Small Biz: Websites that actually work

You’ve got a company who needs web design or already have a site, most likely to help sell your services and showcase your brand on the web. I bet you’ve heard of WordPress, responsive, and HTML5, but what do you really need to know about building a website for your small business that actually works? How can you make sure that your site has exactly what you need to know so you’re going to get the value you want out of the project?

I’ve been looking into this issue for a while now with companies that are just in their startup phase to established businesses who have been running successfully without a website for years. Here are a few questions to keep in mind when your dreaming up websites and making decisions on design aspects for friends, family and your own businesses. Having a plan helps you get the most out of your new website.


1. Who’s my customer and what’s their question?

This simple question is vitally important for existing businesses and startups to build their site to their customers online goals. It can be challenge to answer correctly and most likely has changed and will change over time. Successful companies are easily able to put themselves in their prospective clients shoes and look at their business through those eyes. Companies with long term growth know how to reach their customers through traditional forms of marketing, but adapt quickly, or proactively when new marketing opportunities present themselves. Ask yourself:

  • What are the most common questions I get from customers?
  • What is my companies target demographic?
  • What level of technical skill does my target audience have with computers?
  • Have I done enough research to easily state my websites purpose from the customers point of view?
  • Why choose my business over my competition?

Once you have a more defined scope for the purpose of your companies site you can focus on how to complete its main goal.

2. How do I most easily help my customers answer their question(s)?

This is the primary focus of your website, the reason visitors will come to your site, as well as the reason Search Engines will value you over your competition. A clear message presented in a way that anyone can access and interact with easily. This is where design mixes with usability. Choosing a beautiful layout with large images looks great and can give your company brand a modern feel, but when it gets down to the nitty gritty businesses are generally looking for conversion. Things we should be testing and measuring are:

  • What is my main call to action? Where is it located?
  • How long does it take users to complete their goal?
  • How many clicks or scrolls does it take to find what they are looking for?
  • Where do people get stuck, or frustrated?

Make sure everyone who visits your website knows exactly how they are going to do what they came for, from the very beginning to the last thank you page. This is one of the most crucial design aspects we should consider.

3. What does my competition do really well, and where can they improve?

Looking into how your competition reaches its online audience, and what details they include to help refine the conversion process, can give you a great idea of how you can improve your own site. The other factors to keep in mind are:

  • What frustrates you about their site? (Speed, text too small, difficult navigation)
  • What could be improved?

These are problem areas that you potentially can separate yourself and provide prospective customers with a better solution. Understanding what works and why it works is a vital aspect of making design decisions with your website. Doing your research will pay dividends down the road for you and your company.

4. How will you help customers who need online support?

The first step in this process is identifying when there’s an issue and deciding what approach you want to take. For instance, if someone came to your store, got in line for the checkout with their items in hand only to drop everything and leave, you would want to know what happened and how it can be fixed, right? This happens fairly often online due to the lack of a personal connection between business and customer. When someone leaves your checkout process, or incorrectly fills out a form you need to know, and be there to help them find their way to the bottom of your sales funnel. Consider using these tactics to support your customers.

  • Do you want to set up customer accounts which would allow you to contact your customers if they have an issue?
  • Will you use tracking scripts to monitor site visitors?
  • Will you have a support chat box available with someone on hand to answer questions?
  • Is your company phone number readily available to customers in case they want to call for support?

Customer service is a huge part of sales, and while some of the online world still doesn’t have it as a standard aspect of their businesses, you should.

5. Lastly, How will customers find your business?

Anyone can open a store, but getting people to find out about it, go inside, have a great experience and ultimately make a purchase or conversion is the challenge. I’ve seen many helpful website lay dormant because there was no marketing plan in place. Another situation is current customers will use the website, but new organic business is no where to be found. You can avoid these pitfalls by making sure you have a clear online marketing strategy laid out that will help your new website turn into a better return on investment.

  • How will you funnel traffic to the website?
  • Who will you communicate with to help promote our brand and credibility?
  • What relating content are your customers looking for?
  • Should you invest in paid search?

Having a solid idea of what your marketing plan is will help you shape decisions in your web design from what features to include on pages, to the navigation, and much more.

That’s it for now, hopefully you have some new things to consider when planning out your companies website design, and growing your business. Don’t forget this isn’t a definitive list, if you have questions you think are important and want to contribute please do so in the comments. Together we can help create a checklist of sorts for people who want to be best prepared to create a website that works for them every day.

Thanks for reading.

story written by Sam Jeanes