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Top Five Things Every Small Business Website Needs

Top Five Things Every Small Business Website NeedsCreating a small business website is a daunting task for anyone who has very little or no online experience. Even the smallest bit of research will unleash a whole range of techno-jargon and online marketing advice from all angles – enough to make anyone’s head spin.

To avoid this overload of information, a new site should be treated like a V8 Supercar heading out to the track for the first time. It must be built on a solid framework but will be constantly tweaked throughout its life span into an efficient, customer-converting machine.

To provide this solid framework, there are five essential items that must be taken into consideration from day one:

#1 An Easy-to-Use Navigation Menu

The menu system of the site must be easy to find on the page, simple to understand and uncluttered in appearance. Refine the main options (those visible straight away) down to the bare necessities and “drop-down” menus should be used to display any extras that need to be accessed during a visitor’s time on the website.

#2 An “About Us” Page

Top Five Things Every Small Business Website NeedsIt’s been found that today’s online consumer likes to “connect” with businesses before they purchase products or engage services.  A good “About Us” page should be jargon-free and clearly display who you are, where your business has evolved from and why it exists now. Once again, keep to the essentials but at the same time, don’t leave any important information out.

Be sure to also include a “Contact Us” page on the site with a contact form that sends directly to the site manager’s email.

#3 Helpful, free content

Another way to create a connection with your customers to provide helpful content that will improve the way they interact with your products and services. This can be achieved through a variety of ways including FAQ pages, videos, customer forums and downloadable PDFs. By adding high-quality free content to your site, visitors are more likely to return in the future to what else you have to offer them.

#4 Customer Testimonial Page

Whilst writing your own content will go a long way towards selling your products and services to site visitors, nothing works better than testimonials from your current customers.

Select a few satisfied clients that you have worked with and send them a friendly email requesting a short description of their experiences with your business. You may be surprised how quickly you will receive a response from them – most people love to reward good service.

#5 A Clear Call-To-Action

Top Five Things Every Small Business Website NeedsEverything above counts for nothing if you don’t provide a quick, easy to find Call-To-Action (CTA) somewhere prominent on your site. The CTA is the method by which a site visitor chooses to become a customer. For example, on a motel’s website, a “Make a Booking” button provides as the Call-To-Action. On an eCommerce site, you’ll find a shopping trolley icon marked “Checkout”.

The CTA may be different for each business but the rules for displaying them are the same – it must be eye-catching, clearly defined and be designed in such a way to encourage interaction.

Without a Call-To-Action, a website quickly becomes an online brochure.

Conclusion

There are loads of other elements that help make a successful website that converts visitors to customers. These five items will allow you to create a solid framework from which to build the remainder of your site.

In future blog posts, we will cover some of the extras that will add even further value to your site and help to build your business in both brand and bottom line.

For help getting your small business website off the ground, get in touch with Rusty Mango Design. We’ve been working with small business since 2007.

Is your Web Designer legit?

Is your Web Designer legit?When it comes to the WWW and the sites that live upon it, some small business owners are a little naive about how it all works. This is excusable as there are so many aspects to take into account – domain names, hosting, email accounts, analytics, SEO and social media are just a few of the items that need to be taken into consideration when getting a business online.

That’s why business owners like to hand over all those aspects to their website developer and say “please take care of this for me!”

There is a lot of trust being placed in that last statement – websites are not exactly cheap and, as a small business owner, you need to be able to rely upon your website “guys” to do the right thing. But, as in many industries, there are people who will take advantage of this.

If you are about to embark on the process of getting a web designer, or your current designer just doesn’t “feel right”, follow the three tips below to guide you to a reputable website design business.

#1 – Ask Around

Your business is not the first one ever to go online so take a look at your competitors and your industry in general. Ask them some key questions if you can:

  • Who designed their site?
  • Don’t be afraid to ask your business colleagues who they would recommend and why? (You may have a bit of trouble getting the same information out of your competitors).
  • Is the site generating the business that they need?
  • Is the site difficult to update?
  • What was the design process like when working with the web developer?

Positive testimonials work for all industries including web design so find out who would do the best job for your particular business.

#2 – Check out the web designer’s current portfolios.

All reputable designers will display their work on their own websites so check them out. Make sure that they can deliver styles that are current (not from the late 90’s) and relevant to your business.

One very important aspect that needs to be checked to ensure that you don’t get ripped off – make sure that you are not going to be paying for a template unless it has been made very clear that is exactly what you are paying for. These templates are not created just for your business and working with anyone that uses them can be dangerous as the “designer” may not have the skills to create / modify / reprogram the design to your specific needs.

A quick way to check:

  • Go to one of the sites they have “built” and copy the URL from the address bar at the top of your web browser.
  • Go to http://whatwpthemeisthat.com/ and paste the URL into the box provided.

This site quickly looks through the code and will tell you if the site is designed with the WordPress CMS (which is fine) and what theme the site is created with. If the theme is commercially available, this site will also tell you where you can buy it.

Too many times, I have seen so-called “Web Designers” that charge their customers exorbitant amounts of money for “designing” a site which can be purchased elsewhere for a little as $30!  All the “designer” does is change the imagery and add some text.

Note: If you run the website for Rusty Mango Design (http://www.rustymangodesign.com.au) through the theme finder above, you will see my framework theme “Rusty Mango Responsive”. This is a bare bones framework (which I personally created, not purchased) from which I then build all my sites.

It starts out looking like this:

Rusty Mango Responsive

But, by the time I am finished designing the site, it can look like this:

A Smarter Solution

That is real web design!

#3           Take a look at some of their imagery.

A little known tool called TinEye can help identify images that have been used elsewhere on the internet. You can find it at https://www.tineye.com/

TinEyeUsing TinEye is easy:

  • Save an image from anywhere on the net to your hard drive or right-click on it and “Copy Image Location”.
  • Use the box on TinEye to upload the image or simply paste in the image location (Ctrl-V on your keyboard).

TinEye will quickly scour the internet with your image information and come back with any close matches.

Obviously this would be no use on items such as stock photography which will appear everywhere but it can be very useful when checking out “personalised” items such as logos. I recently saw a logo that looked familiar – I had definitely seen it somewhere else.  So I ran it through TinEye and found 107 other logos that looked exactly the same!

Doesn’t say much for a designer if they resort to using stock images to create logos. That to me is not designing as it lacks any creativity and I strongly warn against using any design business that does this.

 

Agreed, the steps above will take some time and effort on the part of the small business owner however a website should be seen as exactly the same as any other investment in your business. You would research any new equipment or plant that you are purchasing for your business, so why not research who is going to build your website – the marketing tool that can drive business straight your door.

Without an effective website, built by someone who cares specifically about your business, you may be leaving a lot of money on the table and digging a hole in your bank account.

Photo Credit: Depositphotos.com

If your brand image needs to be consistent, why doesn’t your website?

Be ConsistentAll business owners would (or should be) be aware of brand consistency – the practice by which the logos, colours and style of a company are shown in the same manner anywhere the business is seen. McDonalds restaurants are the kings of this consistency – wherever a McDonalds in located throughout the world, there is absolutely no doubting which brand is in operation. This is done through a stringent company manifesto that steadfastly lays out the strict guidelines that must be adhered to. Even companies such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter – who allow others to use their logos in various applications – have these guidelines to protect their public image.

The process of consistent branding is so important to building a recognisable business.

A sense of consistency is important in many facets of business – processes, system, employment, discipline and even the layout of offices. So why do many businesses neglect consistency within their websites?

Browsing the web in the past week for inspiration, I came across sites that clearly had been updated with absolutely no thought to maintaining a consistent look throughout the pages. One business in particular was so glaringly bad at this, its website inspired me to write this post.

It wasn’t the design of the site that was bad – it actually was quite attractive. The site was ruined by the fact that it had been handed over to the client and they had no idea about how to keep “the look” of the design flowing throughout the pages. On the front page itself, it was very clear to see where the professional designer had finished and the website owner/administrator had taken over. It made the company look unprofessional.

The sad part is that this problem is so easy to avoid. Here’s five tips to keep your site consistent with your original “vision”:

Tip #1: Fonts

Use the same fonts throughout your site. Resist the urge to try out every new font that you discover on your website’s Content Management System. Novels and magazines don’t generally change fonts half way through and neither should your website. This applies to both main text segments and the titling through the site.

Tip #2: Alignment

Centre Alignment has its place however it isn’t in a large portion of text. By centring text on a web page, you are forcing your viewers to re-adjust their eyes for every new line beginning. Think of other texts that you may read during your day, such as newspapers, and you will realise why left alignment is used on all of them.

Tip #3: Colour and Font Weight

As in tip #1, don’t experiment with colours and font weights throughout your pages. Sure colour can grab attention when required however try not to make your website look like a technicolour rainbow. Font weighting should be consistent too – use BOLD text in the same place each time, for example, on the subtitles within your content.

Tip #4: Image Presentation

If you insist on using borders and shadows around your images, make sure they are used consistently. Don’t apply styles to some and neglect it on others.

TinyMCE AdvancedTip #5: Use a Format tool

Luckily, for those of us who use WordPress as a CMS framework for our pages, we have some great plugins that will make the above tips really easy to implement.

The plugin TinyMCE Advanced has a formatting option. A dropdown menu (called FORMAT) can be quickly coded by your web developer to include all the styles that you need for your site. All you have to do is highlight or select the text/image for the style to be applied to and then select the style from the menu. You don’t need to search for font types, colours, weights or anything.

 

I have to admit that page inconsistency has happened on some sites that I have created – mostly after their handover. A warning: potential customers of Rusty Mango Design beware, I will ring you up and let you know if your styles are out of whack – nicely of course. I will also offer our full support to help you present your information in a consistent style. After all, it’s my job to help you look your best – a cohesive and constant appearance is vitally important to the overall success of your website.

If you would like the plugin TinyMCE Advanced installed and coded for your WordPress site, please get in touch with Rusty Mango Design.

What essentials do you need on your Front Page?

Front Page EssentialsThe Rusty Mango Design site has been in action in its current form for just over two years, so utilising the Christmas/New Year’s break, I have decided to give it a fresh new look. In doing so, I must remember that potential customers (prospects) will be coming to the home page in search of a few key items. If those items are not readily available (ie hidden or obscure), the bounce rate of people leaving the site will be fairly high.

To prevent this, I am integrating those key items into the planning of the new design right from the very beginning. I’ve sat down with a pencil and paper, (I know – how old fashioned of me!) and I have sketched out and written down those features which must be included. Let’s take a look at what should be seen on an effective home page.

Distinct Branding and Contact Information

This one is a no-brainer. Make sure that as soon as anyone hits your site, they can see immediately who you are and how they can contact you. Get your logo in the all familiar position at the top left of your page (that’s where you look for it, isn’t it?) and have a phone or clickable email up there too – possibly in the top right corner. Easy to see and act on.

Call to Action

In website marketing, a Call to Action (CTA) is a predominant item somewhere on a page that provokes the site visitor to gain an immediate response. Usually the CTA utilises action verbs such as “Call Us Now”, “Click here to find out more” or “visit our online-store”.

The CTA must be easily visible so that it attracts attention and get a response. On the new site for Rusty Mango Design, the CTA is in the main header for each page:

  • Get a CMS Website.
  • Build an online Store.
  • Boost your site traffic.

These are the three keys services that I offer and I want prospective customers to find which service they require immediately.

Essential Information

Grab that pencil and paper again and think about the information your clients need to know about you straight away?

  • Do you have a strict geographic area that you work within?
  • What are the services that you provide?
  • If you provide professional services, prospective clients may need some information on your experience and background.

Stick to the K.I.S.S. principle – keep it short and simple. If your site visitors wish to expand on the basic information that you have provided on the front page, include links to the pages with the expanded details.

Clear Navigation

Don’t overload your site visitors with a gazillion options in regards to navigation around your site. Keep any menus in their familiar positions (i.e. in the header or left side bar). When site designers get a little too inventive with the placement of components, confusion can often set in with site users.

Keep your menu options to a basic level – maybe utilising dropdown menus if you want to allow quick movement to content elsewhere on the site.

Conclusion

With those things in mind, I have created a “fresh” design and I will be launching the new look Rusty Mango site in the next week or so. Keep tuned for that!

In the meantime, take a long look at your site’s front page and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is there enough information? Or is there too much?
  • Does it encourage further exploration into the site?
  • Can a prospect interact directly with me form this page or will they have to dig deeper to do so?

If you need any help with the above, get in touch with Rusty Mango Design. We can discuss those very questions and create a front page that will get you attention!

 

Tropical Coast Web Design