Web Design Tips For Small Businesses – Build a Website Your Customers Will Love
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Building a strong online presence is key to growing your small or medium-sized business. It all starts with launching your website but goes on with managing it effectively, generating traffic, and growing your audience and customer base. Whichever stage of the online journey you’re in, we have tons of tried-and-true practical tips on how to set up your online presence for greatness this year – both from our team and from guest authors.
We’re kicking off our Successful Online Presence for Small Businesses series with a guest post by Michelle Schulp, a graphic designer and front-end developer with a passion for user experience design. She also happens to be one of SiteGround’s WordPress Ambassadors. She has lined up some smart tips on how to build a website your customers will love that you can learn and start applying right away, even if you’re not a designer yourself. Dive in!
Close your eyes and imagine what’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of a website you love? Correct – the web design. You’d first remember how that website looks, before thinking about its content or anything else.
That’s why you’d want your website to look unique and memorable to attract more visitors. This is especially true for small business websites because your success depends on your site’s visitors.
To help you make your customers fall in love with your small business website, we’ve gathered a couple of useful web design tips for you.
First Steps to Take for Building A Small Business Website
The secret of your future business success is to get started. However, the first step might look scary, if you don’t know where to begin. Look no further, as we’ve got you covered with the first and most important steps for building your first small business website. Let’s begin with the following actionable advice:
Start with a good domain name
Choosing the right domain name is the first crucial step to building a successful small business. Your domain name should be user-friendly and related to your brand. Here are several useful tips to take into account when choosing your domain name:
Make your domain name user-friendly
- Choose a relevant domain extension
It’s a good idea to choose a .com domain extension for your website, as it is the most popular, trustworthy and memorable extension. Not only do some smart devices’ keyboards have a .com button, but also many people automatically type in .com at the end of domains, without giving it a second thought. Of course, if your website requires another, more relevant domain extension, you should go for it. Such examples include: .org, .gov, .edu, or the specific country domain extension, such as .uk, .au, etc. If you’re looking for some more special domain names, check out the cool domains offered by SiteGround.
- Keep an eye on the details
First and foremost, keep your domain name as short as possible. Make sure it’s easy to pronounce and spell. For this purpose, you need to avoid using hyphens, double letters, and numbers. Last but not least, consider a memorable domain name that will stick with your audience.
Consider your brand when choosing a domain name
- Make your domain stand out
To make your domain name stand out, you should come up with something unique. Research other domain names in your business sphere, use word-play with your brand name and your business niche, if possible. Make your domain name brandable: it needs to be catchy, yet it should immediately tell your audience what your business is about.
- Leave room for future growth
Not only should your domain name be related to your brand, but it should also have some room for future business growth. For example, if the original purpose of your website is to sell women’s clothes, you should consider a domain name that’s broad enough to also include selling men’s clothes in the future.
Purchase reliable website hosting with quality tech support
Once you’ve chosen your domain name, you need to host your website somewhere and that’s another important decision you need to make.
The general rule is to go for a reliable web hosting provider that has quality technical support. But how would you know which one really offers the best?
A reliable hosting provider would keep your website secure at all times from all kinds of attacks. For this purpose, they need to offer various tools and services that ensure your data and website security. SiteGround offers a security-first approach towards its customers’ websites. Among other things, we perform 24/7 server monitoring to prevent issues and apply immediate fixes, our backups are distributed across different geographical locations for quick restoration in case of a disaster, our AI-antibot system blocks millions of brute-force attempts per day, and many other security solutions will look out for your website at all times.
Purchasing a fast and reliable web hosting from SiteGround goes hand in hand with 24/7, fast, capable, and friendly support for your small business website.
Implement a content management system or e-commerce platform
You might also consider implementing a content management system (CMS) or an e-commerce platform on your website.
A CMS will help you create and manage digital content. A good CMS will not require much technical expertise from your side. When choosing a CMS for your site, consider what are your needs, as different content management systems have different purposes. For example, the most popular CMS is WordPress and it has many advantages – it’s free, flexible, easy to install, offers many useful plugins to build upon your website’s functionalities, and many more. Other popular CMSs include: Joomla!, Drupal, Weebly, and others.
If your small business is about selling goods or services, then you need to install an e-commerce platform. Again, you need to make the right choice for your website. One of the most popular small business e-commerce platforms is WooCommerce. It can easily turn your WordPress website into an online store, it has many plugins and themes available, and above all your small business will be in good hands even when it starts to grow further, as WooCommerce is highly scalable.
SiteGround clients can easily install a content management system or an e-commerce platform for their websites. They can choose from different CMSs and e-commerce solutions, when building a website. What is more, we have an in-house built WordPress Starter which makes it super easy to start your own WordPress website with just a few clicks. It offers multiple website designs and allows you to easily install the most important plugins for a fully-functioning website.
Small Business Web Design Tips
The Power of Why: A Designer’s Secret Weapon
It’s important to understand what design really is. One of the biggest myths about design is that it’s all about the way the site looks. While it’s true that designers often use visual styling as a tool, design is about more than just decoration. Rather than focusing on “making it pretty” at the very end of the process, designers are focused on identifying and solving problems from the beginning.
Design adds value by making sure all decisions are made with intention. The most important question a designer is trying to answer is not about what a site looks like, but Why something is being done. Designers don’t start with “What should this button look like?” but rather “Why do we have a button?”. By gaining a clear understanding of the entire problem, they can devise the right solution, including something creative that may not have been obvious if they were just looking at superficial details.
Knowing Your Win: Goal Setting and Calls To Action
Now that you understand the importance of Why in the design process, it’s time to turn that knowledge to your own site. In order to provide an ideal user experience for your customers, you need to be able to answer this question: Why are people visiting my site?
It sounds simple, but the question can be deceptive. When asked, many people will provide several different answers: get an account, buy a product, fill out a contact form, sign up for a newsletter. While it’s true that customers might have many options when it comes to interacting with your site, there is always one primary action that represents the most success to your business.
For a store, that might be purchasing a product. For a service provider, that might be contacting you about a service. For a membership site or social network, that might be creating an account. This action is also known as your Primary Win, and it should align with the goals of your audience.
You may have other ways that customers can interact with you (for example, as a service provider, you may also have a newsletter in addition to a contact form. As a digital product seller, you may also have a support forum in addition to a shopping cart) and these are known as secondary actions. These may have their own calls to action, but they should not distract from your Primary Win. Having many options may seem like it’s helpful by giving your customers a choice, but too many different calls to action make it hard for your customers to know how to engage with you.
Once you know your Win, you can start looking at your Calls To Action, or the language that encourages people to interact with your site. Your website probably has several different calls to action. These can be as simple as an “Add to Cart” button on a product or a “Sign Up Now” form, or they can be as complex as custom landing pages designed to convert different audiences. Make sure to evaluate each of these areas to ensure that your Primary Win is clear, and your language, content hierarchy, and design patterns are guiding your customers to taking action.
Don’t Make Me Think: Patterns & Hierarchy
The internet has been around for a while, and certain common patterns have evolved that people who are browsing the web have come to expect. For example, most websites have a header, where your company name or logo resides, usually in the upper left corner for Left-to-Right languages. The site navigation is usually found in the header or along the left side of the screen. Most websites have a footer as well, where additional navigation, legal notices, and contact information is found. The primary content is found in the middle, with supplemental content in a sidebar or aside.
User Experience expert and author Steve Krug discusses these principles in his book Don’t Make Me Think, considered one of the gold standards on web usability. He reminds us how the more mental hoops your customers have to jump through to accomplish their goals on your site, the more frustrating the experience becomes, and the less likely it is that they’re going to stick around. In general, be sure to follow these established patterns when laying out your site, to make it easier for your customers to navigate.
The content itself should also follow a hierarchical structure where the most important elements on the page are given the most visual weight. Headlines are usually larger and bolder than content, featured stories have larger images than supplemental stories. You can use visual design elements like color, typography, shape, and imagery in order to support your hierarchy, but this is often a part where website owners struggle.
Visual Design: Less Is More
When it comes to making decisions about colors, fonts, and other visual elements of your site, which of these sounds more like you?
Perhaps you’re excited by the possibilities and you dive right in, adding splashes of color everywhere, trying out a bunch of new fonts, and overcrowding your pages with tons of graphical embellishments and icons and backgrounds and effects. Or, maybe you find the endless options overwhelming and you’re unsure where to begin, so you struggle to even get started adding any content at all.
In both cases, you will benefit from the guidance of a few simple rules following the principle of Less Is More.
Limit your color palette to a neutral color (like black or dark gray) with 1-2 accent colors, which are usually determined by your brand colors. If you are planning on using these accent colors for text or backgrounds, make sure there is enough contrast that your content is readable. Adobe Color and Color Safe are great resources if you need help creating a beautiful, accessible color palette for your site.
When choosing fonts, pick one font for your primary headings and one font for your main (body) text. The font for your body text should be easy to read in smaller, denser paragraphs, while the font you choose for your headings can take on a little more personality since it will be displayed in larger sizes. Google and Typekit both offer font-pairing tools that can let you experiment with different combinations. Make sure to think about the weight and color of your type as well! Thinner, lighter fonts become harder to read at small sizes, as do very bold fonts.
For even more practical advice on web design for small business owners, watch our webinar with Megan Gersch, Web Designer, Creative Branding & Marketing expert with 15+ years of experience:
Small Business Web Design Examples
If you’re still not sure how and where to begin, we’ve got you covered. Here is a selection of three examples of small business websites hosted with SiteGround that will inspire you to get started:
Maua Gang is about unique, handmade, eco-friendly soft toys. The website design reflects all about the brand. First and foremost, the website colors are all over the spectrum. What is more, they are bright and bold, as they represent soft toys for children. When the user hovers over the items on the home page, such as buttons and different options, they either zoom in, or change their color to attract more attention. Since this is an online store, in the shop section of the website, when the user hovers over the items’ images, they see them from both sides – front and back.
Sebastien Bicard is a wedding and elopement photographer, based in Northern California. As you might expect, the website design focuses on his photographs. However, the website design has some subtle elements that represent the whole idea behind his work. First and foremost, as this is elopement and intimate wedding photography, the whole website design creates a sense of intimacy, as if the website is telling the user a story while they scroll down to the bottom of the page.
This sense of intimacy is created by the photographs which picture only brides and grooms, rather than big weddings, the colors are also very soft and the design looks elegant and minimalistic.
There is another subtle tool that creates the sense of storytelling within the website design. There are two types of thin lines that appear on the homepage – vertical and horizontal. They seem to make the story flow visually and appear in between important sections, such as featured photos and locations, recent articles, Sebastian’s story, and finally lead the user to the CTA at the bottom to start their own journey.
Anna Lee is a music, tour and brand photographer living in Los Angeles. Her website design reflects her work as a photographer, and the main word that stands out visually on the homepage is namely “photographer”. It’s marked with a different color that is also chosen on purpose. If the user clicks on the blue “photographer” word, they logically get redirected to the page that tells more about Anna Lee and the first thing they find out is that she’s “the girl with blue hair”. From there on, the user sees some numbers that represent interesting facts about her and show her credibility as a professional.
If you want to look through the lens of Anna Lee, read more about her in our series about women-owned online businesses on SiteGround.
The web design for your small business is a continuous work that might need updates and upgrades. But once you have the basis with these website design tips and inspirational examples, it’ll be easier to start, build, and grow your website and business.
The blog post was originally written by Michelle Schulp, and later on updated by the SiteGround team.