In today's digital world, having an online presence is critical to small businesses’ success. Although great design and colors are essential, it takes a little more finesse to really grab the consumer's attention.
Rebecca Swift, head of creative planning for iStockphoto — an online source for stock images, media and design elements — believes the visual language used on a website must represent the company's values and connect with its customers.
To help small business owners create a website that helps them stand out from the crowd, Swift offers the following tips:
- Branding: Before attempting to design a website, businesses must first identify their core brand values. It is essential that these values are reflected in the company’s online presence and that they meet the demands of the company’s target audience. One way to achieve results is to invest in market research that asks the target audience what they like view. Also, by looking at competitors' pictures and their visual language, businesses can improve their own websites.
- Simplicity: Simplicity in design is the key to engaging customers on websites. If the website is cluttered, it can reflect badly on the company, so businesses need to prioritize messages accordingly. The key points — whether in text, image or video format — should be made prominent on the page. At the same time, try to create room between each element by scattering images throughout; trying to communicate too heavily on one page can make the site hard to navigate.
- Imagery: When deciding which images to include on the website, businesses should consider five aspects: purpose, tone, relevance, timeliness and uniqueness. Businesses need to ensure they are visually representing the company or the people they do business with on the site. For instance, if the business is young and lively, the models should be full of vitality, and if the business offers a confidential service, the models should look approachable and reliable. In addition, when choosing images, businesses need to consider copyright laws. Even images that have already been published online are bound by copyright laws, meaning anyone wanting to use those photos must have consent from either the author of the image or — when the license agreement of the social network allows it — the administrator of the website.
- Regular updates: In the online world, content is key. Creating quality content on a regular basis is the most effective way to attract and retain Web traffic. One of the best ways to add more content to the site is to have a blog. Sharing expertise can be a great way to add content and provide additional value to the website. Other ways to improve the content include simply changing some of the featured images and graphics throughout the site to make it feel fresh and revived. Doing this every few weeks can pique interest and allow returning visitors to investigate other parts of the website they may not have explored.