A website is a basic requirement of business. And the process of creating your website is one of the most important steps you will take in starting or rejuvenating your business, second only to establishing your brand. And yet, in spite of its importance, the path of website creation is often prey to folly.
In fact, when beginning to craft the website that they hope will make their businesses stand out, many otherwise savvy business owners often fall victim to common misconceptions, dangerous shortcuts, and poor guidance. Well, you may be asking, how can we go about this important process in the right way, then? The key is to identify those potential pitfalls — and to grasp what your small business website should really be about — before you begin.
Here are the most common fallacies that trouble the process of new website development:
Your website should look cool to your — or your designer’s — competitors.
Here’s the problem with this approach: your competitors aren’t going to buy from you or hire you. And neither are your designer’s competitors. For one thing, this isn’t high school, and no one cares what designer labels you’re wearing. But also, website design isn’t about your designer adding another edgy piece to their portfolio, either. Your customers truly don’t care if you’ve got the latest in Flash animation or the most melodramatic splash page. What people do care about is that they can find the information they are looking for quickly and easily, and that that information is valuable. And that means the gimmicks–and definitely the splash page–have to go.
It’s okay to have your website design done cheaply or for free by a friend or relation.
So maybe you decide not to hire a designer — because you’ve heard all about how your friend’s kid is a whiz with computers, a regular tech genius, and you see a chance to get your website done on the cheap. At first you’re excited, and then you start to realize that developing a professional, polished website that works isn’t as easy as you thought.
You see the results, and you’re unhappy. You don’t even want to tell people you have a website, it’s so bad. Not only did you waste your time and maybe some money, but you lost out on potential new business, too. Remember — “Lo barato sale caro” — cheap things turn out to be expensive. Whether you pay in time or money, your website shouldn’t look like your “friend’s husband who is good with computers” built it for you. If it does, you’ll lose time, money, and sales.
A website is nothing more than a glorified brochure to show people you exist.
Gone are the days of settling for a one-page online presence or brochure website. Your website can no longer be just an ad to announce that you exist. It can no longer be a glorified brochure. The reason is simple: a bare-bones website, say one with maybe three pages and barely any content, sends the message that your site is there only because someone told you that you had to have one. Even worse, it sends the message that you don’t think your site is worth paying attention to, that you don’t really value what it can do for you or your visitors.
You just posted something pretty and left it to sit there? Time to rethink that website.
So What is Your Website Really About?
Now that you’ve let all of those fallacies go, you are ready for the keys to the kingdom. Here are the truths that you must know in order to make that website work for you:
It’s about your customers.
Your business website has nothing to do with your competitors or flashy design. While the design should be good enough to reinforce and enhance your brand, position you as an expert, and build your credibility, it’s sole focus is really your target market and serving them to the absolute best of your ability. Your website’s very reason-for-being is to provide the information that your ideal customer needs as quickly and easily as possible. So your brand, your logo, and your website design and features should all appeal to one thing: your customers.
It’s about optimization and automation.
Think of your website, for a moment, as an ideal employee. This employee knows everything about your business, does wonders for expanding your sales, presents you in the best possible light, and does the things you need to get done without your having to ask. Who wouldn’t want an employee like that? You can have one, with well-planned website optimization and automation.
Website optimization is really SEO — search engine optimization. Your website should be written and updated regularly so that search engines can find it and so that it ranks high in any search for your niche offerings. Automation refers to the ability of your website to respond to your visitors’ inputs for you, with auto-responding email messages and the compilation of your contact list.
Optimization and automation have two clear benefits:
- To help search engine robots find you, increasing your search engine rankings and traffic, and
- To facilitate the user’s experience of your website, making it easy and pleasurable to interact with
You can have the most amazing, fantastic, gorgeous website design ever seen, but if no one can find the site, and it’s not working for you, it will have been a waste of money.
It’s about clear messaging and logical organization.
We’ve all visited sites that are so poorly designed they almost force us to click away from them as quickly as possible. Hence the maxim: Web design should facilitate, not frustrate. To foster the best possible experience, your website design should focus on organizing and presenting the information clearly:
- Content must be easy to read and should guide users through the site.
- Each page should have one, clear goal that encourages some action for users to take, whether clicking on a link to learn more, signing up for a newsletter, downloading an irresistible free offer, or commenting on a blog post.
- The messaging should be straightforward, the options for action unmistakable.
- To generate a site that offers that much ease-of-use, you must plan the flow of information systematically and hierarchically, like a choreographer arranging a dance to music.
It’s about synergy and content.
Speaking of dancing and music, let’s imagine synergy. It sounds exciting, doesn’t it? That’s because synergy equals creation: synergy is the interaction and cooperation of two or more people to produce an effect greater than the sum of their separate effects. The modern, business-savvy website is all about this interactive, cooperative energy. It really is so much more than an online ad. It is, instead, a genuine hub of interaction, a digital place where real people go to learn, share, and engage in commerce. And that wonderful combination of effects, synergy, happens on websites where content is center-stage.
So first and foremost, your website should be a nucleus of valuable, timely (regularly updated) content that people can relate to — fun and interesting content, enhanced with personal touches. Remember, people do business with those whom they trust. So use your site as a launching ground for building new relationships through content that speaks with people. Invite communication and interaction and have fun doing it. If you can position your website as the hub of activity and go-to resource for your niche, you will fill your marketing pipeline or marketing funnel with a consistent stream of new prospects and new customers. And, you will soon increase profits, too.
It’s about standing out in the right way.
The lessons are probably clear enough, but worth summarizing: I don’t want to stand out to my competitors, but to my customers. I don’t want to stand out like a sore thumb or a flashy, sequin-clad fashion explosion, but because I provide fresh, fun, valuable content that logically organized. I don’t want people to forget me as quickly as they would a page in the phone book, but I do want my optimization and automation features to remind them I’m there and offering the best, most expert content. And I don’t want to just stand there, but to interact and invite ongoing interest and interaction.
The only way you can make these wonderful things happen… Is to steer clear of the common pitfalls, work with someone who knows how to translate your brand into a full-featured website, begin with the end in mind, and know in advance what your small business website is really about.