Do I need a website?
So you’ve started up your new business and are debating whether you need a website or if it’s just a waste of money. The answer is simple, yes you do need one. There are few sectors these days that wouldn’t benefit from having an online presence; even if you aren’t planning to sell online it’s a good idea to have a website. A website is a great way to find new customers who can find you through search engines or from links on other websites. They are also useful as an online portfolio of your work and customers will usually make up their whether to contact you on not based on its quality. If you are planning to have a web site there are several things you should consider before investing.
A web designer can be expensive, but for many small businesses one isn’t needed. Unless you’re lucky enough to know a web designer who will do it on the cheap, there are some great alternatives on the market.
One of these alternatives is using website templates. Website templates are premade industry specific templates which you can change the text and pictures to make your own. However depending on the template you use this may require a bit of technical knowledge to get working the way you want it. Templates are great as they are cost effective and are usually a one off payment.
Another great alternative to hiring a professional web designer is by using a website builder. A website builder is similar to a template but is interactive and so you can quickly change the design, fonts and images on the site through various “wizards”. This requires very little technical knowledge as most website building solutions have step by step guides to help you along the way. Many website building sites also have hosting and maintenance packages built in so you can get all your website needs in one place. One major advantage of using a website builder is that you can change the content whenever you want without having to pay a web designer and wait for them to get the work done.
Mobile Accessible Website
Mobile technology has advanced to a level were web browsing on the go is a reality; this coupled with the fact that over half of the US’s phone users have smart phones means mobile websites are a must. A mobile website is an alternative version of your website optimised for phone use. The importance of a mobile site is clear because of the limitation of smart phones to handle traditional websites.
Firstly a smart phone has a smaller screen size typically around four inches compared to a PC monitor starting at around seventeen inches. The main consequence of this is a website that looks great and east to navigate on a computer may look terrible and be almost impossible to use on a phone.
Secondly the speed of phone internet is considerably slower than home computing, this can greatly hinder page loading speed of larger pages. Using an optimised site with smaller images and less technical coding will load faster to compensate for the speed difference.
Finally mobile phones use stripped down and easier to run internet browsers as phones have limited performance when compared to desktop computers. This can cause all sorts of problems when trying to load traditional websites which might not display properly. The main reason for this is that mobile browsers don’t correct as many coding errors as larger computer based browsers.
Many website builders and templates already offer mobile sites within the package, so potentially you don’t have to build two separate websites. Although it can seem an extra investment having a mobile site is well worth the extra time and effort.
Sometimes less is more.
For small businesses that are just starting up the popular phrase quality over quantity couldn’t be more relevant. It is far better to have five well put together pages than a whole site of irrelevant content that no one will see anyway. Depending on the type of business there about five essential pages:
- Home Page: An extremely important page as it is usually the first one a customer sees when they go onto the site. It should have easy to understand navigation to the other pages and it should show clearly what your business dose.
- About Us: A page many people will look for early on when looking around your website. This will give a more in-depth description of the company and what you do.
- Contact Us: A page containing all your companies contact information; including email, phone and address. This page gives a bit more credibility to your small company as it doesn’t look like your trying to hide who and where you are.
- Products/Services Page: A page that shows a list of products or services you sell as well as a price list if applicable.
- Site map: A page used by search engines to get around your site, more useful if you plan to have a large website with hard to navigate to deep pages. Can also be used by visitors to find the page they are looking for.
Avoid Special Effects
A few years ago flashing logos, animation and other such effects were popular, however times have changed and overusing them can look cheap and tacky. There is nothing worse than trying to browse through a website and you are constantly been distracted by a flashing logo. When designing a professional website these are some key features to stay away from.
- Animated logos
- Page transitions
- Sound effects
- Auto playing music
Not only does the above look unprofessional they also increase the webpage’s download time which could potentially put customers off further. Overly using special effects can also increase hosting fees as you would need a bigger server to accommodate the potentially large files. They add very little to the website so I would say stay away from them unless you can do them relevantly.
Define your theme and stick to it
When designing a website you will want everything to look consistent and professional. To do this you should choose your colour scheme and the fonts and stick to them. What you don’t want is web pages that don’t feel like part of your site because they have different colour schemes and layouts. There are many theories on page design, my opinion is to choose four complementary colours and stick to them throughout your site. There is a wealth of information on colour schemes out there but if you’re unsure what to have on your website look around and finds some websites you like the look of and see how their colour scheme would work on your site.
Following these simple tips can save you a lot of money and help you to get the professional, useable and efficient website you need to boost your new business.
This was a guest post by Sam Fisher an ex-professional web designer with a keen knowledge and interest in the field of website templates for small businesses.