What kind of website do you need?
Not all small business websites are the same. You can tailor the structure of your site to specifically direct your customers to purchase pages, information, or contact resources. While there are universal basics for websites (such as a description of your business, contact information, and images), from there you’ll branch off into more specific territory. Remember, you want your website to be customer-friendly, so people keep coming back to your business.
Types of Business Websites
Standard - Offices, retail stores, local businesses, service professionals
The standard business website is one that can designed in a very simple manner, not needing many bells and whistles. If your services do not involve shipping physical products, but rather presenting your portfolio and expertise, you’ll want to go with a standard model.
eCommerce - Sales directly to consumer through the internet.
An eCommerce website is where you’ll be able to sell and ship your products online. It will be necessary to create a website that is secure and safe for users to share their addresses and credit card or PayPal information.
Affiliate - Sites with content created to drive clicks through affiliate programs.
An affiliate website is a place that creates reviews and uses affiliate programs from sites (such as Amazon) to generate passive income. The ecommerce site pays the affiliate website business a commission based on the business it receives from their site. These sites also frequently use other forms of advertising, such as banners, and Google AdWords to supplement their income further.
Get real about your business needs and craft a clear mission statement
What is your business about anyway? The answer to this question will frame the entire structure of your website. How you guide visitors to becoming customers is all in the site architecture, so let’s begin with the vital answer to this simple question.
If your business is selling widgets, you’ll want to feature your physical product clearly on each page, starting with the homepage. Think about making it as easy as possible to get to the checkout page, and consider your own experience when purchasing items online.
Is your business a consultancy? This is something a bit more abstract since you’re selling your professional expertise and not a physical product. In this case, you’ll want to feature case-studies, portfolio pieces, and other examples of your work to convince future clients that you are the only genius for the job.
Affiliate businesses rely on the creation of strong content. To make a profit, you’ll be reliant on well-crafted content that really grabs the reader and holds their attention. Standing out from the rest of the competition is key, so your website should be of high quality design and navigation. You’ll want to inspire readers to consider you a trusted source or reviews and commentary, returning again and again to click more outbound links to stores that are paying you for the traffic.
Study the competition
What are your competitors up to? Who in the widget world is the highest rated among your industry? Find out and study their sites.
Here’s where it can get tricky. Just because a brand name is successful doesn’t mean it has a good website. They might already have a popular brand name which wouldn’t rely on a new website to generate sales. If you’re looking at a product such as Oreos or Coca-Cola, they’re using their websites for brand awareness and not the checkout counter. Remember that you’re a *small* business (for now), so look to those businesses online that are modestly successful and dependent on Internet sales.
This advice goes for all small businesses, be they law firms, graphic designers, consulting or carpentry. Spend the time on your research and you’ll learn a lot about what to do, and what not to do.
When looking at a competitor’s site, look for a few key things such as :
If you find yourself frustrated in trying to answer these questions, you are probably getting ideas for how to make your small business website better and stronger than your competition!
Here’s the fun part before we get into the nitty-gritty of putting the pieces together. Get inspired, this is your time to surf the web and not call it procrastination. Take a look at everything that you find pleasing to your eye and your mind. Imagine what those websites would look like as a page that features your business endeavors.
Take screenshots and notes on their navigation, types of images, inspirational mission statements, etc. Everything that makes you feel excited to stay on a website and learn more is a source for inspiration.
Think of this process like an artist who goes to a museum seeking a spark of creativity for their own work. Be open to ideas that you may not have considered. Compare and contrast websites that seem to work in different ways using different platforms.
Questions to ask yourself:
What immediately catches my eye?
What takes too long to load?
What is my favorite bit of content on this site and why?
How easy is this website to navigate for first-time users?
Is the URL memorable?