A brand's website can make a difference between showing potential customers you're a legitimate business and having zero credibility. That's why web design is important as a marketing tool. It highlights the need to invest time and resources into a well-built homepage, so it doesn't appear you've settled for a default theme or overly-simple layout.
Business News Daily consulted a few experts in the field to investigate what makes or breaks a small business website.
Why design matters
According to the Missouri University of Science and Technology, a person's eyes take 2.6 seconds to focus on a specific element of a web page when it loads. The viewer quickly forms an opinion based on what they've has seen, so it pays to influence that opinion with a smart design, said Adriana Marin, a freelance art director.
"People have [feelings] about your company based on the experiences that they have had with a brand," Marin told Business News Daily. "A well-designed logo and website inspires confidence because it looks professional. If a company is willing to focus on creating a clean and functional design that is easy to use, then that could be an indicator of what using their product might be like."
"Great design not only conceptually reflects the mission of your company, but also, functionally, it's the embodiment of that concept," added Ty Walrod, CEO of Bright Funds, an all-in-one corporate program for donating, matching and volunteering.
As an example, Marin cited Apple's unique designs, which distinctly distinguish itself from its competitors. In the 1980s and '90s, design was often an afterthought for many major technology companies, she said. Apple worked with several partner companies to create the consistent design aesthetic consumers recognize today.
Make it easy
Your landing page should set the tone for your company and provide important information, making it easy for your audience to understand what products and/or services your business provides.
"Figure out what the most important information is that you need users/customers to take away from that page, and make it extremely easy to find and understand," explained Christina Coviello, head of UX (user experience) research at Noom Inc. and a freelance consultant. "Then identify the most important action you'd need users to take on that page and make it prominent and easily accessible."
For example, Coviello suggests adding a purchase button on the homepage as a call to action. Whatever call to action you choose, it should engage your audience with your services and/or products.
Likewise, your design should prioritize simplicity over complicated strategy, Coviello added, noting that you should be "explicit and concise with your information, and establish a tone, look and feel that is true to the brand you've created for your business." That way, your online presence can remain on-brand, but actively reach out to your audience in a way that's clear and easy to navigate.
Visual aesthetic and appeal
You might have a great story to tell, but no one's going to want to read your "About" page or explore your social media posts if you don't engage your audience right away. But how can you accomplish this? Cole Sletten, creative director at digital branding agency Ready Set Rocket, said strong visuals matter do the trick quickly.
"An image can communicate even complex messages quickly, concisely and memorably," Sletten said. "It's this same drive for fast consumption that has evolved the Internet from its text-centric roots into an image- and increasingly video-centric."
For this reason, Marin noted that eye-catching visuals will set your brand apart. The imagery you use should be relevant to your brand and engage your target audience, and when in doubt, keep things direct and simple, she said.
Business design tips
When you're thinking about what your online brand presence should look like, Sletten said it's important to be consistent, but not repetitive.
"The best brands ... feel more like real, multifaceted personalities than collections of graphical elements," Sletten said. "Think about the qualities that are unique to your business and that could attractively represent your brand. Then let those qualities drive your logo and website to your Instagram feed and even your storefront, packaging and customer service."
Additionally, Walrod advised using the design process to answer some of the deeper questions around your company, before creating any visuals. Determining your company's personality and what you stand for will help you enrich your brand, he said. After laying this groundwork, create the visuals that naturally align with those traits and values.
"Bright Funds, for example, aims to make the experience of giving delightful and rewarding," Walrod said. "As such, our brand created a sense of positivity and empowerment through our use of bright colors, illustrations and photography."
Additional reporting by Nicole Fallon Taylor. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.