5 Decisions You Must Make About Your Small Business Website

MD_5Decisions_lgeFew small business owners would dispute the importance of having an effective website. Yet many still take a back seat when it comes to the design and creation of their online presence. Technical aspects aside, you, as the owner, are the best person to make the final decisions on important elements such as content, navigation of information or the customer sales path?

Whether you are about to embark on the web design process for the first time, or are approaching a redesign of your existing website, here are 5 key questions to ask yourself. The answers can help to create a strong brief for your web designer or keep you focused if you are designing the website yourself.

What is the Point of Your Website?

If you are putting up a website because you feel you “have to” but don’t have a clearer idea than that about the value it can bring to your business then it’s time to sit down with pen and paper and make some notes about what you really want your website to accomplish.

Will it be a point of contact for potential customers? Should it generate enquiries? Will it serve as a digital showcase for your products? Perhaps it will be a space for you to assert your authority within your industry. Could it cut down on employee hours by automating sales, transactions or customer communications? It may even provide income from ads or affiliate referrals. Be clear about what purpose your website will serve, both to your business and your customers.

DIY Template Website or Custom Web Design?

When embarking on a new website you have the option to use a template or theme that can be easily installed and updated by yourself and your team or you can get something custom designed and developed that completely meets the look and needs of your business.

Choosing to use an off-the-shelf template or theme is an affordable option and a popular choice for start ups and small businesses with limited budgets. It can be sufficient for brands who need a simple site, and a flexible starting point for business owners who possess some technical skills. However, these sites usually come with limited functionality and can be time consuming and tricky to modify if you don’t have a great deal of technical knowledge.

Having a custom website designed from scratch, on the other hand, has the advantage of allowing you to define almost every aspect, both in visual design and technical performance. The downside is a higher cost and longer time frame, both for the initial build and any future edits or upgrades.

How Will you Organize your Content?

Whether your site is an ecommerce platform selling multiple products or a showcase website to feature your services, it is important to organize your content into logical categories or sections that allow visitors to easily find what they are looking for.

Clear navigation should be used in multiple locations, such as along the top and down the left hand side of your site, to allow for intuitive browsing and to make it easy for your visitors to make a purchase or complete another desirable action.

As with all aspects of your website design, look to your competitors for ideas on what works well or to spot areas you could improve on.

Who Will Create Your Website Content?

Your website will require carefully crafted content for each product or service offering in your company. No one knows your business better than you do, and while it may not always be practical for you to create each piece of content, you will need to take the time to convey detailed information to a copywriter to ensure they create copy that accurately reflects both key information and the general spirit of your brand.

Who Will Carry out the Maintenance of Your Website?

Constructing a website involves a great deal of work, from design to technical elements to content creation. Beyond the initial website build there will also be a degree of maintenance in the form of updates to these three areas.

Websites always evolve and both visitors and search engines want to see updated content. Plan to maintain your site for the long haul by deciding who will be responsible for editing, adding to and maintaining your website. It could be you, an in-house staff member, you could get a freelancer to do it, or you could pay your web designer to do it. It may be that different people will be responsible for various areas of your website, but the important thing is to create a plan that will ensure no area gets overlooked and your site stays fresh and appealing.

Taking the time to think about these questions will ensure you have a clear path not only for the building of your website but also for the long term maintenance. To understand what makes a great website check out “The 11 Essentials of a Successful Web Design.”