Don’t know what you need on your website? For some small business owners, it may not be clear on what should to be on a website. As you would expect, it can and will vary depending what industry you are in. However, one thing is for sure. A website is your top marketing asset and sales person so you want to make sure you’re not leaving anything important out.
If you are a brand new business or in the process of opening a new business, I highly recommend reading this blog first about what you need to do to make sure your customers can find you online.
Before we go over what content needs to be on your website, let’s go over some general guidelines to keep in mind:
What is the purpose and goal of the website?
Think about what you want this website to accomplish. Are you trying to sell online? Do just want people to find information? Is it going to generate leads? This will help you or your web designer on how to structure and layout your website.
Who is your target audience?
You have to remember that your website is meant to attract a certain market. With that in mind, you will choose elements of the site that will appeal to that group whether its the images, colors, layout or writing. If you are a security or finance related business, you may want to use blue in your website. Blue generally conveys trustworthiness. Chances are you’re not going to use bright multi-colors if you want people to trust you with their money or property.
Make sure your website is going to be responsive / mobile friendly
Nearly 2/3 of Americans own a smartphone. With this growing trend, it’s important that your website looks good and functions well on devices like smartphones and tablets. This can be accomplished with responsive design. Responsive means that the website layout will automatically adapt to the device it is being viewed in. This means the visitor does not need zoom in or scroll left and right to view the website.
Not only is it important to your visitors, Google actually will penalize your website in search engine results if it is not mobile friendly. Here’s a tool from Google that helps to determine if your website is mobile friendly.
Make sure your site will load quick
Going along with user experience, how quickly your website loads is a huge component of it. The slower your site, the more likely the visitor will leave before it can load. Expert studies have shown that you want it to get to around 3 – 4 seconds. In my experience, it’s really tough when you use a content management system (CMS) like WordPress. To me, 5 – 6 seconds is reasonable. I’ve had client sites take as long as 36 seconds because of high resolution, uncompressed images. Pictures and video are great for design but be careful with how much you use.
Here’s a tool for finding out your website load speed.
With those guidelines, you should have good context for your new website. Whether you are creating the website for your small business or you have someone doing it for you, here’s a list of everything you need to consider having on it:
This should be obvious. I was debating if I really needed to mention this but it is a “complete” checklist. You need your logo on the website. Usually the logo is placed on the top left because we are culturally trained to read from left to right. Sometimes I’ve seen it on the left, but I don’t ever recall seeing a logo on the top right. Regardless of where you decide to place it, make sure it is not too big or not too small. It should be proportionate to the other elements of the website.
One of the most important and sought after information visitors are looking for on your website is how to contact your business. This includes phone number, address, email and business hours. Be sure these elements are on all of your pages, ideally in the header or footer. Have a separate page dedicated to all the ways of contacting you including a web form.
One of the top reasons why people visit your small business website is for pricing. This is a huge one that many small business owners are hesitant to put on their website. It just so happens that it’s one of the most important pieces of information visitors look for on your website. When making the decision to buy, price is a huge part of the process so why make it harder for your potential customers?
Leaving out pricing means that you’ll just get more calls or emails about it, which can eat up time. The lack of prices can be suspicious and cause mistrust of why are they hiding this information.
If your products or services are custom, prices will vary so it’s hard to provide a price. If you think people will perceive the prices as too high, make sure you communicate and justify the value. Even if pricing varies, at least put a price range or starting point helps.
The key is make sure to communicate or acknowledge pricing on your website. If you have a good reason why you can’t provide pricing on the website, let people know why.
Social Media Links
Posting your social media links on your site is a good way for visitors to follow you. Just make sure that the social media links do not take away focus from what you want your visitors to do. Similarly to the contact information, make sure they are in the header, footer or sidebar of your pages.
Just keep in mind that if you are going to link social media it’s important to stay active on those channels. There are people out there who look to see if a company has posted recently to determine if they want to do business with them.
Your Products and Services
This is an obvious one. Your visitors are visiting your website because they are researching a product / service you offer or they have an interest in buying. Make sure that this information is organized and easy to find. You want to be detailed enough to answer their questions but not too much information that will overwhelm them.
When it comes to testimonials, I’m on the fence. Ideally, you do want to have some social proof that you do what you say you can do. For me, I’ve seen testimonials that come off as very phoney and contrived. I just don’t feel testimonials are as convincing because it can easily be manipulated.
What’s more powerful are reviews on third party sites. They can be just as fake as testimonials but there’s just more trust and authenticity knowing it’s at least regulated on another site. Not all small businesses can leverage reviews.
Site Structure Organization and Menu Navigation
This is hugely important for user experience. The goal is to make sure your visitors can intuitively find what they are looking for. Organize the website in a way that shouldn’t have to guess and dig around too much.
For the navigation menu, keep menu items at a minimum. Less is better. Order the pages by the most important on the left to the least important to the user on the right. Usually this means the product or service items towards the left. The trend I use and often see is the contact page, blog and call to action are on the right side of the menu.
If you can show any past work you have done for other customers or clients, it is highly encouraged to do so. Choose your best work to showcase to potential customers. This should go without saying that the pictures need to be high quality if they are representing your work.
Your about page should be more focus on your target audience and not you or the business. The about page isn’t a place for you to talk about yourself and how wonder you are. The goal should be to show why customers should trust you. How does your experience and expertise best help their problems and instill confidence and trust.
The about page is also an opportunity for your visitors to relate to you and see that there are real people running the business. Be sure to use picture of real people behind the business.
As in any business, you’re going to get asked questions about your business. To save time, because those emails and phone calls will add up, you’ll want to add a FAQ or Q&A (Questions and Answers) page on your website. Think about the most common questions you get asked and provide well thought out answers for them.
Call to Action (CTA)
If a potential client or customer is interested in your business, you have to have one clear action that you want your visitors to take. This includes filling out a lead form, make an online purchase, donating money, a phone call, email, free estimate form. Don’t assume your visitors will know what to do, make it clear about what the next step should be. When it comes to web design, the call to action is usually going to visually stand out more like a contrasting colored button.
If you’ve read my other blogs, you’ll know this is something I like to emphasize. Using a free tool like Google Analytics is extremely valuable for a small business and relatively easy to install.
Why is it so important? You can learn lot of things such as:
- How are people finding your website?
- What channels are people coming from?
- Are sites referring a lot of traffic to your website?
- Are your visitors having a good experience on your website?
- How much revenue is your website generating through leads?
- What channels or referring sites are giving you the most leads?
- Are they finding the information they are looking for?
- Is your website causing issues for mobile or tablet users?
If not Google Analytics, you should have some tracker that is collecting data about your web traffic.
Pictures and Video
What really makes a website engaging and appealing are high quality photos or video. If it is feasible for where you are in your business, I highly recommend getting professional photography done for your web designer. It just feels more authentic and trustworthy.
If that’s not within your budget, the next best thing is stock photography. Main point is you want high resolution pictures to make your website really shine. Just make sure you don’t over do it with the images as it can increase your page load times and cause people to leave your website before it loads.
Video can be also be very engaging, usually when shown as a full screen background when the website first loads. The problem is it can be a huge drag on website load speeds so it’s not the most cost efficient option. I recently came across a website with a 34mb video! If you can help it, you want the video size to be less than 2mb.
Good First Impression
When someone first visits your site, there are few key pieces of information that should be communicated to make sure your visitor feels like they are in the right place. The idea is to make sure people don’t leave prematurely without visiting other web pages (also known as a “bounce”).
What does your business do?
If someone looking to buy a new home clicks a link for a real estate agent, the first thing that they should is a picture of a home or something related to home buying. If they see a big cheeseburger, chances are they are going to leave because it did not meet expectations of what they clicked for.
Who is the site for?
This goes along with the idea I mentioned earlier in the guidelines about knowing who your target market is. If someone is looking for real estate agent that specializes in luxury homes, they need to see pictures or indications on the website that you cater to a specific high end market.
What is your unique value proposition?
Somewhere in the top part of your website without having to scroll down too much (aka above the fold), you need to be able communicate what makes you unique or special. What do you have to offer that your competitors don’t or may not do as well. The main idea is to keep a visitor intrigued or interested in staying on your site.
Arguable, one of the most important elements of your website is the copy. Not familiar with what that is?
According to one of the copy experts I follow, it’s described as strategic writing to persuade someone to take action. With that being said, it’s not something only businesses need, but even nonprofits as well.
When it comes to this type of writing, the trend has been to move away from very professional, salesy talk to more of a conversational type of communication. This often means certain grammar rules can be broken to help give a more leveled and informal feel to the interaction. This should be no surprise as no one really ever wants to talk to a “salesperson.” We don’t trust them.