The Internet is full of horrendous sites, some homemade and some not, and I’m not just talking about bad design. There are many other elements besides how your website looks that go into making it functional to your business needs. DIY websites may look an attractive option to cash strapped businesses but without the expert knowledge of a professional designer your site is likely to under-perform and in the worst instances actually harm your business.
Below is a small list of some of the considerations any SME owner will need to consider when starting a website for their business.
1. A clear description of who you are
Someone who stumbles upon your website shouldn’t have to do investigative work to figure out what, exactly, it is that you do. That means clearly stating your name and summing up your products or services right on the homepage.
2. A simple, sensible Web address
Don’t make things complicated! A domain name is like your brand. It should be easy for a user to type it into a Web browser or an e-mail address. Avoiding dashes (which can cause SEO headaches) and numbers (which can cause confusion for customers).
3. An easily-navigated site map
Clear links to the most important pages, and a site map (in .xml form for google & bing), are crucial for guiding visitors and search engines to the information they’re looking for.
4. Easy-to-find contact information
You wouldn’t want to lose a customer to a competitor just because you made it difficult for them to get in touch with you. Have basic contact information available on as many pages as possible. Preferably in the top right of the page. And utilise Social Media as part of this. Let customers contact you via Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin etc.
5. Customer testimonials
Honest words from others help make your products or services more tangible to customers who are visiting you online. Have real verifiable testimonials on your site preferably with ways for potential customers to contact your referees. Positive messages on Facebook and Twitter can also help build trust in your brand.
6. An obvious call to action
Tell the online visitors literally what you want them to do e.g. “call you now for free quote”, or “sign up to your exclusively online coupons”.
7. Know the basics of SEO
Your website won’t do you as much good if no one can stumble upon it. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is an art and an evolving one. Google and Bing are constantly updating their search algorithms, know what works and make sure you use it in your site!
8. Fresh, quality content
For many businesses, your website is your first impression on a customer. You want to give them what they’re looking for, and perhaps even give them a reason to keep coming back. Google loves new content so make sure you update your site regularly to maintain your search ranking.
9. A reliable hosting platform
You want your website to be available 24/7/365. If for some reason your host ‘goes down’ and Google bots are crawling at the time your site will be demoted or at worse removed from the search engine rankings. Don’t skimp here choose big and reliable!
10. A design and style that’s friendly to online readers
As Forbes puts it, “Web surfers have the attention spans of drunken gnats.” You need to grab their attention quickly, beautiful design, key information ‘hooks’ and easy navigation are the key here!
11. Integrate social media into your online strategy
A website alone is no longer enough! Utilising Facebook and Twitter are key to getting potential clients to your website/business. Social media activity is being used by Google etal. to rank websites in searches. Increasingly potential clients are coming to your website not through search engine providers but through links from social media. This is vital! 1. Get a website; 2. Sign up for a Twitter account; 3. Create a Facebook page; and finally link them all together!
I have used an number of hosting providers over the past year, including Godaddy, Hostgator, 1and1, PlanetHippo, TSOhost, SiteGround, Hostinger, Inmotion, UK2 and one does stand out among them all. In terms of website load speed, server up time, support and overall user satisfaction I have to recommend SiteGround. If a client now asks me to recommend a hosting provider, I can say without hesitation that Siteground is the hosting provider I would choose. Page load speeds are significantly faster than other providers and I have been impressed with their support as well. I am now using SiteGround for all of my new projects and when i get some spare time I will migrate my older websites on other hsoting plans over to Sitegound. Other notable mentions are Godaddy, for excellent telephone support; Hostinger for reasonable budget hosting for small static websites; Hostgator for good value VPS annd cloud hosting.