- Follow best practices for website structure, such as making it mobile responsive, easy to navigate and neatly organized with plenty of white space.
- Focus on customer-driven content, and review it periodically to ensure that the information is accurate and error-free.
- Make your website easy for prospective customers to find with a custom domain and good search engine optimization (SEO).
- This article is for business owners who want to maximize the effectiveness of their websites to inform and sell to prospective buyers online.
These days, an online presence is vital for any business, even for brick-and-mortar stores that don't conduct e-commerce. Creating a website isn't especially difficult with the many website creation tools available. Whatever software you choose, keep these design principles in mind.
1. Make your site mobile responsive.
Mobile responsiveness is critical for a website to be effective. American adults spend more than five hours on their mobile phones every day, while more than one-third do all of their shopping online via mobile device. Needless to say, your business's mobile website must offer a positive user experience.
If potential customers land on your site but find it difficult to read or navigate on a mobile device, they may simply abandon you in favor of a competitor. Furthermore, a negative mobile user experience affects your website in search engine rankings, making it harder for users to find through a Google search – which brings us to our next point.
2. Make it easy to find.
You need a domain name that either matches your company name or describes your business in some way. You can even have multiple domains that point to the website. This means incorporating technical SEO best practices, keyword research, content marketing and paid advertisement campaigns to drive traffic to your website.
Tip: Consider outsourcing your web development, branding, SEO, and content marketing to professionals who can offer advice and guidance in creating your website and landing pages.
3. Place your contact information above the fold.
If your business depends on people being able to contact you or call your sales team, put that information where they can find it easily.
"Your contact information should be visible, preferably at the top of the homepage, so that visitors don't have to search for a phone number or address if they want to contact the business," said David Brown, CEO of Web.com.
If you use social media to connect with customers, put your social links in the website header or footer, where they are easily found.
4. Make it easy to navigate.
Dan Veltri, co-founder and chief product officer of Weebly, advises limiting your top-level navigation menu to five clearly labeled tabs, with related pages organized under them. You should also offer a clear way to get back to the homepage no matter where your readers land. Very often, a Google search may take your reader to a page on your website other than the homepage.
Did you know? People scan webpages from top to bottom, left to right, so put your navigation menu where most people expect to find it: at the top of the page. Use dropdown menus under each top-level category for clean and organized navigation.
5. Keep your pages uncluttered.
Paul Bolls, associate professor of strategic communication at the Missouri School of Journalism, said that readers need to be able to put information in context. If a site has too much information, it overloads the mind, making it unable to retain the new information. Be sure to use a good balance of text and graphics that presents a clean page.
One way to keep it simple is to cut the social widgets, such as a Twitter feed on your site. Ask yourself if you are adding information your reader cares about, advised Michael LaVista, CEO of Caxy Interactive. If your widget content does not support the purpose of the page, remove it.
6. Make sure it's accurate.
It should go without saying that inaccurate information will turn off consumers, whether it's a wrong number, outdated product information or simple grammatical errors. You should not only proofread each page before it goes live, but also periodically check each page, especially after making updates anywhere else.
Tip: Whenever you update core information about your business on your website, also be sure to update your social media pages, Google My Business, Yelp, and other sites on which your business might appear.
7. Respect the need for speed.
A study by digital marketing company Akamai found that 88.5% of web users will leave a website if it loads too slowly. Furthermore, the time it takes to load a webpage affects the purchase decisions of nearly 70% of online shoppers.
Make sure your website runs smoothly by keeping the software up to date, optimizing videos and images for quicker downloads, and using a website host that can handle your bandwidth demands.
8. Have a call to action.
Each page on your website should entice the reader to do something. In other words, you need to give them a call to action. These landing pages should encourage users to take a certain action, such as to call your company, sign up for a service, buy a product, download a whitepaper, or do something else that benefits your business goals. Give them a noticeable invitation to take the action: a button, a link, or clear verbiage. Keep it above the fold if possible so that readers do not have to scroll before finding the call to action.
9. Keep your design simple.
Limit the use of fonts, colors, and GIFs, which can distract and pull the eyes away from the focus of the webpage. Short paragraphs and bullet points also make the information more scannable and likely to be read. Ian Lurie, CEO of internet marketing company Portent Inc., suggests keeping paragraphs shorter than six lines.
This is especially important when it comes to mobile responsiveness, which is a major factor in how Google ranks websites in its algorithm. The better a website's ranking, the higher it appears on the search engine results page (SERP). If a competitor is mobile-friendly and your website isn't, you could get pushed down lower in your customers' search results.
10. Get personal.
Just as brick-and-mortar businesses invest heavily in their storefronts to represent their brand images, e-commerce retailers need to create high-quality online experiences in keeping with the brand perception, as Tom Lounibos, co-founder of SOASTA, told Business News Daily.
To that end, your About Us page should not be a dry block of text about your company. Emily Brackett, president of design and branding firm Visible Logic, recommends including a good photo of yourself or your team to personalize the experience for your customers.
11. Make sure your website copy is customer-oriented.
Potential customers come to your website to get information that is useful to them. Sometimes they come for educational content on your blog, and other times they are focused on researching the products and services that you sell. Either way, you should present relevant information that will engage your prospects, give them something of value and build their trust in your expertise.
When you are planning the content on your website, try to think about it from the customer's point of view. If you were a prospective customer, what information would be helpful to you? What level of knowledge or expertise would you have already, and what would you need explained in more detail? By focusing on your content from the customer's perspective, you can keep them on your site longer and are more likely to create a long-term relationship with them that results in a sale.
Not a writer? No problem; just outsource it to a professional copywriter.
12. Incorporate SEO best practices.
You may have the best website in your industry, but it won't do you a bit of good if people can't find it. While you can spend money on ads to drive prospects to your website, it is more cost-efficient and effective in the long run to bring free organic search traffic to your site.
When people are looking for information online, they go to search engines, especially Google. Usually, they find what they are looking for on the first page of the search results, so that is where you want your company to appear. Google and other search engines have their own proprietary algorithms that they use to rank sites for search terms, also called keywords.
Search engines use three ways to determine where your listing appears: crawling, indexing and ranking. Crawling means that they find your site through links from other sites. So, make sure that links to your site appear on as many outside websites as possible.
After your site is discovered by the crawling bots, it is indexed, which means that it is analyzed for content, including keywords, freshness, relevance, links and multimedia. Make sure that your site has plenty of new, relevant content relating to the keywords you want to rank for.
Finally, ranking is how the search engines determine the best results for a given search. Ranking is based on relevance and authority. Include plenty of relevant content, such as individual articles on different aspects of a specific topic. Authority is established by the size of your site, its traffic, and how many other well-respected sites link to yours. Small business SEO tools make it easier to optimize your site.
Business News Daily editorial staff contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.