Web Design For Business: A Complete Guide
Whether you’re a new business just starting to think about building a website or if your current website is in need of a major update, web design can be an overwhelming task to take on. There are so many different things to consider when you are designing your website or updating your website that you have to be careful that you don’t leave anything out. Your website is the online face of your company so it is very important to design a website that will be beneficial to your overall business goals. With this guide, we will give you all the information you need to create the perfect website design for your business.
How Do You Determine The Business Goals for Your Website?
No matter what the purpose of your business is, having a website that is outdated or difficult to navigate—or not having a website at all— is a red flag to many consumers and can hurt your brand quite a bit. A simple, clean site can go a long way, but before you start the website building process, it’s imperative to think through your brand’s goals to make sure you’ll have everything you need once the site is complete.
In order to know what functions, features, and pages you should include, it’s necessary to think through your ultimate goals. For most brands and businesses, the first goal is to increase the number of site visitors—but your work rarely ends there. Depending on the type of your brand, or the products or services you provide, you’ll want to guide website visitors to the desired action—whether that’s lead generation, increasing donations, increasing memberships, or selling more of a product.
We’ll go through the basic needs for brands, organizations, and companies, and our considerations and best practices for each. Read on!
The First Step: Driving Traffic
Increase brand awareness by putting the right information in front of the right people in an easily navigable, user-friendly website. Plus, it helps if it’s optimized for search engines—meaning it meets the criteria that search engines like Google use when they rank search results. A couple of quick best practices to make sure your site can be found online: make sure your site is fast loading and mobile friendly!
One specific feature that can help out in a myriad of ways is a blog or news section that’s easy for anyone on your team to update. Adding a blog can add value to your website in so many ways:
- Updating your website often increases its security and decreases the likelihood of getting hacked or out of date, and keeping up a blog is a simple, easy way to consistently update your site.
- Keeping a blog or news section updated gives your website more content that can match with online searches, making it easier for website visitors to find your site from relevant search keywords.
- Blog content is easy to share on social media, which is an additional avenue for website traffic to come in.
- Having content from your team on your website also adds to the authenticity of your brand experience; it’s a great way to showcase your company values, culture, and personality.
- Blogging allows you to offer helpful and free information that will help with traffic to your site and will make your brand stand out to current and potential customers.
- Finally, a brand blog can add some entertainment that will draw customers in—and can even help you to become a brand leader or stand out as an expert in your space or field.
If it seems too daunting to regularly update your blog, don’t worry—you can simply use what you’ve got. Make it an information repository of content you’ve already created, such as past marketing materials, information on your products, videos, and more.
Make it a Two-Way Street
Blog content is also a great way to increase audience engagement or compel website visitors to interact with your brand. This is an important concept—because the more your online audience engages with you, the more they’re likely to remember you and keep coming back.
With that in mind, it’s important to encourage your website visitors to engage with your brand online. For example, add social media icons or even a Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter feeds on your website to encourage visitors to follow you on social. If you sell products, encourage people to leave comments and reviews, which will not only encourage people to interact on your site but can also help your brand look more trustworthy with reviews from real people.
Similarly, your website is also a great place to generate new leads through contact forms and free content that just requires an email sign-up. A simple website form is easy for you or a developer to set up, and is basically self-sufficient, requiring little work from you. However, make sure to put in place a process to vet your leads—such as reCAPTCHA—to make sure that your forms will generate only leads, not spam.
Selling a Product Online or Collecting Leads
If you are selling a product, it’s obviously very important to have a website equipped with an e-commerce platform so you can sell directly from the website. Including a client support portal, messaging function, or just a way for clients and customers to reach out if they have problems or questions is a great way to engage your consumers and give them a great brand experience.
And on the topic of sales, a new website or online platform is a great time to set up tracking systems to drill down on your return on advertising investment. Tracking your conversions through Google Analytics and your chosen ad platforms is a great way to see how much revenue your ads generate. It’s as simple as putting some pre-generated code on the back end of your website. You can do it yourself or have your web designer do it. And if you’re running offline advertising, you can easily create a survey to ask customers, leads, and clients what brought them to your website. Even if you’re not starting with digital advertising right away, it’s good preparation to do the setup now, to make things much easier if and when you do.
The Employees-Only Section
Another more complicated piece of a website is an employee intranet—or a separate part of a website built for certain functions that only employees can access, such as checking stock or posting team members’ schedules. And even if you don’t need a separate space for employees, another type of “intranet” that may be useful to set up is a members’ section for visitors who have created accounts on your website to access members-only content, such as courses on a learning platform, shopping or account history, and more.
A well-designed and easily searchable website is a great first step for any business or organization. There’s a lot to think about when you’re designing or redesigning a website, but as long as you think through your goals and purposes first, and work with a trusted web developer, it will be a worthwhile investment in the end.
When it’s time to invest in your business’s website, choosing a website design company that “does it all” can be the best decision you make. After all, it gives you more time to focus on what matters while saving money in the long run. Plus, these companies will know your brand inside and out, making digital marketing a breeze. Not only can web-design companies create a user-friendly, responsive site, but they can help out in other crucial areas as well such as hosting, maintenance, and security.
How Do I Choose A Website Hosting Provider?
When it’s time to develop or enhance your website, a lot of decisions have to be made. These range from design and functionality, to content and search engine optimization. However, businesses tend to overlook where their site is actually hosted, which is pretty important.
What is Web Hosting?
It’s basically where your site lives online. All website files are kept on a remote server, or host. Any website you’ve ever been on hangs out on a specific server. Choose a reliable host that will keep your site live and well 24/7. You’ll need to pay a web hosting fee every month, much like paying rent.
Great Customer Support
Since the internet never sleeps, it’s important to have a provider that offers fast, knowledgeable service. You should test the response time of a hosting company before making any long-term decisions.
Uptime Track Record
While no web host can guarantee 100% uptime (when websites are alive and well), you should get someone with at least 99% uptime on average. Providers should make every effort to keep their servers up and working. Avoid small, local hosting companies. Be sure they have co-location or redundancy in case one goes down. For example, if an East Coast web server has issues and goes down, they should have West Coast servers so that your site stays up seamlessly.
Don’t skimp on hosting. The saying “you get what you pay for” couldn’t be truer here. As a business, you can’t afford to have a website down for an extended period of time. Basic shared web hosting is fine if you only generate a small amount of traffic. However, if you sell products or have huge amounts of traffic, you’ll need the best of the best. Sure, it’ll cost more upfront, but you’ll save money in the long run.
Speaking of traffic, as your business grows, your hosting provider will need to accommodate increases in site visitors. If they can’t keep up with you, then your site and customer satisfaction will suffer.
After you’ve considered what hosting features would suit your company, look for providers with five-star reviews. Do your research, and find out how long they’ve been around, customer testimonials, downtime statistics, and maintenance schedules.
Regular Website Backups
Backing up your website regularly to a remote server is important. Technology isn’t 100% reliable all the time, and the last thing your website needs is to lose everything. Providers that offer this necessity stand out among the rest.
As you can see, choosing a web-design company that provides a reliable server can make or break your online presence. For example, if your site goes down regularly, your profits will also go down regularly. You also need a company that offers continual maintenance for your website and ensures that it’s in working order, including having the latest security features.
Why Should I Care About Website Maintenance and Security?
Platforms like WordPress offer updates all the time. These keep your site running smoothly while providing an exceptional user experience for customers. Every time a new update is rolled out, it’s important to implement it quickly. Some web companies offer monthly maintenance fees to keep your website software up to date.
Updating your content management system means you get the latest bug fixes and security patches. This makes it harder for hackers to wreak havoc. Hackers don’t care if you’re a big company or a small one, they prey on those with outdated software because they’re easy targets. Security monitoring is a helpful service where a website’s code is monitored every few hours for any malicious software that’s been added for hacking purposes. Look for web-design companies that offer this.
Types of Hacker Schemes
- Defacing – This is when content is edited or replaced on a website, also known as “digital graffiti,” without the owner’s consent. This is usually done to make websites look less trustworthy to their clients. Hackers could also add politically motivated messages to promote a separate cause.
- Spam – You’ve seen spam before: emails and messages that are sent out repeatedly in bulk with phishing scams or advertisements. These can be sent to any email address associated with your site or hosting. Unfortunately, your server can get blacklisted because of spamming, preventing you from sending emails to your customers.
- Phishing – This scheme uses a customer’s trust against them to get a login, personal, or financial details. Once acquired, hackers can gain access to inboxes and other password-restricted areas.
- Malware – This term includes viruses and advertising software (adware) that can cause harm to a system. They can make changes against a user’s will or force them into a network of other hacked systems or devices controlled by the hacker.
- Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack – This is when a network of devices overloads a site or system with huge amounts of traffic or requests. This will overwhelm the system and take it offline. Your hacked site can either be a victim or part of the attack on others. Sometimes these attacks can affect other websites on the same server.
- Content injection – This is when a hacker inserts links to other websites from your site with the goal of generating traffic or click-through revenue for someone else. Unfortunately, search engines can see these random links and blacklist your website from the SERP. This means potential customers won’t be able to find you.
- Data interception – If your website handles critical data like credit card numbers or addresses, security is a must. Hackers can swipe this information and sell it to others or make purchases of their own. You need to make sure you’ve made the proper updates and implemented HTTPS to encrypt this data. Otherwise, you put your customers and business at risk.
Hiring a web design company for your business isn’t just about creating a user-friendly, functional, and appealing site. It’s also about partnering with someone who can ensure all parts of your online presence are working properly and securely.
Once you have determined the goals for your website and have ensured you have reliable hosting, maintenance and security it’s time to work on the actual design of your site.
What to Consider When it Comes to Your Website Design
Designing a website for your business can be one of the most important tasks to complete as a business owner. As one of the main voices for your business, your company’s website speaks volumes about the type of clientele you attract, the general tone of your business, and the overall quality of your product or service. Website design is no joke for a business owner, and while a well-groomed sales team or high-quality product does go a long way, the look and design of your website could mean success or failure for your business as a whole. If you are looking for ways to improve your business website or plan on starting from scratch, then consider these tips to create an eye-catching web design for your business.
Branding guidelines are an important aspect of any website or documentation that represents your business. Whether it be an internal memo, external marketing material, or your company’s web design, branding guidelines keep things consistent and clean. Several factors should be taken into account when creating branding guidelines for your business. Items such as corporate logos are an important way to help customers identify with your brand and as such, should be kept uniform across all marketing platforms including print, web, van wraps, billboards, various file formats, etc. While marketing professionals should be involved to offer expert advice and suggestions for your guidelines, online tools are available to assist companies when creating these guidelines for the first time. Canva offers excellent tips on creating branding guidelines for your business and even provides some examples of companies that have successfully branded themselves.
Website Design Strategies
Although branding on its own is important for your company as a whole, incorporating it into your website will leave a mark for those who come across your page and set an example for the company itself. Some great ways to incorporate branding into your website design include using branded colors, incorporating a font that is reader-friendly, creating a responsive/mobile-friendly design, and focusing on user-friendly functionality.
- Colors – Using branded colors from your guide is key to designing a website that creates a lasting memory about your company. While choosing the right palette may seem impossible, you are not restricted to only one. In fact, UCLA Branding Guidelines include three different color palettes: primary colors, secondary colors, and tertiary colors. This offers flexibility when creating marketing materials, building a website for the first time, or adding an additional page to your website that may require a different feel. It is important, however, to define how these palettes should be used within your guidelines. For example, UCLA Guidelines state that it is important to use the tertiary palette as a small accent to the rest of the palettes. These sort of guidelines stop designers from over-stimulating the readers or clients and prevent clashing of colors.
- Font – Use a reader-friendly font that is appropriate for the sort of business that you are running. For example, using Chiller may seem like a fun idea but most likely wouldn’t go over well for a lawyer’s firm or financial institution. And while a specific font may look good on print or a billboard, it does not necessarily mean that it would look just as nice on your website. Lastly, there are some fonts that are just plain difficult no matter why they are being used. If you are stuck on which fonts to use and avoid, Co. Design has created a list of suggestions based on a survey taken by professional web designers.
- Responsive/mobile-friendly design – Let’s face it, desktop computers are not as commonly used by consumers anymore, replaced instead by laptops and mobile as the most used devices. Therefore, creating a website that offers a responsive/mobile friendly design is more important than ever. Creating a URL that works on any platform is crucial to creating a user-friendly website, and users will quickly notice if this aspect is ignored.
- Site functionality – While branding guidelines go a long way when creating a successful business website, functionality is another crucial piece to the puzzle. Think hard about the last time you visited a website that was difficult to navigate. Chances are, you left the website pretty quickly and searched for a new website/company that fit your needs. In order for a website to offer user-friendly functionality to its visitors, several aspects should be included.
- e-commerce – Website design, sales, and marketing go hand-in-hand. Customers look for eye-catching websites that tell a story. Shopify has created a list of 30 Beautiful and Creative eCommerce designs that will help inspire any web designer.
- Newsletter sign-up – Newsletters are a fantastic way to share weekly blog posts, provide information on upcoming sales or discounts, and build an online following.
- Membership login – The importance of this feature cannot be stressed enough. The membership login page will not only offer customers a chance to place orders with ease, but it is also a great way to add new members to notification alerts or newsletters about your business. Upon registration, provide new members with the option to select these alerts in order to optimize this feature.
- Social media integration – Including social media buttons, share buttons, and keeping buttons current will allow users to share your content and do your marketing for you.
- Social sharing – Sharing your own content across social media is important to building an online presence. Creating social media accounts through online platforms like Facebook and Twitter will open a new door for your business as well as a whole new set of clients.
- Call-to-action features – Call to actions are useful tools when increasing the number of website followers. Offering a free download such as an ebook or a “Sign up for free” message in exchange for registration will make it difficult for registrants to say no.
- Video integration (marketing or how-to) – How-to videos help to demonstrate your business’s value while creating a face for your brand.
- Event registrations – Holding an upcoming event? Adding event registrations to your website will help increase the number of attendees with very little effort.
- Webinars – While webinars may seem “salesy,” they are a great way to promote your business by offering your expertise for little or no cost.
- E-learning modules – While live or online events will offer a great deal of value to your clients, e-learning provides clients with the satisfaction of utilizing your expertise even when you aren’t available.
A great place to start with your website design and development is your homepage. If you are in need of some more creative inspiration, you can check out this awesome article on tips for homepage design. Now that you understand all the important aspects of your website design, let’s talk about the final step, which is creating content that will engage your customers and increase your web traffic.
Website Content & SEO
Web design is an ever-growing industry that thousands of companies have started to utilize in the growth and branding of their corporations. Similar to traditional marketing, web content and SEO are key components to creating brand awareness and building a strong foundation for consumers to find your products. One of the largest challenges that companies face is the specific content that needs to be optimized for search engines. However, this content isn’t just for the internet; it’s really for the consumer. It’s a fine balancing act that takes precision if it’s meant to work together to create a strong image.
Search-Engine Friendly/Keyword Optimized
If you aren’t already familiar with SEO, we’ll provide a breakdown. SEO refers to search engine optimization, the process of enhancing websites so they are easy to locate by large search engines like Google and Yahoo.
To make it even simpler to understand, think about when you use Google to search for anything. Google uses search engine optimization when it locates answers to our endless questions. What you want is for your company to be one of those first-page search engine choices. To do this, you need to know how and where to utilize keywords within the content on your website for maximum searchability.
In order to construct a strong marketing persona, you’ll need to analyze customer behavior. From there, you should identify patterns from your data sets to see what consumers are looking at and where their attention was most captivated. Your persona online should directly correlate with the brand’s image and what it hopes to achieve. You wouldn’t make your company website ice cream and rainbows if you’re trying to sell construction equipment. Think about it. Know your audience.
If we think of a huge company such as Amazon, you know that they use your browsing history and previous purchases to suggest new products for you to buy. While not everyone can do this, it’s a fantastic marketing technique, and for those of us with horrible impulse control, it leads to quick purchases.
How Much Text is Too Much Text?
Readability is an extremely important concept when creating a successful web brand. No one wants to read through pages of text to find what they are looking for. You want to ensure that all the information you provide is organized and concise. If an article happens to be a bit longer, use bold keywords or phrases to break up the text. This allows for readers to skim the content and find exactly what they want without wasting time going through the motions.
It’s generally understood that a web page requires a minimum of 300 to 600 words for SEO purposes, which means you need at least 300 words for your search engine optimization to be successful. When writing for your website, try only to include the points that help to strengthen the website and deliver a persuasive presentation. Concentrate on the quality of the words and not the quantity.
While there is no set formula to a successful website, having a minimum of 10 pages for readers to search through is great for SEO optimization. Every page should serve a specific purpose, with no throwaway pages that are there to boost numbers.
There are many different factors to consider when creating web pages, such as your competition, what products/services you offer, the industry, and your overall budget. If your direct competitors have websites filled with hundreds or thousands of pages, you’re going to have a hard time competing when your website only has a handful.
Images with SEO Keyword ALT Text
A technique that many new website owners forget to use is the creation of keywords and ALT text for images. Search engine robots cannot read images. Therefore, they need text to scan and utilize for when someone is searching. Labeling images is important not only to continue to optimize searches but for users with visual and cognitive disabilities.
ALT stands for alternative information, which in this case is the information that defines images. Not all users or technology will be able to display images or apps. Having the alternative text allows for that image to still be scanned and the information used to create a specific search.
SEO Standardized URLs/Links
Using every aspect of your website will lead to a better online presence. Affiliate links can become a large part of your revenue. However, not all search engines view affiliate links as given links. Meaning, they won’t look at them as viable sources of information.
Regarding what URLs will make reading through your website easier, URLs that can be easily clicked on allow for a much simpler search. URLs attached to your website should be SEO optimized, containing keywords that will make it easy to search for. If you are unsure about why your URL isn’t working as well as you planned, try going through a few test URLs and see what kind of traffic you receive. Once you find the best combination of keywords to create a URL, stick with it.
Adding weekly content to your website through articles, downloads, and new web pages is a strong way to build traffic. The more frequently a search engine can be updated with new keywords to aid in searches, the more pages will be viewed. When search engines look at your site more frequently, you have the opportunity to achieve higher rankings based on the content you provide.
Remember that we are still talking about quality over quantity. So while it’s very important to update the website consistently, you don’t want to flood your website with subpar content. Using as many keywords as you can won’t ultimately bring you any further success.
Testimonials can establish strong credibility with potential buyers. Testimonials are great because they aren’t a sales pitch. It’s an unbiased customer that has provided their honest opinion of your product. A key to using testimonials is to choose the ones that work best. Instead of using direct recommendations of your product, try to find testimonials that provide product details that explain why the customer was satisfied with the product. Testimonials that provide specific product benefits can help boost sales.
News, Awards, Blogs, About, Services, etc.
While you don’t want to oversell your company, because it might seem like you’re trying too hard, you do want to celebrate and show off the successes. Have a page dedicated to your awards and news of potential products or things in the works.
Having a dedicated page for each specific section also makes it easier for readers to jump around from place to place on your website. With the information organized, viewers can find exactly what they are looking for without wasting time.
Keep Things Local
Public profiles on websites such as Yelp, Google, Foursquare, etc., are very important. These are all websites where customers can deliver their reviews of your company and your products. While customers can sometimes say unsavory things, these websites can turn into truly excellent marketing tools. As a business owner, it’s up to you to log into these sites and see reviews for yourself. Monitor the reviews, respond to them and build a reputable business profile for your company. Learn to use these profile and review sites as a powerful marketing tool to the thousands and thousands of people that see them every single day. Don’t hide behind the reviews; take control and build a reputation for being hands-on and great at communicating.
As you can see, there are many details to think about and work through when you’re building a website for your business. As an overview, it’s very important to first determine your business goals, then you’ll want to choose the right web hosting provider and take into consideration the maintenance and security for your site; the next step is web development and creating a web design that incorporates your branding and enhances the user experience; and finally, focus on creating content that will be beneficial for your customers and your SEO strategy. Most of these tips aren’t as hard as they might seem; it just takes a little time and focused effort to create a website that will help you achieve many of your business goals.