It’s fair to say that if you want your small business to grow, having a good website is the best start. Whether you’re a one-person operation, a start-up, or an established family business, a well-designed website will make sure that people searching for your products and services will find you – before they find your competition. A high-quality website doesn’t have to be expensive or complex – but it does have to be functional, powerful and appealing. Here’s how to get your small business the website it needs to build a thriving and rewarding online presence.
1 – Plan the Purpose of Your Website
Your website can be a simple space that shares your brand and contact details, or it can be a full e-commerce platform where you can sell directly to consumers. Once you’ve decided on the functionality of your website, it’s time to think about user experience – the journey that takes a visitor through your website and sales funnel. Small business websites need to be concise, direct and easy to navigate on different browsers and devices (including mobiles) so that the customer knows that they’ve arrived in the right place and what to do next.
2 – Choose Your Custom Domain Name
This is the URL that you’ll share with customers and promote through digital marketing, so it’s important to get it right.
Make your custom domain short and limit abbreviations, numbers, hyphens, and acronyms to make it easy to remember. Don’t try to make it too specific to a product or service you offer, as this can limit its value for search engine optimisation and could be an issue if your business changes direction. It should be relevant to your brand and easy to remember, so customers can quickly make the connection between who you are and what you do.
Once you have an idea of what you’d like your custom domain name to be, you need to register it. The best domain name registrars for the UK include GoDaddy, A2, Namesilo, and Namecheap. All you need to do is type in what you want, and they’ll tell you what’s available and how much the fee will be.
3 – Get Reliable Web Hosting
Your website is only effective when it’s up and running, so your web hosting service must be very reliable and secure as well as affordable. It can be worth it to pay a little more to a service provider that guarantees their service, can scale up and down as your business grows and changes, and offers great tech support to reduce security risks and help keep your business running smoothly.
You will have two main options when it comes to web hosting – a shared web host or dedicated hosting. The shared option is more affordable because multiple websites will be hosted on the same server, but this does mean that your website may load more slowly. A dedicated hosting option will mean your site gets exclusive use of a hosting server, which is more expensive but should guarantee the fastest load times.
Page load times may not seem like a big issue, but it’s one of the most important aspects of a high-quality website. Google has indicated that page speed is one of the signals its algorithm monitors and uses to rank a website in search results, so it’s critical for search engine optimisation (SEO). This is because load speeds have a significant impact on user experience, with slower pages having much higher bounce rates (the percentage of visitors leaving your website without taking any actions) and low conversion rates, especially on mobile conversions.
You can test the load speed of your website using Google’s PageSpeedInsights and measure it against load speed benchmarks, keeping in mind that the highest e-commerce conversion rates happen on pages with load times of 0-2 seconds.
4 – Start Designing Your Website
Website design trends do change over time, so it’s a good idea to look for inspiration for the look and functionality of your site. Currently, the best business websites have clean and simple designs that deliver a high impact. They are visually beautiful rather than text-heavy, with thoughtfully incorporated design elements that show visitors exactly what their brand is all about and what they can do for their customers. Here are some exceptional business website examples to inspire you:
Milk StreetChristopher Kimball’s Milk Street website is currently nominated for a 2021 Webby Award, and it’s easy to see why. It’s easy to navigate, filled with sumptuous images, and has all the information you need right there on the home page. It also has a lot of functionality that appeals to their target market of home chefs and cooks, from cooking lessons to recommended cooking tools to recipes and cuisines, making it a one-stop shop for any foodie looking for inspiration.
Governors’ camp (multi-award winner)From the moment you arrive on this award-winning website, you’re inspired to go on safari. And not just any safari – it’s a breath-taking adventure through the wilds of Kenya. The website takes you through your journey using stunning imagery, showing you the bespoke experience you’ll have from the moment you arrive, creating and reflecting the immersive experience that the business delivers to every client.
nuraphoneAnother high-impact business website comes from the innovative audio producer neuraphone. The website is vibrant and simple, allowing visitors to click through to the purchasing process right from the home page. The stand out feature is how the website allows a visitor to have a personalised audio experience and map their unique hearing profile to match the right tech to their own needs.Coalbrook only launched in 2020, but the website is already making a splash thanks to the striking visual imagery it utilises. Luxury is apparent in the text, colour scheme and visuals, reflecting the high-end finishes and iconic style that their target market is looking for. On this website, the images are the hero – connecting with aspirational consumers, showing how their spaces can be transformed, and showcasing the exceptional quality, style and design that sets them apart from the competition.
Rainforest GuardiansRainforest Guardians is a website like no other, combining environmental advocacy and education to create an online powerhouse. From the moment you arrive on the website, you sweep over the stunning landscape of the rainforest, showing you exactly what it is that this brand and project is all about protecting. With an immersive, tourism-style experience, you learn why the rainforest matters in a way that is fresh, engaging and utterly beautiful.
Business Website Builders or Professional Agency?There are plenty of business website builders and drag-and-drop builders out there that can seem like a good alternative to using a professional design agency. However, this is a lot like remodelling your home yourself rather than calling in an expert team of architects and contractors. DIY simply doesn’t have the clean, polished look and wow-factor that a skilled professional can provide. After all, you’re the best at your business and your skill and professionalism directly benefit your clients – a design agency is the same.Cost is often cited as a factor when making this choice, but it’s important to think more in terms of value and ROI than an upfront expense. In fact, most digital agencies offer surprisingly affordable pricing plans and a wide range of templates specifically to assist small businesses. This is because:
- First impressions matter – Your website will be the first impression a client or customer has of your business. It’s the online version of a storefront, and when that looks utterly enticing, professional and welcoming, your customers are going to walk right in. When meeting a new person, it takes you just 1/10th of a second to form an impression of them, and websites are no different. In just 50 milliseconds, a visitor will decide whether they’re staying or leaving your small business website – and that’s where a custom web design makes all the difference.
- Greater range of functionality and creativity – Your business is unique, and you want your customers to understand and value that. But it’s difficult to do when you’re using the same business website builders, stock photo images, and drag-and-drop builders as everyone else. This makes it difficult to add unique functionality or to show your brand off as creatively as it deserves, limiting the impact of your brand on customers.
5 – Testing, testing, testingThe next step is to make sure that every aspect of your website is functional, from navigation bars and links to setting up payment processing and contact forms. There should be extensive testing well before your small business website goes live, making sure any changes can be made well before the first customer arrives. During this stage, focus on:
BrowsersYour website should work on all major browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Microsoft Edge, and Google Chrome. Each page should be tested to check for loading errors, broken links, and formatting.
MobileTest the mobile experience on a range of tablets and smartphones to make sure it is in line with Google’s mobile-first indexing, as this will impact your SEO. Essentially, this means that search engines are testing your mobile website experience as a priority for listing your web pages in search results, so it’s very important.
AnalyticsHaving your analytics in place will allow you to measure and analyse the performance of your website when it is live. This lets you see what pages are performing well, what pages need improvements, and much more. Google analytics offers very advanced features for small business websites, and you can use their reports on how your visitors are reaching you, who they are, and where they are from to refine your website and marketing campaigns.This aspect of web design is often forgotten, but it shouldn’t be. It not only helps to ensure a great customer experience by not only making sure every design element is functional, but that the website is set up to create an intuitive and enjoyable journey for each visitor that arrives on your pages.
6 – Invest in Search Engine OptimisationSEO is an effective, long-term way to drive organic traffic to your website. Essentially, with the right SEO strategy, your website will be much easier to find for people who are looking for your type of business. It’s a bit like putting your business in a High Street location. Here are some effective ways to create a strong SEO strategy:
Keyword researchBy targeting the terms users type into Google to find businesses like yours, you can better match your content to searches and boost your rankings. Your keyword research should be applied in your website content as well as in blogs, articles, social media posts, and paid online ads. Some of the best keyword research tools you can use include Semrush, Ahrefs Keyword Explorer, Google Keyword Planner, and Soovle.
Publish fresh contentYour website needs to constantly evolve to stay relevant to search engines, and that means publishing new content on a regular basis. An easy way to do this is to set up a blog for your website where you can publish educational and informative content. Remember to make your content connect with your brand personality, address relevant issues your customers and client are facing, and make it enjoyable to read.
Image optimisationImages are one of the most important design elements, and they affect search engine optimisation too. When the algorithm crawls your website, it will look at the labels attached to your site. These should be informative, accurate and keyword-rich to help support good rankings. They should also be compressed (but still high-quality) to prevent them from impacting load speeds, which affect rankings.
Internal and external link buildingWhere relevant, link phrases in your website content to other pages in your website. This will help visitors navigate your site more easily. You can also add links in blog and website content to authoritative external websites if they aren’t competitors, and the link makes sense.
7 – Integrate Your Social AccountsSocial media integration gives your customers and clients more ways to interact and engage with your brand, bringing them to your website off your social media profiles. Social media is an affordable and effective way for small businesses to compete with larger corporations, increasing brand awareness and reach through sponsored advertising, social media posts, competitions and much more. With full social media integration, your brand is immediately able to reach millions of potential customers who are using these platforms for researching products and services, looking for recommendations, and verifying what brands they can trust to deliver.
8 – Maintain Your WebsiteThe internet is a dynamic place, and just as a physical building needs maintenance and updating, your website will too. Changes in search algorithms may need to be incorporated into your content, changes in browser functionality may mean you need to update the website’s backend or add new features, and changes in your business should be reflected in your online presence.As a matter of priority, it’s important that you:
- Update contact details, address, and business name
- Ensure you are applying security best practices, including software and app updates
- Check and repair broken links
- Address customer complaints
- Update products and services
- Ensure legal and industry compliance standards are met
- Update your website when it is no longer aligned with consumer trends or your brand (after several years or a major change in your business)