Even if all your traditional business has come from a brick-and-mortar store or from events like trade shows, fairs, and festivals, you can no longer afford to ignore the importance of having a small-business website. Today’s customers don’t look in the phone book or read about companies through ads in newspapers. They use tools like Google to search for local businesses.
Without a website, you’re saying “goodbye” to every business opportunity that comes from an online search. And that’s a lot of opportunity: 61 percent of customers who search for a business using a smartphone end up making a purchase from that business. When you have a website, you can also start using affordable online advertising tools to promote your business. The best business websites become online storefronts, like a branch of your business that’s open 24/7.
Over half of small businesses still haven’t created a website. Designing your small-business website can seem overwhelming when you have no experience with coding or designing Web pages. Fortunately, it’s never been easier or more affordable to build a small-business website.
A domain is like a virtual binder containing all of your site’s Web pages. Every page you publish, whether it’s your home page, About page, contact page, or a blog post, becomes part of your unique domain. Your domain name then becomes part of your URL, which is the address your customers type in their Web browsers to get to your website. Choosing the right domain name is just as important as picking the right name for your business. It can include:
Your personal name or company name. If you’re a consultant, create a branded domain using your name. Small-business owners can create domains incorporating their business names.
A name identifying an important product. Some businesses are so known for a particular product they choose to use the product as their domain identity. For example, Amazon.com sells Kindles through its Amazon site, but it also owns the domain kindle.com.
Your location. Some businesses choose to incorporate their location into their domain names. A plumber in Seattle might use the domain name Seattleplumber.com instead of using a business name.
A unique domain extension. Today, businesses can choose from a ton of personalized domain extensions beyond a simple .com. A café can add .coffee to the end of their domain, or a realtor can use .forsale as an extension.
Once you settle on a name, and you know it’s available, it’s a good idea to buy your domain name plus multiple extensions. If you own ChicagoRestaurant.com, ChicagoRestaurant.food, and ChicagoRestaurant.pizza, for example, you can map each domain to the same website. This practice prevents customer confusion in case you and another local business have a similar domain name. It also prevents a competitor from impersonating your domain and luring customers away from you.
Every small-business website should have at least a home page and a page with contact information and directions to your physical business location, if you have one. An About page explains what you do or shares the local history around your business. Some businesses also add separate pages to explain each product or service they provide. A website can have as many pages or as few pages as you want it to have depending on your business needs.
Your design should be visually branded, which means it’s so distinctive customers can recognize it right away. You can brand your site with your logo, a photo of your location (or yourself), and photos of your most distinctive products. Additionally, your website should have certain unifying visual design characteristics. These include:
When you’re redesigning a room, you choose a palette of colors for your walls, trim, furniture, carpets, and fabrics. In the same way, you need a palette of colors for your website to unify your design.
Choose colors that complement your logo or business sign, or you can pick colors that showcase your products. Keep your palette simple so your website doesn’t become too color-laden and visually cluttered. To get inspiration, build a palette using the free tools at Paletton.com, or look at palettes created by the community at ColourLovers.com.
Fonts convey the personality of your company. For example, a small, creative graphic design company would probably choose a different set of fonts than an accounting firm or a Fortune 500 company. Google Fonts has a nice gallery of fonts you can choose from to pick the combination that works best for your site. You can also conduct a Google search for font combinations to learn how top designers mix and match fonts.
For your first small-business website, you should probably choose a simple layout and a small number of pages. You can always expand on your core design later as your small business grows.
You can combine many elements together to come up with your website’s unique layout. At the very least, it should contain the following components:
Images. Try to use images with a common style so they communicate a unified visual message. If you have a logo, don’t forget to incorporate that image in your design. You can use your own photos or stock photos you can download or purchase online.
Menu. Your navigation menu helps visitors move back and forth between the pages on your site. You can position your menu at the top of your page, or you can put navigation buttons off to the side of your main content area.
Copy. You need clean, compelling marketing copy for your website explaining what you do in a clear, concise fashion. It’s a good idea to optimize your copy with keywords about your business so search engines can understand what you do.
Contact information. It’s essential to include your company’s contact information on your website not only for customers but also for search engines. Place it at the top of your home page, or add it as a footer to every page on your site.
Live Web pages are housed on a server, which allows multiple visitors to access them at once. Some small-business owners purchase their own servers, but it’s much easier to host your website online. A host takes care of keeping your website up and running and fixes any technical support issues you encounter. Many hosting sites provide value-added services, such as branded email addresses incorporating your new domain name.
If you have your own server, you have to take care of maintenance, upgrades, and patching for its operating system. Servers that aren’t maintained and patched become vulnerable to hackers, who might try to disable your website or steal customer information. With an online host, you don’t have to worry about maintaining your own server. The hosting provider keeps everything up-to-date for you and takes care of security.
Some hosting providers expect you to know a lot about website development and maintenance. If you don’t know what a port is, or you don’t know anything about FTP, a bare bones hosting provider isn’t for you. Choose a hosting service that makes it easy to adjust your website information without FTP, database changes, or other complex website-related tasks. A provider offering not only free hosting but also free website builder templates simplifies both hosting and design.
Keep in mind that when it comes to hosting, look at services provided instead of just cost. If you choose a cheap option that provides no support or maintenance assistance, you’ll just end up frazzled and confused whenever there’s an issue. Look for online reviews before choosing a provider to get ideas about cost, services provided, and customer service quality. You want to know your hosting provider won’t suddenly disappear or go out of business, and you need to feel confident they provide exceptional customer service.
At Web.com, you don’t have to worry about complex Web design because someone has already done the work for you. We offer over 2,500 templates combining different layouts, colors, and fonts. You choose the template you like and simply drag and drop your own personal elements. For example, drop photos into each image slot, using our library of stock photos or your own uploaded photos. When you type your copy, it appears in a pre-installed font combination reflecting your brand’s personality.
After creating your website, register your preferred domain name and host your site with Web.com. You get instant email addresses in addition to hassle-free hosting for your website. As your website grows more popular, you can take advantage of a hosting plan with added marketing features. List your business with online directories, advertise it online, and build your email marketing list.
Many websites offer free website builder templates and cheap hosting, but no one gives you the marketing capabilities or service quality you get from Web.com. We understand small business because we specialize in small business.