You can see how much traffic you receive, how often the people who come to your site stick around (rather than abruptly leaving), what links they click on, and which pages are the most popular. You can even see data on who your visitors are in terms of demographics and other online interests. All that data is helpful in making sure your website is doing its job and figuring out what to change if it isn’t. Every website owner, and especially every business website owner, should get in the habit of checking web analytics regularly and analyzing what the information is telling you.
What's Best for Your B2B Website?B2B websites have some particular challenges, but following a few best practices can help you make sure your website reaches the right people with the right message to help you gain new customers.
How To Make A Website Mobile FriendlyIn 2016 for the first time, mobile internet usage surpassed computer usage. It shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone paying attention. Mobile device use has been on the rise ever since Apple released the first smartphone and mobile devices have become such a regular part of everyday life that we all expect to see people looking at their phones every time we leave the house. For website owners, this shift in how people interact with the web isn’t surprising, but it does increase the urgency you need to have in making your website mobile friendly. If your mobile visitors currently don’t have a good experience when they land on your website, you’re driving away a huge portion of your potential traffic (and hurting your search engine rankings in the process). You’ve heard it before by now, but we’re saying it again. You have to make your website mobile friendly. But knowing that’s something you need to do and actually knowing how to do it are two different things.
10 Steps to Make Your Website Mobile-FriendlyHere are a few steps you can take now to make sure your website works as well for your mobile visitors as it does for your desktop users.
1. Make Your Website Responsive.A responsive website includes all the same content and information on any device you access it on, but it changes the way it’s displayed and arranged based on the size of the device screen. This is the best option for making your website mobile friendly, because you’re not limiting the information your mobile visitors can access – they still get all the same content the rest of your visitors do. And responsive design is also good for SEO. Google has said it’s their preferred format for mobile websites. Building a responsive website isn’t for beginners though. You’ll either need to hire a professional to help, or look for a website builder that includes mobile friendly templates. If the main thing that’s been keeping you from making your website mobile friendly is not knowing how to do it yourself, squash that excuse and get it done.
2. Make Information People Look for Easier to Find.Some people who browse the web on their mobile devices don’t mind taking some time to browse or read content at the same pace they would on a computer, but others want to find the information they need as fast and as easily as possible. Think about the information that people on mobile devices are most likely to be looking for when they head to your website and put that somewhere obvious and easy to find on the mobile homepage. Also consider the FAQs people most often look for when they visit your website. It might not make sense to put all the answers front and center on your mobile homepage, but you should make them easy to find and navigate to on a mobile device.
3. Don’t Use Flash.Flash largely fell out of favor years ago because it’s bad for SEO. It can slow down a page’s load time and there are a lot of browsers and devices where it just doesn’t work at all. Neither Android nor iOS devices support flash, so if you build a website that depends in any way on the experience of a Flash animation, your mobile users will be left out. At this point, it’s best to scrap the technology altogether on your website and find a strong web design that works without it.
4. Include the Viewport Meta Tag.The viewport meta tag is an easy way to control how your website shows up on mobile. If your page opens up as the same width on the small screen of your phone as it does on your desktop, you’re going to have to do some awkward scrolling from side to side to read each line of text and see the different sides of the page. The viewport meta tag tells browsers to fit the width of your page to the screen of the device type the visitor is coming from. Adding this it to your html is pretty simple. Just paste this onto the html for each page: <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1">
5. Turn Autocorrect for Forms.Something it’s easy not to think about is the little ways autocorrect can make a user’s interaction with your website more inconvenient. If you have forms on your website that ask for name or address information, one small way you can make providing that information easier on your mobile visitors is to turn off autocorrect for each form field, otherwise their phone will try changing their name or street name to more common words and slow down the process of filling out your form. In the input field, make sure you include autocorrect=off in the html.
6. Make Your Button Sizes Large Enough to Work on Mobile.It’s easy enough to click on a button of just about any size with a mouse, but when you’re trying to “click” with your fingers on a small smartphone screen, small buttons are hard to deal with. And that’s especially true if there are multiple small buttons close to each other – pressing one while trying to press another will cause real annoyance for your visitors. The best way to save your visitors from this frustration is to use bigger buttons. Any time you add a button to your site (and for all those already there), take some time to test them out yourself on however many mobile devices you can scrounge up amongst your employees and family. Make sure selecting each button is reasonably easy on all the devices and, if it’s not, update it so that it is.
7. Use Large Font Sizes.Reading on a small screen is that much harder if the font is tiny. It’s best to use a font size of at least 14px on your webpages, but go ahead and test out how that looks to see if going bigger could be better here. It’s also best to stick with standard fonts. Any font your visitor’s browser might need to download will slow down how long it takes your website to load, which is bad news on mobile.
8. Compress Your Images and CSS.Speaking of site loading time, you always want your site speed to be fast. But if anything, that speed is more important on mobile. That means another good step for making your website mobile friendly is to compress anything that takes up a lot of space now and slows loading time. That probably includes your high-resolution images and your CSS. By compressing them, you can ensure they load faster without negatively affecting the quality of what people see on the site.
9. Allow an Easy Way to Switch to Desktop View.Some of your mobile visitors may actually prefer to see the desktop version of your website instead (especially if you go with a mobile version of your website rather than a responsive site). Make sure you give them a way to do that if it’s their preference. You want your visitors to be able to interact with your website in the way that makes the most sense for them.
10. Regularly Perform Mobile Testing.The best thing you can do to make sure your website’s mobile experience is a good one is to regularly test it out yourself on your mobile device. Every so often, pull up your website on your phone and tablet and spend some time browsing to see if anything’s hard to see or difficult to do. Ask your employees to do the same, and consider hiring users to do testing as well (since they’ll be seeing it all with fresh eyes).
Make Your Website Mobile-FriendlyEven if you get everything right today, the way mobile devices look and work will continually change and today’s mobile friendly website may not still do the job tomorrow. Keep testing, keep tweaking where needed, and continue to think about your mobile users as a priority and you should be fine.
What Is A Mobile Friendly Website?Spend some time researching how to build a website and you'll see terms like mobile-optimized, mobile-friendly, and “mobile first.” Mobile is a hot topic in website design because we do most of our searching and a lot of our shopping on our phones now, but most websites were built with desktop users in mind. Mobile users need sites that work well on small screens, use touch controls, are easy to navigate, and load fast. What does your site need to be mobile-friendly? Let's go over the basics.
What Does a Mobile-Friendly Website Look Like?Let's focus first on the way a mobile-friendly site looks, because visitors will decide at a glance whether they want to stay on your site based on its appearance. There are four basic elements a good mobile-friendly template or custom design will include:
1. Responsive Page DisplayResponsive design is the foundation of a mobile-friendly website. Without it, a smartphone or tablet user who visits your site will see a miniaturized version of your desktop site, which means they'll have to scroll vertically and horizontally to find anything—and that means they'll just leave and go somewhere else. A responsive site design, whether custom-built or based on a template, automatically displays your site properly on whatever type of device a visitor is using, whether they're using it in portrait or landscape orientation.
2. Readable FontsMobile friendly templates will include fonts that are easy for mobile users to read, but you may want to play around a bit with the fonts, especially if you have a logo that uses a particular typeface. Sans serif fonts with clean lines are generally the easiest to read on mobile devices, where glare and screen size can make serif fonts and novelty fonts like script hard to see clearly. And go up a size on your fonts—no one wants to try to read tiny text, even if it's sans serif.
3. Proper Text Formatting.Keep your blocks of text short and break them up with headlines and bulleted lists when it makes sense to include them. It's hard for our eyes to track close-together lines of text on small screens, so big paragraphs make it more likely that your visitors will lose their place and get frustrated.
4. Optimized Media Display.Test your images, infographics, and videos to make sure they look right on phones and tablets, without requiring users to scroll or resize their display to see your media.
What Does Mobile-Friendly Navigation Mean?Once your mobile visitors arrive, how will they find what they need? Mobile friendly navigation factors in the hardware and user-interface differences between desktops and mobile devices.
Think Touches and Taps Rather Than Mouse Clicks.Websites designed for desktop users are easiest to navigate with mouse clicks, not swipes, taps, and touches. There's no mouse on a smartphone, so you'll need to give mobile users a way to navigate using touch controls.
Reduce the Need for Data Entry.Trying to type on a smartphone keyboard is just the worst. Between the tiny keys, random auto-corrects, and auto-fills that may or may not populate fields correctly, it's something most mobile users prefer to avoid. Voice-to-text isn't much better, and it's not always an option (say, on the train during morning rush hour). Organize your mobile site so people can find what they need without having to type in the search field, or contact with you without filling out a contact form.
Shorten the Distance from Point A to Point B.Flat site architecture is your friend, because it helps mobile shoppers find things on your site without having to tap through too many layers along the way. A retailer that does this well is 6pm.com. Their store contains a vast number of items, but the mobile site's menus and filters are easy to access, so it only takes a few taps to go from the home page to sandals in my size. The mobile site also offers visitors the option to download a lightweight (17 MB) app, which offers a modular menu design that's easy to read on a phone.
How Fast Does a Mobile-Friendly Website Need to Be?Faster is always better. A mobile-optimized template or design that streamlines the number of requests a user's browser makes to load your site, plus a web hosting service that loads your pages fast, will go a long way toward making your site more mobile-friendly. Want to see how your site fares now and track improvements? You can use Google's PageSpeed tools to compare how quickly your site loads on mobile and desktop devices. There's also a Mobile-Friendly testing tool that evaluates speed plus other elements. Both of these tools give you a list of tips to make your site faster and more mobile-friendly, along with links to resources to help you make those changes. Want to really speed things up? An accelerated mobile page (AMP) is a lightweight app-like tool that's easy to build and use. The AMP was created to help solve the problem of laggy load times on mobile devices, and if your current mobile site isn't performing well on Google's page and mobile tests, an AMP may be the answer.
How Does a Mobile-Friendly Website Help Your Business?All the work you put into making your site mobile-friendly can pay off in the form of more business. Google says that 94% of American smartphone users “search for local information on their phones,” even if they have access to a desktop. And when people are searching for local businesses, they're usually ready to make a purchase. By making your site easy to find and easy to use on mobile devices, you're more likely to earn their business. To rank well in local searches, claim your Google My Business listing and make sure you're following other SEO best practices.
Build Your Mobile-Friendly WebsiteGet started on your mobile-friendly site today with the HostGator Website Builder. Choose from over 100 mobile-friendly templates!