Getting your Small Business Online: tips for planning your first website | Webnames Blog

Getting your Small Business Online: tips for planning your first website

Simple websites between one and a dozen pages, commonly referred to as “brochure” websites, are widely used by small businesses and organizations to accomplish two things on the Internet: get found on search engines and provide information about products/services to potential customers 24/7. The term “brochure website” is actually something of a misnomer. One of the worst mistakes a small business can make is duplicating their marketing material online.

A good brochure website should contain the following key elements:

1. Introduction (eg. the "Homepage")
2. Explanation of the business or organization’s purpose, mission and goals (eg. the “About Us” page)
3. Description of the products or services (eg. "Products and Services" page)
4. Contact Information (eg. a “Contact Us” page)

Here are a few examples of brochure websites built with Webnames.ca’s Web Builder that get it right:

Triple T Charters, fishing and whale watching excursions
Westminister Floors, custom hardwood flooring installations
Bridal Blossom, European floral designs for weddings

While this type of Internet presence is sufficient for many small businesses, here are some additional things to consider if you have a wider scope in mind for your first website:

1. Keep your message simple. Keep your copy and sentences short, especially on your homepage.

The old saying "you never get a second chance to make a first impression," is especially true of business websites. It's important that your homepage convey what you do, as well as what you are about, quickly and unambiguously. Use clear, simple copy to say: "This is who we are, this is what we do, and these are our values," then link to informational page for those need more detail.

Remember, the worst thing you can do to a potential customer is make them feel confused. Try your message focused and simple and avoid providing excess supplementary information.

2. Make your copy easy to read…

The attention span of surfers is short, so one surefire way to lose them is present a dense wall of copy. It's intimidating, visually off-putting and extremely challenging to read. Simplify your visitor's experience by creating easily scannable pages. This can be achieved by using visual cues like bullets, highlighting keywords and messages, as well as using subtitles, short paragraphs and single columns when laying out informational pages. Think print-friendly.

And here’s some great advice from professional copywriter Sheena Daniels on writing winning web copy.

3. Keep navigation consistent: menus, links and sitemap.

One of your website goals should be driving visitors to the information they are looking for. New visitors need to find things quickly. Returning visitors desire a predictable experience. Simple drop-down or tabbed menus are likely sufficient for most small business websites. It may not be cutting edge, but if you maintain the same navigation throughout your pages starting with your homepage your visitors will find what they need.

If your website copy contains hyperlinks, try to keep them consistent throughout your entire website. Choose one colour, make sure they are underlined and always let the visitor know what to expect after clicking through. And don't forget the sitemap, it will benefit both your visitors and search engine ranking.

4. When it comes to graphics and images, less is more

Choose graphics and images carefully, all you really need is one or two to support your message. If you sell product, accurate, attractive, professionally photographed images of your merchandise are crucial (see Bridal Blossoms above).

Keep animation, banners, buttons and colours to a minimum whenever possible. If you can't forgo your Flash intro or product spotlight, provide visitors the option to "Skip" the Flash and receive the content in a less stylized format. Remember, the more you have going on, the longer it takes your pages to load.

Plan your website to be simple, then add to it strategically. Good online experiences are created by clear communication and meeting expectations. If you get these core things right, you’ll have a website poised to grow with your business.

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Small Business Website Highlights and Customer Profiles
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