The ultimate guide to designing a better business website

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There are a million different reasons why business owners decide to undertake a new website design. Some sites are simply used to experiment with business models, other sites are used to share information about family or friends, but many sites are designed to help a business grow.
Many business owners, however, don’t understand the vital details of designing a business website that really boosts business. Usually, it’s not enough to have information about your company, a few pretty pictures, and a contact form. Business websites must encourage the user to act. Below are ten solid tips for anyone who is interested in building a better business website.

1. Define the purpose

Before sitting down to design a site (or hiring a web designer), all business owners should ask themselves, “Why am I building this site?” Imagine the details of site design for a company who does most of it’s business on the web versus a brick-and-mortar company. On the one hand, the purpose of the site would be to increase online sales, while on the other hand, the purpose would be to generate foot traffic. Each tactic would be approached in a completely different way. Exploring the reasoning behind your site will help you determine budget, style, and if your company even needs a website at all.
What is your purpose? Perhaps you hope to educate potential customers. Maybe you desire to provide useful information. Most likely, your hope is that your web site will increase sales and generate awareness of your company. Defining the purpose of your site should be the first real step in moving toward a successful online strategy.

2. Consider the audience

The second most-important aspect of building a better business website is to heavily consider the target audience for the site. Who are they and what do they hope to get out of their visit to your site? You should ask this question before you do anything else! Understanding the answer to this question will help you make vital decisions about color scheme, navigation, organization, font size, and more.

A few other questions you may want to consider asking about the audience include:

  • How old are they?
  • How tech-savvy are they?
  • What are they looking for on your site?
  • What are their screen resolutions, browser types, operating systems, etc.? (We’ll explore this more when we discuss the importance of site analytics)

3. Keep it simple

Many business owners who decide to build a website want to include dozens and dozens of pages about the company. Unless you are in the business of providing information for people, or your research has shown that including lots of information will draw visitors to you site, it’s probably safer to keep it simple.

Only create the pages that are absolutely necessary and will help achieve the site’s purpose as defined in step one. Don’t add something to your site just because “all your competitors are doing it.” Every single action you take when building a company website should reflect your purpose and should tailor to your specific target audience.

Anything thing else is just waste.

4. Use a contact form

You might be asking yourself why this tip appears so high on the list or if it’s really so important to use a contact form on your site. While the answer to those questions should ultimately be determined by your purpose and target audience, experience has shown that almost all sites should include a contact form of some sort.
Let’s examine an alternative option and why a contact form is the best way for customers to reach you.

THE ‘EMAIL ME’ LINK
Many business owners prefer to have a simple link that users can click to email them. These links generally utilize the default email client on the computer (such as entourage, outlook, mail, etc) by opening a new email message and inserting the email address automatically.
Why shouldn’t you use this method? There are multiple reasons.What if the site visitor is using a public computer or one on which the email system is not set up properly? What if the visitor prefers to use gmail, hotmail, or some other online email service? Under both of these circumstances, the ‘email me’ link will not suffice and

will, more than likely, frustrate the user, discourage them from emailing you, and send them away from your site.

In addition, ‘email me’ links usually expose your email address to spiders and bots who collect this information and sell it to internet marketing companies. If you want to avoid spam email, don’t use a simple ‘email me’ link.

Contact forms keep your email address private and hidden from online scavengers while still allowing for your customers to email you with ease. Also, you can collect additional information by creating fields such as “company name”, “position”, etc.

5. Don’t just settle

Let’s face it, many business owners are cheap. Frankly, if they weren’t cheap (for goodwill, we’ll use the word ‘frugal’), they wouldn’t ever be able to run a successful business. Every good business owner knows that the essence of running a successful company is to ensure that revenue outweighs expenditures.

When it comes to building a web site for a business, it’s important to avoid settling for whatever is the cheapest, fastest, or easiest. If you run your business from a brick and mortar store, you wouldn’t settle for a run-down, back-alley, closet-sized building to do business from. Location is everything.

It’s the same on the internet.

Don’t settle for a free website builder that bombards your site with advertisements or tacks their name to the beginning of your site name. Having a site like the following ones can decrease your credibility and hurt your business.

HuntingGear.blogspot.com
FreeWebs.IceCreamParlor.com
Cheapsites.MikesMusic.com

A business web site is an investment so treat it like one. Invest in some good hosting, register a unique domain name, and hire a web designer to design and code a web site you can be proud of. If you can’t hire a designer, at least find a quality diy website builder you can work with.

6. Take your time

Building a web site can take a long time. Many business owners are under the impression that a good web site can be built as quickly as a company flier. Try to avoid phrases like “it should be pretty easy and quick” or
“that shouldn’t take too long” when talking with your web designer. Remember, a company web site is an investment. Invest your money and your time in a final product you will be happy with.

7. Include a Search Form

While this might only apply to sites that are content-heavy, it is usually a good idea to include a search option on your site. Depending on the purpose of your site, most visitors will already have a goal in mind when they arrive at your site. Make it easy for them to find what they are looking for by including a search form in an easy-to-find location.

8. Invest in Search Engine Optimization

The most common way for people to find content on the internet is to search for it using Google, Yahoo!, Bing, or similar search engines. If you want to be found when people are searching for the services or products you provide, make sure you take some time to invest in professional search engine optimization (SEO).

Of course, keep in mind the purpose of your site as discovered in step one of this process. If the only reason your site exists is to cater to current customers who have already visited your store, perhaps all you really need is a business card with your site name printed on it.

9. Keep things consistent

Customers like consistency. Just because you like the look of other web sites doesn’t mean it necessarily best reflects your company. Again, let’s return to the first two steps in this Build a Better Business Website guide. Step one: define your purpose and Step two: Consider the audience. The site design should be consistent with the needs, styles, understanding, and lifestyle of the target audience.

Once you decide on a specific look for your site, make it consistent throughout the site. Don’t change colors, fonts, organization, or other vital elements unless you have a solid purpose behind the changes.

10. Analyze your site

Once your new business web site is up and running, you should begin to analyze your site’s traffic. There are thousands of great analytic tools out there for web site owners (many of which are free) that will help you see if you are achieving the purposes you defined in step one of this guide.

11. Be Patient

Having success on the internet is not an overnight occurrence. After your site is up and running, be patient and watch closely. Remember that to achieve success, you must first define it. If you have done everything according to plan and have followed the steps in this short guide, you will begin to see success on your business’ web site.


What else would you add?

What can you add to the list of tips for designing a better business web site?

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About Preston D Lee

Preston is a web designer, entrepreneur, and the founder of this blog. @prestondlee

Comments

  1. Great article, enjoyed reading it. Thanks.

  2. Thanks Preston for this wonderful article as usual. Every single aspect of designing a better business website has been covered by you. I think new comers in this field can make a list of points you have mentioned as a guidline to create great websites. You have raised a very valid point under Don’t just settle. I too feel clients sometimes spend so much money on their website but when it comes to hosting they choose anything without knowing its implications. A good service provider is a lifeline of your site especially, a business site. The site should have its unique url and a good host will keep it up and running always with proper backups. It is suicidal to have url like Cheapsites.MikesMusic.com. Such hosts are deterrent to prospective viewers as they bombard you with their ads.

    I agree 200% on point Take your time. Yes, some clients think making website is like 2 day job at the most. They simply do not know that it is a creative process and more time and brainstorming goes into it, better it will be for their site. I humbly decline such website jobs where clients want me to start on Friday and make their site live by Sunday.

    Great article once again :)

  3. Great Post! One thing that annoys me the most is the “email link.” Why oh Why!

  4. i was a former employee and now i am making my best effort to start up a small business.';~

  5. Great article, I’d add 2 more tips – “play to your strengths”. We see this all too often, if your business has a great location make sure you have a map on the homepage, if you’re a member of a trade body include a their logo and link. Whatever your strengths there is always a way to promote them from your website.

    “get a wide angle lens” well maybe not literally, but all too often we see photos of a nice room, but it looks too small. If your interior is a selling point, get some good pictures that show it off to its best potential.

  6. This web site is my intake , very good style and perfect content material .

  7. Very good article, I’d read the rest too. I’m currently coldemailing businesses with dated websites so it comes useful. check my portfolio

  8. Create a web site matrix, which will help the process of navigational paths, and will also help to decide on the content materials that are relevant, while discarding info that is not. The matrix will also help the client to understand how their site is designed which will help them to understand a little more concerning the complexity involved in the process of designer, programming and placing content within the site.
    A web site matrix will also help you, the designer to plan the stages for the production of the site.

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