In today’s article from around the web we visit Inc.com where author Brent Barnhart explores the anatomy of a successful small business website. As always, read, comment, share and enjoy!
We want more traffic. And we want it now.
When we look at today’s most-visited websites, it’s tempting to look for links between their success. What’s their secret? What is Facebook doing right? How does Google stay on top?
While we strive for such success that will take us above and beyond, comparing such sites is apples and oranges. The functions and purpose of a search engine, for example, differ completely from that of a social networking site or online retailer. They’re popular, well-branded and meet the needs of millions of users; other than that, the similarities between such sites are few and far between.
On the flip side, let’s consider small business sites.
There are over 600 million websites out there. Small businesses comprise a decent chunk of those sites and their respective traffic. While there may not be much merit in comparing an Amazon versus a LinkedIn, there a number of common threads which connect just about every SMB site, regardless of size or sales:
- Small business sites provide information
- Small business sites market products and services
- Small business sites sell products and services
Whether you’re raking in the leads and traffic or are just getting started, the three above principles will drive just about any site looking to gain or increase their traction. It’s the work and creativity we put into such principles which determine our success.
No two businesses are alike. Likewise, no two sites are alike in terms of design, scope and content. There are those, however, who rise above the rest because they understand what users want in a site and how to deliver. With web presence trumping just about every facet of small business activity, our sites need to pack a punch when it comes to catering to an audience and giving them exactly what they want.
What separates the good from and the bad and the ugly? What pieces come together to form a successful small business website?
In short, a successful SMB site will:
- Keep itself simple, understanding the concept of quality over quantity
- Address an appropriate audience and cater to the needs of that audience
- Catch the eye of the visitor, whether through design, content or quality
How? Let’s break it down.
Design, Design, Design
Although perhaps it’s not best to judge a book by its cover, first impressions are enormous when it comes to a small business’ site. Whether assessing your landing page or the overall scheme of your site, a sound design will help users want to stick around and continue to browse on a subconscious level. What constitutes a sound design? From the minuscule to the glaringly obvious details, you’ll want to consider elements such as the following:
Color Scheme and Font – When it comes to color scheme, keep two things in mind; your scheme should compliment your logo and your colors shouldn’t clash. Regarding fonts, stick to something simple. Nobody wants to read an entire site in Comic Sans or Papyrus. While such elements may not seem like a big deal, they can send visitors packing if they impact the readability or vibe of your site.
Layout – Whether you’re starting from scratch or working within a WordPress template, consider the number of columns, buttons and links throughout your site. There are no benefits to overloading your visitors with walls of text or links to sift through. Consider your site architecture carefully before getting started.
Functionality – Have you ever been to a small business site that starts playing tons of videos or even a song when you get there? Technology has come a long way, sure, but there’s no need to flood your visitors with useless media or eye candy. Instead, focus on functionality that makes sense. For example, is your site and its respective blog linked to Facebook?
When it comes to designing a site, a lot comes down to the concept of balance.
There’s a fine line between having a site that looks like a cookie-cutter, out of the box web template versus having a site that’s different for the sake of being different. True, there are plenty of templates already out there via platforms such as WordPress. Given the accessibility and SEO power of something like WordPress, they’re ideal for the budding business. Due to the popularity of such templates, however, it’s crucial to take such templates and make them your own. This can be done through both the elements above and your content (which we’ll discuss shortly).
The most important rule of design? Follow the mantra; keep it simple.
Content: Quality and Quantity
You probably don’t need to sit through a lecture about the benefits of creating quality content. In addition to providing value to your overall site and driving more traffic, regular content production meets the principle of providing information to users. By sticking to a regular content schedule, you provide additional information and education in order to solidify your site as being something valuable.
Static content is often overlooked and requires a lot of your focus. If you get it right the first time, you won’t have to rework your static content over and over. Crafting an effective “About Me” section, for example, can be huge in personalizing yourself. If you have a physical location, ensure that your directions are clear to readers who’ve never been in the area. You’re responsible not only for providing information to users, but also making sure they understand just about every facet of your business. Do so as clearly and concisely as possible.
We established earlier that all small business sites should do thee things; provide information, market products and effectively sell products. Your content, static or otherwise, should be dedicated to doing all three.
Much like design, the concept of balance comes into play when it comes to content. For example, you should regularly produce content for your site via its blog; however, there’s no need to craft content for the sake of doing so. A single thoughtful, powerful blog post is infinitely more valuable than ten short, spammy pieces. Allocate your time and resources wisely, meanwhile not embellishing or filling space for the sake of it. Don’t say too much and, once again, keep it simple. With users so willing to bounce (think; would you want to read paragraphs and paragraphs of needless filler when you’re looking up a business on your phone?), it’s better to be concise.
You Are Your Site Your website is more than just a hub for your business. It creates a space for users to interact and engage with your business, meanwhile also providing an opportunity for you to create an experience for such users. It gives you an opportunity to stake your claim, educate your visitors and ultimately let them know who you are. You may not initially think of your site as creating an experience; however, your site will ultimately come to represent you. The more effort you put into your site, the more visitors will come to trust the quality of you and your business.
Your business will be judged by its website.
The quality of your product will be judged by your website.
It may not seem fair; however, the modern small business is tasked with making a lasting impression on its potential customers. This is done by creating a website that represents you. A successful site understands this.
To help ensure that your business’ website makes sense in terms of design and content, consider having other users within your organization test the experience. Imagine you were visiting the site for the first time and knew nothing of the business. Would you be able to get there? Would you understand how the product works? Would you understand what was going on?
The Bottom Line Small businesses come and go. The ones that stick around have sites that stand the test of time and cater to their visitors. In short, successful businesses understand exactly how their site works from all angles and how the pieces of design and content come together. Is your business covering its bases?