Planning Your Small Business Website – From Start to Finish

Saving you headaches and money, while maximizing profits.

Small business web site design is a critical aspect of marketing your company. With so many different components to a strong online presence, even small web sites require a lot of expertise. At each step of the way, there are technical decisions which need to be made. Doing things correctly the first time can save you a lot of time and money in the long run. But, without a thorough understanding of the small business web site design process, it’s easy to make some common and costly mistakes.

In this industry, we’ve seen three major decisions that make a huge difference in the success of a small business web site.

Buy Your Own Domain and Hosting

When you first establish your web site, you will need to purchase the domain name. This decides where on the internet your site will live and directs users to the appropriate location where your website is stored. Many people make the mistake of letting another person – often a friend, family member or web developer – purchase their domain name. This can be a problem because managing that domain name can be difficult if that person becomes hard to reach. Every year, you will have to renew your domain name to retain ownership. In fact, we’ve seen people lose their great domain names after losing contact with the domain name owner. This is because they let the domain name expire and somebody else purchased it before they could renew.

Another issue with domain name purchase is that it will often be offered for free with a hosting package. Buy your domain name separately from your hosting company. Buying your domain separately makes sure that you and only you have access to your domain name. Web developers will often need access to your hosting account and if you provide them login information to the same place your domain is stored it creates an unnecessary risk to your business.

When it comes to purchasing your hosting, strong web sites will need a specific server configuration, and one should verify that their hosting company offers this support. Specifically, the Joomla! CMS – used by Simple CMS Design – requires a LAMP server. LAMP stands for Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP – all of which are required to make Joomla! (and other content management systems) run properly. These software components are widely used, free to use, and completely secure. A LAMP server will provide you with a wide variety of uses and functions while remaining cost effective.

Use a Content Management System

A content management system (CMS) like Joomla!, WordPress, and Drupal is a great way to build your web site. It provides the advantages of online security, scalability, compatibility, and ease of use – without the cost of purchasing expensive software. The thriving open source community provides continuous support and security updates. When you are ready to expand to an online store or add new pages, it’s very easy to do.

On the other hand, there are also paid CMS services which work well for specific needs. Simple CMS Design will help you select the best CMS for your web project.

Hire a Professional Web Designer

Although many of the great CMS tools are relatively easy to get started with, making a great web site still requires a deep level expertise. In such a fast changing world, one must work in web design professionally to truly stay up to date. Many people feel that they can get started with a simple web site on their own, only to find themselves spending endless hours trying to solve common problems or to end up with an ineffective and non-profitable website. Because a professional web developer goes through this process regularly, they can move much more quickly and save you a lot of headache.

Furthermore, there is always a trade off between the time you spend working on your web site and the time you spend working on other aspects of your business. It makes sense to have an expert manage your web site needs.

Common Small Business Web Site Problems

In our years of experience, we have seen a huge variety of small business web site problems. In this post, we discuss the most urgent problems we see as we work on small business web site design.

Although most small businesses today have web sites, they are usually not doing as much work for the company as they could. Some companies might even go out of their way to create a mobile version of their site. Unfortunately, such organizations are failing to see the bigger picture: Small business web sites should be built to generate new client leads. This is what will ultimately increase your profits.

No Calls to Actions

Although most sites we see do have contact information listed, it is usually hard to find. In fact, it might only be listed on one page of the site. Furthermore, the content of the site usually does not lead the visitor to this information.

Small business owners and marketing staff need to ask themselves, “Why do we have a web site, in the first place?” The answer is usually that you are interested in getting new clients to do something. You might want them to visit your store. You might want them to call you on the phone. Or, you could want them to sign up for an email list so you can send them promotions.

The problem is that most small business websites don’t make these intentions clear. This means that even if people visit your site, it isn’t doing your company any good, because no conversion is happening.

Lack of Content

Unfortunately, most small business web sites do not receive very much traffic. Furthermore, the few visitors who do pass through the site often can’t even find the information they need.

Imagine for a moment going to a going to a car sales company to buy a new vehicle. You arrive at the lot only to find that all of the cars are covered in giant black drapes. When you ask the sales associate what kinds of cars they sell, and just replies that they sell new and used vehicles in Boise, Idaho. Then, he tries to hand you a business card (which has a very nice logo). The sales associate then walks away, explaining that you have to call the phone number to find out more information. Would you want to do business with this company?

Unfortunately, most small business web sites create user interaction scenarios that are frighteningly similar to the situation described above.

By clearly explaining the services or products that you offer, visitors on your web site become empowered by information. They know exactly what they can get from your company – and that helps them make the decision to reach out to you directly.

Lack of Search Engine Optimization

A decade ago, most people used phone books to find businesses which offered the services they were looking for. This is not the case today.

Because most people use search engines to find services and products on the internet, it is very important that your website appears near the top of the list. Very rarely to people browse past the first page of search engine results. But, thousands of Boise, Idaho residents use search engines to find new products and services every single day.

Conclusion

It is surprising how often individuals forget the very purpose of their small business web site – to increase profits. Each of the problems listed are impediments to the implementation of profitable small business web sites.