Before you get started on your next business website, make sure you know how to make it a success with these tips.
Whether you’re a small business owner looking to DIY your website, or you're looking for an agency specializing in small business sites, taking these 6 steps can spell the difference between a business-revolutionizing success and an utter and complete mess.
1. Define your website’s goals
Before you start placing the first pixel, all parties involved need to know what purpose the website will serve for the business.
What message should visitors leave the website with? And what is the most important information a potential customer needs to know about the business?
What is the backstory of the business. What marketing efforts are being done and how you want to grow. A new website is a major step in the evolution of any business — but the role their website plays in that evolution can look very different between a brick-and-mortar store and an eCommerce outlet.
Sometimes you may already have an established brand, complete with logo, color, and other guidelines. A newer business, or one that’s updating their branding, may offer freedom in contributing to their brand identity.
If you have an existing website, go through it. Examine printouts of all of the important pages. Review each page and take notes on which elements of the current design work and which don’t. These notes will prove invaluable when you finally sit down to start designing the new website.
Also, determine if you want to host a blog, or any other sort of dynamic content, like a revolving featured product. Having your content management system’s Collections figured out before you get started will save you the trouble of figuring out how this will work later, as the elements of the design become more concrete.
2. Know what website platform you’re using
If you already have a website, find out what platform it’s on and where it’s hosted. You might be able to tell at a glance, but if not, ask away.
Many platforms out there will lock you into a template, making it difficult to achieve a fully custom design.
Most agencies would want the creative freedom to make the best website possible — and many even yearn to be freed from the website’s current platform. Other times, however, you may have learned the current website’s platform inside and out, leaving you reluctant to make a switch. In the latter case, you may have to be prepared for a design and build within the confines of the current platform.
Either way, it’s good to know what limitations you might face so you can pitch a design concept that will work.
3. Highlight what matters
We recently did a complete website redesign for a nonprofit organization that helps adults with autism via a variety of artistic and vocational programs. They offer classes in jewelry, ceramics, and woodworking and sell their handmade products both online and at various events.
Their website wasn’t terrible, but it was outdated. The content was impersonal, dry, and focused on the details of their programs — instead of the most most meaningful aspect of the organization: the lives they help improve.
We had a number of meetings and conversations before writing a single word. We learned about the challenges adults with autism face and also learned how their creative programs helped their clients gain valuable new life skills.
When creating content for the new site, we focused on these students and the artwork they created. We included many photos of students working together to create these handcrafted items. The new copy I wrote told their story. The updated images showed them engaging in their crafts.
The new website was a success. Instead of being cold and sterile, it captured the joy of the students, teachers, and the spirit of their organization.
In designing a website for a small business, you need to discover what the most important aspect of that business is. Often, it’s an emotionally charged one, which can help a lot, given that people make purchasing decisions and respond to marketing messages emotionally.
4. Gather, source, or take some great photos
In our recent autism website redesign, we tasked the client with providing us with all-new photos since all of their old images were low-resolution and poorly shot.
Luckily, one of the teachers is a photographer and provided me with many great images. In doing any sort of website design, it’s better to have a multitude of photos to choose from. Too many of the same sort of image can distract and even bore customers.
If there’s an eCommerce element to the small business website, make sure you have multiple photos showing different views of the products. It’s easy enough to shoot your own product photos with a light box and a relatively inexpensive camera.
Also, be sure to take some interior shots of the business, if appropriate. A nice wide-angle shot of flowers in a florist’s or a wall full of skateboard decks, can make a great hero image for your design.
5. Know who your customers are
When designing a website for a small business, you need to know who your customers are.
Before starting to design or write content, you need to know who you’re trying to reach. Knowing the age range, socioeconomic status, and even ideology will help you create a website that connects with them.
Your need to almost certainly have a strong sense of your target demographic, but it can be worth checking the demographic data provided by tools like Google Analytics and Facebook Pages to get an even deeper sense of who’s buying what a client’s business is selling.
6. Get all the information you need before you start writing
I’ve found that the best marketing content tends to come from a client’s own words — and their customers'.
When meeting with a website design agency, take notes of importance and/or resonant phrases your client uses. Create bullet points detailing what the content needs to focus on. This, combined with your notes and research, will give you the need to start writing some killer marketing content.
It’s vital that you prioritize content so you can design and build your website around it. Starting without content can lead to major structural changes later on.
Knowing where to start helps you get there faster
Knowing each project’s expectations and goals are vital to the smooth execution of any website design project. Having all of your marketing content, images, and other elements together will help you launch sooner and experience fewer hang-ups. It’s hard to improvise a website design project as you go — and the chances of everything crashing to the ground are high if you haven’t prepped appropriately. Have questions? Are you looking for a brand new website or a redesign on your existing one? Contact us today and we would be happy to welcome you into the DS&P family.