To make it in today’s world, every business needs a website. However, putting an amateurish page together just for the sake of having one up is not only a waste of money--it will reflect poorly on your business and your brand in a digital world with high expectations. According to Marketo, about 96 percent of new website visitors are not ready to buy, but your website could be the deciding factor behind a sale. It doesn’t matter what or how you try to sell, your website should be carefully crafted with an eye toward that key end goal.
So how do you get there? While the path will be unique for each business, some basic guidelines and best practices can keep you from making simple mistakes. Rather than treating it like a white elephant or something to be ashamed of, make your website work for you with these simple tips:
1. Don’t design it yourself (or hire your nephew) — Web design is both an art and a science. Unless you’re an experienced designer, your first foray into building a website is probably not going to end well. You can’t just pick a WordPress or Squarespace template and call it a day; these platforms make it quick and easy to pull simple pages together, but the formats probably aren’t what you need to convert visitors into buyers. A website needs to appear trustworthy, and thoughtful design, content and interactive elements can draw new users in. Investing in quality graphic design pays off when customers mention your helpful, modern website.
2. Do your homework — Unfortunately, great web design can’t be purchased at the mall (for now). And while you can get the bare bones of a functioning website up for free, you get what you pay for. It’s worth spending some time to find a web designer that meets your needs. While websites can be incredibly expensive, they don’t need to be. Consider what you need the site to accomplish: are you trying to sell a product or a service? How many pages do you need to highlight its benefits? Do you need a shopping cart or blog? Outline what you think you need, and find examples you like for a designer to reference. Once you’re clear on what you want, seek out multiple bids from a variety of sources. You might be able to find a local design firm within your budget, but depending on where your business is located you might find a suitable match through an online marketplace like Fiverr, which connects you to a global community of freelancers. Marketplaces that have a high degree of transparency through reviews and past work can be a great place to start looking for affordable web design work without fear of the unknown.
3. Update everything regularly — Make sure you know how to update your website regularly; it’s an extension of your brand and needs to evolve with the business. If you think about it like a brick-and-mortar store, you wouldn’t let your shop fill up with cobwebs, would you? Websites need TLC. Clip art from 1999 or photos shot on your iPhone are not going to convince purchasers. Freshen up the site with client case studies or reviews, new offerings and graphics. Just make sure all the content was created for your website or licensed for your use — you can get in trouble for simply taking other people’s work off Google.
Invest the time and resources in finding a good web designer that can build the right site for you, for the right cost. Online platforms make talented designers looking for opportunities all over the world available to you. That research, capital and expert work is guaranteed to drive more return in the long run than a weekend spent tinkering with a DIY website editor.
Dan Bochichio has been developing websites for over 15 years and is the co-founder of Bocain Designs, a web development company in upstate New York. Every day, Dan helps small businesses strengthen their online presence. His services can be found at: https://www.fiverr.com/boomlandjenkins