No business in this day and age can afford to operate without a website any longer. Recent statistics show that more than 55% of American consumers use the internet every day and that 44% conduct their product research through the use of a search engine like Google or Bing.
Having a website for your small business has a number of benefits including increased visibility and credibility, inexpensive advertising and better customer relationships.
However, in order to reap these benefits, there are a number of important web design principles you should be aware of, especially as a small business competing in an already crowded marketplace.
Understandably, most business owners aren’t dept at web design themselves, which is why they generally hire an expert to do it for them. But even if you will not be putting up the website yourself, you should still have a grasp on the basics and be able to discuss the design and layout with the designer to get the best results.
Following are a few things you should know before creating a website for your small business:
1. Keep It Simple
While is true that you want to distinguish yourself from the competition, you don’t want your website to be so loaded with colors, gadgets, video clips and animations that your visitors are distracted from what it is you are actually selling or offering.
In addition to the confusion that an overly elaborate design can cause, having too many photos, videos and graphics will cause your site to run slowly, which can cost you to a huge loss in your web traffic and user engagement.
Keep it clean and simple and make sure that your mission is clear to everyone who visits. Avoid colored backgrounds as they make it difficult to read the text on the page, and generally just look tacky.
2. Must Be Easy to Navigate
This is perhaps the most important thing to discuss when meeting with your web designer. You want the page to be sleek and easy to navigate. Important pages and information should be easy to find in no more than a glance, as visitors aren’t going to stick around very long if they have to spend their precious time understanding how your website works.
Make it easy for them to buy things and limit the number of steps they must go through to complete their purchase. “Help” and “FAQ” buttons should also be easy to spot and pop ups should be kept to a minimum if not eliminated completely.
3. Pay Attention to the Contrast
Contrast is important in web design, and getting the contrast just right will ensure that your visitor’s attention is drawn straight to the important things. Things like white space, bolded text, background colors and images are all important to consider when coming up with a theme for your website.
Visit a web page, any web page, and note down the things that stood out to you first. How did the web designer accomplish this? What kind of colors did they use? How much white space was left between images and text?
4. Include Well-placed Buttons and Search Bars on Each Page
Providing your visitors with easy access buttons is a great way to increase your sales. If a visitor has to search through pages of text just to start shopping or book a service, it’s not very likely that they are going to give you their business. It’s all about convenience these days, so you have to make it easy for people to do what you want them to.
First of all, determine what the main purpose of your website is. What do you want people to do? Do you want them to buy things? Book an appointment? Find out more information or donate money?
Once you know what it is that you want to accomplish, you can create clear calls to action in the form of buttons. For example, a bright “Donate now” button on every page of a NGO’s website can encourage people to support you, while a link saying something like “Start shopping” on a merchant’s website will make it easy for a visitor to view the available products.
A well-placed search bar that appears on every page also makes it easier for your prospective customers to find what they are looking for without too much clicking around.
5. Don’t Be Shy of Extras
This may seem like a contradiction to the first point, but there are some extras that can greatly enhance your website and engage your visitor.
Things like blogs, social media “like” or “share” buttons, RSS feed and landing pages increase your popularity and keep your visitors coming back for more.
Most people won’t buy something on their first visit to your website, but by giving them a reason to return (reading your blog updates or sharing interesting posts through social media) you can greatly increase your chances of turning a casual visitor into a loyal customer.
Patrick Del Rosario is part of the team behind Open Colleges, one of Australia’s pioneer and leading providers of Open Colleges Management Courses & diploma of management.