These days, your online presence is likely have a much higher profile than your physical business (store, offices, etc.) It’s certainly likely to be seen by more people and this makes your website design a critical success factor. Of course, between Facebook and Twitter (or lesser known but hipper equivalents) you may decide that your online needs are covered and many businesses do just that. But social media is still primarily a profile-building brand strategy whose main purpose is to push people to your online storefront: your website. So, most businesses benefit from a website – where do you start when it comes to designing your website?
First of all, it’s worth pointing out that “design” and “development” are two very different things when it comes to websites:
Design is all about how the site appears on the surface; it is what the customer sees and experiences: design is the ease of use, graphical appearance, clarity of options and instructions, etc.
Development is beneath the surface; it’s the underpinning software, apps and other items of computer code that enables the website to do what the design demands.
In other words, as a business owner, you should definitely have input into the design of your website but unless you have a professional level of IT skills, you have two main options to handle the development side and the best one for you depends on how complex your website is going to be. If you’re going for simple, then you might take a DIY approach using downloadable templates and packages. In this case, the development has already been done by an expert (or team of experts) and the results are available in modular form. You simply follow instructions, choose the modules that will give you your design and then add the content (all the words about the company, product details, etc.) Highly effective websites can be constructed using ‘DIY’ packages such as wix.com, weebly.com, or wordpress and this option can be very attractive if your available internet marketing budget is limited. The second development option is to engage a professional website design and development service to construct your website for a fee.
Whichever option you go for, even if you’re outsourcing everything, there are some basic principles to keep in mind which will help you get the website you want and need.
The online world is no longer sitting at home in front of a desktop PC. A 2014 global marketing survey found that 60% of ‘surfers’ access the internet wholly or mainly via a mobile device. This means your site has to look good on a smaller screen and run smoothly via mobile browser software. What you want is RWD (responsive web design) which basically means a flexible website that will “respond” and adjust itself to the screen dimensions of various devices. Think about how people navigate on mobile devices and build that into your design brief: the ‘click’ approach is driven by the keyboard & mouse setup, not the smartphone touchscreen.
Similarly, integrate your site with popular social media. Don’t just have a link to your Facebook page. Incorporate buttons and links that enable users to instantly ‘like’ and share your website with their friends and networks.
Appearance is everything in website design. To slick and clever can be off-putting to many but too basic just makes your brand look cheap and unprofessional. A quality website represents a quality product or service.
Prepare for the fact that in the future – ideally – you will expand and diversify your business. Does your design allow you to easily add new pages and sections? If every change to your business implies a website redesign and overhaul then the cost soon begins to spiral.
Finally, however tempting it is to do otherwise, keep the pages to the minimum. Have as many as you need but only what you need. Ideally, a customer should need to make no more than three clicks to make a purchase.