Your business deserves a great website with certain essential elements of web design that will carry it forward, ahead of others.
In this day and age, a business needs a website for more than listing its address and a simple description. It needs an effective website that successfully converts its visitors into paying customers. Here are some of the elements that are essential to building a good business website:
1. Know your goals
- Why do you want a website?
- What kind of website do you want?
- What do you want from it?
- What do you want it to do for you?
These are the kind of questions that will help you decide what’s needed and what’s not needed on your website. Failing to conduct this survey may yield a website that lacks focus, so it is indeed a very important step to take. The answers to those questions can vary widely from business to business. Not any one website should be similar, so those answers, too, will vary widely.
If your business possesses a marketing plan, then this step is made easier. You’ll be able to answers questions about your niche market and your goals based on what’s in your marketing plan.
In this preliminary step you should be able to list what your company’s niche, name, logo and tagline are, in order to set up your website.
2. Create a clear site and navigation structure
Your website’s visitors need to be able to find what they’re looking for quickly. So, too, do search engine indexing bots, who crawl your website every so often to help the search engine determine how your website ranks on results pages. A clear site and navigation (menu) structure will help do both.
A good hierarchy has the site’s main pages easily accessible from the homepage, which is where visitors land when they first encounter your website. The good stuff should not be deeply buried.
3. Build an ironclad homepage
Think of when you visit websites for the first time. How much time do you usually give it to impress you and make you stay? The consensus is generally around 5 to 10 seconds.
That is to say, your website should also strive to impress first-time visitors within the first 10 seconds of their landing on it. A good business website should strive to achieve positive judgment. But how? By clearly communicating what your business is about as soon as visitors land on your homepage.
A nice logo with a clear tagline, an efficient menu, great copy and a beautiful website design are all important to keep visitors impressed enough to continue navigating through your website’s pages.
If the visitor experience is positive, then your website will generate traffic. And with more traffic comes more business. Do not underestimate the power of a great homepage.
4. Convert visitors into customers with call-to-action (CTA) buttons
CTA’s are buttons that invite users to perform some type of action: “buy now”, “learn more”, “call now”, etc.
If a visitor is interested in your product or service, then they’ll want to get in touch or purchase something right away. Your website’s job is to facilitate the final step to convert visitors (or leads) into paying customers. Even if they are not yet ready to purchase, a “learn more” button could lead them further into the sales funnel. It could in fact lead them to commit. Read this article to learn more about why CTAs matter.
An efficient CTA button stands out from the rest of the website’s content. It is short but to the point, includes an action verb (“do this”) and is a different colour from the rest of the website’s content.
5. Build your website responsively
Years ago when I began learning web design, the mere idea of designing for a phone was a bit ludicrous. Eventually, we started creating mobile versions of websites once the smartphone industry began growing. Creating an additional version of a website was extremely time-consuming and redundant, though, so those versions usually lacked quite a bit of the desktop version’s content. Nowadays, the norm is to design responsive websites that adapt from device to device. The content is therefore the same, but resizes itself according to the size of the device.
In 2018, 52.2% of web internet traffic was conducted on a mobile device (smartphone, tablet). If you don’t want to lose visitors, it is imperative to design your website for those users.
In fact, search engines like Google have begun to check the mobile friendliness of a website to help them rank search results. Websites that are not responsive stand to lose the ranking game. A responsive website is now a must to be competitive on search engines.
6. Create a kickass About Us page
Out with a boring About Us page that tells customers nothing about how your company exists to help them, or who you are beyond your products or services. Customers want to learn about what you can offer them, why your are better positioned to serve them than your competitors, but also, first and foremost, they want to know the company is run by humans. They want to know who you are.
Ironically, a good rule of thumb is to use “you” more than “we/us” in your website’s copy in general, but yes, even in your About Us page. This is how you can create a humble, empathetic and consumer-first portrait of your company.
You exist for the customer; your About Us page needs to demonstrate this.
7. Think content first
Content should be your website’s main focus. Your efforts to bring in customers will fall short if you website does not contain content that can educate, engage and ultimately convince visitors.
You may be under the impression that your visitors only want to see what your products look like. That couldn’t be further from the truth. They want to know dimensions, senses, story, emotion.
Indeed, first impressions are important, like in dating, but ultimately a person holds your attention by carrying on interesting conversations. Likewise, your website’s job is to be flirting with potential customers and reeling them in with interesting content that will teach them, inform them, tell them stories, tell them journeys, about your products or services.
Great product descriptions and website copy are an excellent first step, but you would be even smarter to write a blog regularly, create informative and engaging videos about your products or services, and more.
Again, only good quality content will stand the test of time, engage your visitors and keep them interested in your company. Content is an extremely powerful tool in lead generation; use it to your advantage.
8. Design a great-looking website
A polished, visually pleasing website will impress your visitors and is an essential element for your company’s success in the web sphere.
A creative, attractive look can set you apart from your competition and mark you as the reference. This harkens back to our earlier concepts of having an ironclad homepage and having a clear and concise navigation and site hierarchy.
If visitors can find information they’re looking for more quickly on your website than on your competitor’s, then you’ll be a clear winner of their attention. You should strive to successfully catch visitors with a beautiful website design that works hard for you.
9. Get a strong content management system (CMS)
It is possible to create a website that doesn’t need a CMS: it is just built using good old HTML. However, in this day and aage of dynamic content, it is perhaps best to opt for a CMS to build your website quickly and painlessly. Whether that CMS is WordPress, Magento or Ruby on Rails, or others, doesn’t matter. However, it might be interesting for you to note that nowadays WordPress powers over 30% of the internet and is generally the preferred CMS of most web designers due to its ease of use and constant support. Myself, I prefer WordPress, and use a theme called Divi to help me create any template or design I want.
But I digress. The usability, performance and updating capabilities of your website are directly tied to the CMS and web host you choose. When selecting a CMS for your website, check for the following:
- Does it allow you to edit content from any device, at any time?
- Is it backed by a wide community of designers and developers that can help you at any time?
- Does it allow you to optimize your content for search engines? (i.e. is it SEO-friendly?)
- Is it secure and does it actively work to prevent hacking attempts? (i.e. is it frequently updated?)
- Will your website load quickly with it?
10. Track conversions
Ahhh… the boring stuff. Conversion tracking is the idea of tracking your visitors (who, where, when, why, how), discovering the queries they use, and the sales made through the website. Tracking this information is tedious, but essential in understanding your customers. It is also how you may evaluate the strength of your marketing efforts, and find out what needs to change.
You can track all this information in your Google Analytics account.
11. Employ a smart marketing strategy
A nice website is nice, but won’t go very far if you have a business that needs to make money. Gone are the days when a business owner could launch a website and get traffic pretty effortlessly. The web has grown and expanded so much that there are now billions of website, all vying for attention. Nowadays, it’s important to support your website by marketing it properly.
The success of a website goes far beyond merely having an online presence. A smart marketing strategy will get that website before the eyes that matter: the consumers’. But not just any consumers; those that are interested in what you are offering.
Many modern digital marketing techniques exist that can do just that: search engine optimization (SEO), social media, email marketing, pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, and more. You could also offer professional advice and answers to questions on Quora or Reddit.
Beyond digital marketing, local marketing can also yield very positive results, and should not take a backseat. You could partner with another local business and offer discounts on your products or services when used in tandem with theirs. You could sponsor a local event. You could buy local radio ad space… The possibilities are nearly endless!
You know your business best, and will therefore be able to choose the best advertising avenue for it.
12. Perform regular website checkups and audits
Just like your yearly (or so) checkups with your doctor, your website needs regular (but more frequent) checkups. For example, it is recommended to check a WordPress website at least monthly for core version updates as well as theme and plugin updates. Failing to update these three elements could break your website’s functionality and make it easier for hackers to gain access to your website and inject nefarious malware into it. It’s happened to me before, and it’s happened to many more before and after me.
It’s also important to audit your website once in a while to ensure there are no dead links or missing images. These can make websites load more slowly, as the host keeps trying to connect to URLs but fails. So, click around your website every so often, and hunt down missing pieces to repair.
To sum up
Making a successful business website requires quite a bit of work, as you’ll have noted. It can’t hurt to ask for the help of a professional web designer to incorporate the essential elements of a good business website into their proposal. These elements are incredibly important, so don’t hesitate to evaluate their past work in order to get a good idea of their creativity and skill.
Your website needs a strong foundation, so set yourself up for success with the right web designer or developer who will ensure your website’s performance and design are up to snuff!