So you own a local business, but you don’t really know anything about local business website design. You probably know what you like and don’t like though. Remember a time when you stumbled on a website that made you cringe and you instantly clicked the back button or closed the window never to return? It’s important to think about what you didn’t like and make sure that isn’t part of your website. The proverb “He who fails to plan, plans to fail” certainly applies to website design. You don’t have to be a designer, after all you have a business to run, but you do need to take the 3 relatively painless steps I describe below to ensure your website invites your visitors and isn’t one of those that frightens visitors away.
Your website is the online representation of your business, so no matter how busy you are, don’t go into the website design process without a plan. Provide your designer the proper input so he or she can deliver what you need and want and remember that if you designer doesn’t have a marketing and business background, you will absolutely have to work with him or her to ensure you get the content and results you want.
Follow this 3 steps to get the results you want from your local business website design:
Carefully define the objective(s), target audience, and overall marketing strategy for your site. Look at your competitor’s websites and other websites so that you know what you like and don’t like and why. Let your designer know what appeals to you, but also listen to what they have to say. A good designer should be able to tell you why they are making the recommendations that they make. Also pick the search engine optimization keywords for your site as these will need to be used in the text to optimize your local online marketing efforts. SEO keywords is a whole topic on its own, so if you don’t know how to do this, it may be best to ask for help.
Design a basic flowchart for your site that defines where do you want your visitors to go and what do you want them to do. You can do this on paper or use a tool. FreeMind is an easy to use, free tool that allows you to graphically map out your website pages and outline content/actions for each page. It’s critical to ensure the most important website topics and actions are prominent. Can your customers find them easily or are they buried under a sub-menu that makes no sense? It should be obvious to someone looking at your home page and your navigation bar how to find the most important things about your business (products or services, how to contact you, what’s unique about your business, etc.) and how to take any action they plan to take (drive to your location, call you, etc).
Make sure your site is developed using a content management system (CMS) and is based on open standards. A proprietary site developed uniquely for you may look nice, but you may get locked into a single designer and that can get expensive. There are many options available today, just make sure that your site can be easily maintained. Consider including a blog in the design of your site as a blog is a source of updates and keeps your site fresh. Also have an agreement with your designer about when you will review the initial design. You want to make sure he or she is following your guidance and creating a pleasing design before the process is too far along.
Creating the perfect local business website won’t happen overnight, but with these ideas as part of your plan, you will be well on your way to ensuring your visitors stay on your site and find what they want.
Gwynne Wade is a Social Media Practitioner and owner of Creative Angle Marketing. She helps small and mid-sized businesses and their brands grow through social media: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, local website optimization, mobile marketing, and blog marketing.