What Defines A Good Small Business Website?

Your small business website is the most valuable tool in your arsenal to sell your companies’ services. If it is too complex, disorganized or inarticulate, it communicates those things about your business to the world. And yet daily I see examples of small businesses with websites that have broken links, no clear contact information and are a jumble of information.

People are judging your business based on your website design, whether it is a conscious or unconscious decision, so your site needs to proudly service as an extension of your brand.

It’s pretty safe to say that all new small businesses and most established, relevant ones have websites. That’s an obvious statement. What’s not so obvious is good web design. Now I’m not going to link you to examples of poor small business website design here, I’m sure you see plenty of them daily. What I would like to do is go over what defines exceptional web design for a small business, and how you can avoid many of the common traps.  Your competition has sleek, modern websites. Your site should be even better.

Let’s start with what you should avoid:

Huge, unbroken paragraphs of text on the main site pages
Your site needs to be easily consumable – not everyone reads web pages fully, in fact many people just scan pages for usable content. Your site needs to be scan-able and communicate succinctly. Don’t expect your AdWords campaign to convert unless your site sells your business in a few seconds. There are clever ways you can still get all your SEO text in there without crowding pages.

Too many links/sections
You want your website to be as simple and succinct as possible. By having links across the top of each page, down the sides and across the bottom, you’re confusing site visitors. Yes, you may know exactly what is where and how to access it, but newcomers to your site may become lost easily. Try to combine like sections in creative ways on the same page with links in them to expanded sections. Also, keep the amount of pages on your site to a minimum. Your company certainly has a focus and a niche, and your website should clearly articulate and mimic that. Simplicity is beautiful and it sells.

No clear function
Check out this site. What a great example of complete clarity. I know what they do within a few seconds, and their site cleanly tells me everything I need to know about what they do. Have you been to a website where there’s too many things competing for your attention? It ends up accomplishing nothing. Compare AOL, Yahoo! and Google’s homepages:

Google

No call to action
Your website needs to inspire people and give them whatever next steps you’d like them to take after visiting your page. You need to not only present the information behind your business, but a call to action is vital if you want your small business website to attract new clients. After viewing your page, I should know exactly what the next steps are to enlist your services.

Too much Flash
I may get arguments here, but I’m not a fan of flash for business sites. A small amount of Flash used for a very specific purpose may be okay, but there seems to be a rash of designers who want to create entire flash-based sites for business. Can someone find me an example of an entirely flash-based site that is page one in Google for a popular search term? If so, I’ll secede that point. Also, they’re clunky, not everyone even has a flash plugin in their web browser, and you can’t view flash sites through mobile devices.

Pages which are half-done or not thought out
Each page of your website needs to be exceptional. Can I get a clear idea of your brand and your company from each page of your website I visit? People don’t necessarily stumble-upon websites through the front door. While you can attract traffic to certain pages via AdWords and similar services, organic search traffic can come from anywhere. All of your pages need to be remarkable, as people will create a bigger picture of your brand from the first piece of content they see of it. The same thing here applies to bloggers and each article they post.

Here are some basic elements your small business website should include:

  • A clear, concise mission statement
  • Proofread, thoughtful and professional content throughout
  • A business blog/news section to attract links and demonstrate credibility
  • Attractive, modern and standout design
  • A call to action
  • SEO goals established before the coding begins (SEO is not an afterthought to web design, it must be an integrate process from square one)
  • An intelligent, creative SEM campaign
  • Design which showcases the content, not the page
  • Use effects, bright colors and 3D sparingly
  • Some empty space placed strategically
  • Pages that are easily consumable and scan-able
  • Clear hierarchy of information
  • Large, easily readable navigation buttons
  • Avoid drop-down menus if you can
  • Continuity throughout site design

Do your research when hiring a web design agency to help you create a new design, take your time, have your SEO goals and an SEM plan drawn out prior to launching the site and take some pride in it. Don’t just hand off the project to a designer and let him/her run with it, be a part of the process and enlist the help of the creative people and writers on your staff. After the site is up and in place, learn to use the CMS tool and learn to access the hosting control panel. You may even find you enjoy writing code and start to teach yourself – it’s actually a lot of fun when you get into it.

Three web designers I will personally recommend:

Wake Interactive

Van SEO Design

Blog Design Blog

Further reading on web design:

9 Essential Principles for Good Web Design

75 Helpful Web Design Resources

9 Signs You Shouldn’t Hire THAT Web Guy