Whether you’re already in business or thinking of starting one, the next item on your to-do list should be to create a website … or give the one you have a mini-facelift or maybe even a complete makeover. Wondering what you should be looking for in a small business site builder? Read on.
Updating an existing website is especially important if you haven’t changed your site layout or design in more than five years. Just like clothing fashion, there are fads and trends that evolve, change and progress over time, affecting visitor expectations in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Think about font use, site maps, images and how fast your site is loading in comparison to competitors.
Internet users have become much more sophisticated and demanding, expecting a lot more from their online web experiences. The most notable change is the rise in mobile devices used to access the internet. Smartphones are a game changer. Has your website kept up?
Start off smart
When determining if you need a small business website builder, you should first answer this question:
Even if he’s a terrific mechanic, you would never hand over a pair of scissors. The same must be true of your website design. That means resisting the penny-wise, pound-foolish impulse to hand over your website design to your teenage son, daughter, cousin, niece, nephew or neighbor — don’t do it!
First and foremost, your website is a business asset that might one day have considerable residual value.
You’d be amazed at the prices people have paid for websites (and the corresponding domain names) built for a truly kaleidoscopic variation of audiences. That is the beauty and magnificence of the world wide web and its limitless potential.
- Insurance.com — $35.6 million
- VacationRentals.com — $35 million
- PrivateJet.com — $30.2 million
- Internet.com — $18 million
- 360.com — $17 million
- Insure.com — $16 million
- Fund.com — £9.99 million
- Sex.com — $13 million
- Hotels.com — $11 million
- Porn.com — $9.5 million
Second, and almost as important, is to fully grasp what a website is today in contrast to technologies of the past. If you are old enough to remember Yellow Pages phone books (the printed kind), you’ll remember that all you needed back then was a business name — preferably one that started with “A, AA, or AAA” — and an ad listed under your industry category (plumber, dentist, engineer, florist, etc).
The printed directories have been overtaken by Google and other search engines, such as Yahoo!, Bing and Baidu.com for the Chinese language market. Although it now serves a similar purpose, a website is much more complex than it was to take out a Yellow Pages telephone book ad.
What all great websites share
It’s no longer enough to put up a static web page with your business contact information. The websites that succeed today all have:
- A great business name and brand position.
- A memorable domain name.
- High-quality imagery and visuals that reinforce the name/brand.
- Secure, reliable hosting to ensure quick page loads (3 seconds or faster).
- A pleasurable and enjoyable user experience for visitors (easy navigation, simple layout).
- Search engine optimisation (SEO) so search engines can index the site properly, ensuring that people can find it.
- Credibility creators such as customer reviews to quickly establish trust in your audience.
The best sites also have interactive components like polls, surveys and audio/video elements to engage visitors while demonstrating to the search engines that the site is dynamic, active and current (up-to-date).
How to choose the best site builder for you
There are countless options for you to choose from, each with a different approach and corresponding pros and cons. Believe it or not, you can do it yourself with the easy-to-use GoDaddy Website Builder. Imagine … a DIY website in less than an hour!
If you’re more technically savvy (or willing to learn), you could build a site on your own with WordPress, the web’s favorite content management system. Thanks to a dazzling array of themes and plugins, WordPress gives you a high degree of control over how your website will look and work.
Of course, if you’re not keen to go it alone, you could hire a local designer to turn your website dreams into reality. This is often the best choice if you have special requests — and the resources to pay someone else to carry them out.
Your website checklist
Whatever path you choose, you need to tick this checklist to creating a great website first:
What type of website are you building?
What features do you need?
Allow website users to create user accounts
The ability to connect with third-party services
The option to run advertisements
What resources will you need?
Who will build the website?
Who will manage the website once it’s built?
What is your budget to create and then maintain the website?
What is your timeline for the launch of the website?
Read “7 steps to plan a website” for more details.
Site building best practices
Let’s close with a few key suggestions on how to create a great website:
- Put the most important information above-the-fold (as some visitors won’t scroll down).
- Make your website intuitive to use to avoid visitor frustration.
- Write to the specific people you want to influence and persuade.
- Keep your design clean and crisp.
- Make sure you have a customised 404 Page Not Found message.
Whatever else you do, make sure your website loads quickly and works on all devices (desktops, tablets and mobiles). The former is a function of high-quality hosting; the latter an element called responsive design — both are built into GoDaddy’s Website Builder and Managed WordPress.
Small business site builders summed up
The world has changed from the days of local Yellow Pages phone book listings. With the global reach of the internet, anyone anywhere with a smartphone can access any business or person in the world, assuming they have an online presence.
Cutting through that clutter is the difficult part. Hopefully with the many tips provided here, you’ll be able to get one step ahead and stay ahead!