The View From… is a series of blogs where we speak to experts in different professions and gather their learnings and lessons from their work with small business clients. Will Barron is the creative director and lead web designer at Evoluted, an award-winning digital agency based in Sheffield.
Your business website is a fundamental part of your online presence, along with your social media channels. These days, it’s how most people will gather information and learn about your business.
Needless to say, it’s key that your business website creates a strong first impression with your target audience and delivers what you want it to. A high-performing website can make a huge difference in generating new enquiries and sales.
There are many pitfalls, however, that can make hinder the process of building and running a website. Here are some of the main points you need to think about…
Be clear about your goals
What do you hope to achieve from your new website? If you have a clear goal in mind this will make the process so much easier. Whether you’re building a website yourself or using a freelancer designer or agency, you need to know what you are going to convey and what customer you want to attract.
Do you go DIY?
A budget solution would be to use DIY website builders or template-based tools like Squarespace and WIX. When these tools are used well, they can produce an effective site. However, when used poorly, they can give a negative impression of your brand and could be detrimental to your business.
Freelancer web designer or agency?
Alternatively, you might want to spend some money employing the services of either a freelance web designer or an agency.
Using a freelancer is usually the cheaper option. However, they are unlikely to offer the same level of service as an agency made up of a team of professionals with different specialisms. This is the main difference in cost.
Many small businesses will go down the agency route as they mature and grow. At some point, you will need a more professional look, extra website functionality or perhaps the need to drive more traffic with digital marketing services. Working with an agency can help to deliver these requirements and take your business to the next level.
Agency costs can vary drastically
The price of having an agency design and build your website can vary drastically.
The main factors are the size and reputation of the agency. A small local agency with a handful of employees and local clients can often offer more competitive, lower prices. A large national agency, with multiple office locations, huge numbers of staff and household-name clients might be more expensive.
The size of your project will also influence the price. A small, simple website showcasing your brand/services will require much less work than a fully bespoke, e-commerce site with customized functionality.
Quality content makes all the difference
For example, some small businesses supply low-quality images. Images for website content should be taken on a high-quality camera and consider lighting and composition. When they’re not, it’s very difficult to portray services or products as premium if your images don’t reflect this. Copy also needs to be of high quality, in order to represent and sell your products effectively.
If you don’t already have good content and images, be prepared to source a copywriter or commission a photographer.
Clear navigation and call to actions are key
When someone visits your site, they will want to find and access information as quickly and easily as possible. Your main navigation should be user-friendly, obvious and intuitive.
Depending on the size of your site, this could include clear section headings that then drill down to more specific pages. Also, it should always be easy to access the contact page or make an online enquiry.
Know your customers
It is very important to know who your customers are and how they access your site. If you already have existing website analytics, this data can be very useful when creating a new site. For example, find out which pages or products are your most popular and make sure these are prominent and easy to navigate to.
Don’t be afraid to reflect your brand’s personality
One way to achieve this is by including images of your staff, a message from the managing director, or perhaps even a team section on your site. In my experience, being able to see real people adds a lot of trust to a site. This can set it apart from a competitor that is more faceless and perhaps uses stock photography.
Another way to show your business’ personality is through regular news updates and social media posts
However, if you do commit to this, it is important to keep it updated. There is nothing worse than visiting the news section on a website, only to see the last update was made 18 months ago. This can often cast doubt in the mind of the user as to how active and reliable you are as a business.
Trust in your chosen designer
If you do go down the freelancer or agency route, you’re paying for their expertise in designing and building websites. While questioning some design decisions makes for a healthy working relationship, it’s best to trust in their experience and judge them based on their results.
It is important to remember a well-designed website has the potential to completely transform a business. For many new users, your website will give them their first impression of your business Typically, within a few seconds, they have formed an opinion. It is important that the first impression is a positive one, which will keep them on the page to read more about your products or services.
A well-designed and regularly updated site will help to gain trust with your visitors. The more professional and trustworthy your site appears, the more comfortable visitors will be to make that initial enquiry or purchase, which ultimately is your main goal.