There is no longer any reason why small businesses would provide their customers with a poor digital experience. With the accessibility and variety of tools now available, no matter what industry your business resides in, small businesses are able to provide an efficient online presence to customers. Here are four simple steps to optimise your small business website design – one of the most critical factors in have an effective website.
This is where user experience, graphic design and making things “pretty” and conversion rate optimisation all need to work together. No longer are we in an era where small business should just be online – but rather they need to be online with a truly impressive and customer-focused digital experience that aligns with the needs of your consumers and your business goals. Unfortunately this can be an incredibly difficult line to walk and trying to balance the two effectively can be a true challenge. The primary goal of your website should be to be informative, engaging and information rich, but also to encourage visitors to purchase and convert. If your website fails to deliver conversions, then there is something out of balance. A small business website should be an asset for both the business and the consumer, with a clear purpose-driven pathway for customer journeys and user experience.
So here are four simple rules to help get started:
1. Know thy business
Whilst this may sound incredibly logical, you’d be surprised how many businesses do not know their primary target customer, products and/or business goals. It is absolutely crucial for every small business to not only know these fundamentals, but also to clearly define and explain them to the website development team. By laying this foundation from the beginning your website designer/s will be able to prepare a design and user experience pathway that aligns with not only your customer expectations but also will help achieve your end goals.
Consider this: many B2B businesses provide a variety of products or services that each target a different market segment. Knowing this up front in the discovery phase of website development enables much stronger and clearer customer journeys to be prepared and implemented than having to “change tact” midway through the project.
Beyond this, understanding the competitive landscape is also important. Different market segments tend to have different expectations in terms of digital experiences. Researching competitors, their online presence and digital marketing efforts will all provide invaluable information in preparing your own website and extended digital presence.
2. Set clear goals for your website
What is the purpose of your small business website? And the answer is not “because we need one!”. Your website should have specific goals set so that you can build the website to meet those needs, but also so that its performance can be measured.
Here are some key questions to consider:
- Do you intend for the website to be an additional sales channel for your business?
- Is the website primarily to be used to inform and educate your existing customers?
- Are you looking to obtain new leads through the website
- Do you want to showcase your business and build brand credibility and trust with prospects?
- Grow email marketing database by 10% over the next two months
- Secure $XX sales per month via the website
- Obtain XX online reviews/testimonials each month
3. Understand and map your user journey
This can often be a challenge for a small business in it’s infancy, but where understanding your competitive landscape plays a critical part. Take the time to understand your customers journey to your website and also the path that you want them to take when on your website. Where are your visitors going to come from – where are they coming from now? Consider the role of search engines such as Google, social media, paid advertising, email marketing, etc. What are the relevant keywords and phrases that your customers are likely to use to find a service or product like yours? What will capture their attention enough to encourage them to click and engage with your marketing?
After that all-important initial engagement, what do you want your visitors to see when they arrive at your website – what messaging will they see, what action will you ask them to take? Whilst your initial website development budget may only allow for a few pages to get started, it is important to consider the bigger picture so that you are laying the foundations in your website for future growth and expansion.
Let’s think it about in context – we typically have three different types of customers that come to our site for website development.
- Entrepreneur / startup – this customer may or may not already have a logo and branding prepared, but they are looking to get their online presence started. It may be they just want a website or they want an extended presence to include social media, directories, etc.
- Small business owner/marketer, no website – The business may have been around for some time, but they’ve never had a website and are keen to get one and start or expand their online presence. Sometimes these customers are already active on social media and have realised that their business has merit, and others have simply avoided the digital marketplace entirely and starting from scratch.
- Small business owner/marketer, existing website – These customers already have a website but are looking to redesign or reinvigorate it in some form. It could just be a creative enhancement or expansion of functionality and improvement of user experience, etc. Many times we have small business owners coming to us because of the sheer frustration of ongoing – and hefty – fees associated with subscription based “DIY website builders” and eCommerce platforms.
Each of these customers have different expectations of our website as well as different end needs. We allow customers to “choose their own journey” from the very first instance, and navigate through to a solution that suits them.
It’s critical to take into account the different motivations of each target segment, and guide their journeys accordingly.
4. Prioritise and simplify.
With your user journey mapped out, it then becomes the task of prioritising and simplifying them so that you are able to implement and execute them effectively. Whilst you are able to improve the journeys as your business grows, it’s important that you don’t provide your users with a “half baked” solution, as that is likely to lead to disengagement and low customer satisfaction. Keep your journeys simple, and start by implementing journeys where the biggest opportunity exists. One of the golden rules often used is the “Number 7 Rule”. That is – never have more than seven navigation menus and don’t have ore than seven page layouts. If you go beyond this, not only will you confuse your customers and calls to action, but you will end up delivering an inconsistent brand image to your visitors. Make your calls to action JUMP OUT of the page, and remember the importance of urgency as part of those calls to action.
A few final thoughts
If you are looking to build your first small business website, or looking to improve your existing website, it’s important to have a clear understanding of your needs before starting. “Failing to plan is planning to fail” and building your website is no exception. Understand your customers, what actions you want them to take, and see what insights and learnings you can take from competitors within your industry. Whilst this may sound like a heavy workload, and at times it may seem overwhelming, the one thing you should always keep in mind is to trust your instinct. You know your business better than anyone – back yourself.