In my experience as a web designer, business owners value their website as the most important tool to maintain and keep customers. Sometimes all that is needed is a fresh design or adding new features to an existing site to make a world of difference.
I have put together a list of what I think are the most important features for a small business website.
Each of these are designed to improve your website or give you a list of key ideas for to get started with a new website. I hope you find this list valuable.
Do keep it organized, concise and easy to use. Stick to the basics when it comes to navigation and pages on your website. Pay attention to keywords and the most important questions your customers need answered. Leave the details for product descriptions and information.
It is important to be sure that your website is setup in a manner that clearly guides your visitors. You want their eyes to follow a path, encouraging them to view and take action on specific elements. Think carefully about what your marketing goals are for your website.
Don’t become overloaded with information because of all the extra ‘small additions. Before you begin developing your website, make sure the design, content and navigation is laid out in a neat, clean and easy to follow manner.
2. IMPORTANT BUSINESS INFO
Do include name, phone, address, social media links, newsletter sign up and any important information so that customers may find you, call you and contact you.
I am always surprised at just how difficult it is to find the phone number for the restaurant I want to order from or the hours my favorite store is open until.
Don’t bury the info. This critical business information should be visible on the front page. Depending on your business you can decide if a phone number or email address are important but always offer hours and/or contact links as quickly as possible.
3. LINKS TO FIND YOU
Do offer links to find you on social sites, and to contact you via email through a contact page. This is important, a contact page is one of the most important pages on your website. It is the means by which customers can contact you directly without leaving your site. You can also add social links, newsletter sign up form, hours or anything of value that your customers will appreciate.
Don’t think that just because information is on one page of your website it doesn’t need to be on another.
3. TECHNOLOGY & SPEED
Do think about technology. How your website is built is as important as how it looks. Not every web designer thinks about speed, the amount of photos or content on your site. You may want to update the site by yourself or staff and you may need the website to grow with your business. If you create a site by yourself using Wix or Squarespace be sure the templates will grow and show off your business in the way you need it to.
Website speed is important. The last thing you want is to have your website visitors to close your website before it even loads. Website speed is also important for SEO; Google will penalise you if you have a slow website. I’ve listed a few factors which may affect your site speed:
- Server location. It’s best practice to have your web server as close to your country as possible.
- Large images. Where possible, reduce the size of images. If you have a spot for an image that is 200×200, then make sure you resize that image to 200×200. Some content management systems such as WordPress automatically compress and resize the images for you.
- Inline CSS. This one may be slightly technical. Avoid using inline CSS where possible. It is often best practice to keep all CSS in individual files.
- Responsive design. Make sure your website is responsive for fast loading on small devices.
Google has a handy tool where you can test your site speed and get some ideas for improvement: https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/ Type in your website and see what results you get.
Don’t think that just because someone says they are a web designer or a tv commercial says a self managed site is easy for you to manage and maintain. Ask questions about
4. SEO [Search Engine Optimization]
This is the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a website by crawling and indexing the site so it appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine (Google). SEO will help you position your website properly so that your customers can find you easily when searching for the products or services you offer.
SEO has evolved over the years to consider more than just keywords.
Do pay attention to your target market and what they are looking for, you can more effectively reach and keep those visitors if you know that you offer what they want.
Don’t ignore the data. Get familiar with Google Webmaster Tools. I can’t recommend this enough.
5. NEWSLETTER SIGN UP / LEAD CAPTURE
Do capture email addresses on your website. Whether you send a newsletter every month or every season or never sent one before in your life. Email addresses of your visitors are your future customers. Be sure to add a plugin from your email service provider (constant contact, mail chimp, infusion soft etc…)
Don’t think that your visitors won’t give you their email. If they like what you have to offer, they will provide you an email address.
Do have a responsive website. Responsive sites are fluid in movement so they are Mobile, Laptop, Tablet ready. This means that your website has the ability for the visitor to quickly navigate your site on every device. If you don’t know if your website is Responsive check it on Google Mobile Test.
Don’t ignore screen sizes. Even phones and tablets come in different sizes and everyone looks up information on their smartphones these days.
7. FAQ | FACTS | QUESTIONS
One of the key asks I have of every client is “What are the top 5 questions your customers always ask?” Each time I ask this question the clients eyes light up and they are shoot me at least 3 questions immediately and groan about how often they hear these questions. Well here’s your chance to answer them before they ask you.
Do provide a page with clear answers to popular questions about ingredients, materials, policies, requirements or opportunities.
Don’t be afraid of feedback and customer curiosity. Use those questions to help your customers get to know you better.
8. REVIEWS | TESTIMONIALS
Do provide testimonials and reviews. There are a number of ways to add these to your site. You can rely on plugins from social review sites (Yelp, Trip Advisor) and Linkedin or you can input these in a creative way throughout the site or on an individual page.
Don’t rely on the social sites to speak for you. Inform your visitors with information about you and your business.
9. ABOUT US
Do share with your visitors who you are and let them get to know you. It doesn’t need to be long but it does need to be warm and inviting. A simple sentence or two can do the trick. If you feel uncomfortable talking about yourself or providing a photo talk about the Why of your business – how it started or why it started.
Don’t disregard this opportunity to add content about your business that can enhance your search ranking.
Do be creative, but don’t let that creativity get in the way of function. Often a customer will have great ideas about design and imagery on a website but functionality is the key. Keeping a website simple to navigate and easy to load on multiple devices is the the most important.
Don’t make your visitors have to work hard to find your information.
I look forward to updating this post, as I finish this list I’m already thinking of a few more things to add such as blogging, navigation and calls to action.
If you have suggestions or ideas on what you think are important for a website let me know in the comments or @jenlew on twitter.