In this article:
- Before you start: what do you need to know about designing a website?
- How to build your website
- Best practices for designing an effective business website
- Additional resources for your online marketing strategy
Designing and building a website is an essential part of marketing your business online, even for super-small, one-person concerns. Think of your business website as an extension of your business or a 24/7 sales representative that is constantly feeding your information to potential customers.
If you don’t have a business website yet or want to create a new one, you’re in luck. We’re going to walk you through the basic steps of planning and designing your website. We’ll also provide additional resources to help along the way.
Before you start designing your website
The planning process is almost more important than actually building the website. Before you ever start designing your site, you should have a good idea of what you want it to look like, how you want your pages laid out, and what kind of content your site will have.
What pages do you want on your website?
Content is king. You can’t have a good or useful website if you don’t have relevant content that helps guide your visitors down the sales funnel. So what kind of content do you need? What pages will you have?
The kind of content that you have can really help guide the design of your site, too.
Common pages for a basic business website might include the following:
- Services or products
Determine what kind of content you want on your website and start writing it up before you start designing your site. This will make the design process go much smoother if you have content to actually place on your site as you build it.
You may also like: Important market research questions to ask your customers
As you think about the pages that you want, also be thinking about how to organize your site. What pages will you place in the main navigation? Will you have interlinking between pages for customers to have multiple ways to access a page?
If you’re not sure what to put on your website, check out other websites for businesses within your industry.
What do you want your website to look like?
It’s always a good idea to think about what you want for the layout of your website before you start building it. This will guide you in the process and make it easier, rather than testing out every different option that your website builder has available (there are likely tens if not hundreds of different configurations to choose from).
Look at other websites to see what elements you like. Do you want a big home page banner with a large image or video background? Do you like the accordion layout for an FAQ page? Do you want a contact form on your contact page? Do you prefer rounded pictures or straight edges? All of this will play into the look of your website.
One key thing to consider here: always keep your brand at the forefront of your design. Your website should feel like an extension of your business, so make sure it looks that way too.
Think about the color scheme that you want that matches your brand.
What materials/assets should you gather before putting your site together?
Besides your written content, there are several other assets you may need to get together before you start building your website.
- High-quality images
- Product information
- PDFs and other resource-type documents
- Any other media you might want
Pick out your domain name
It’s always a good idea to at least have some domain names picked out for your website before you get started, even if you haven’t purchased them yet.
Some website builders will let your purchase a domain through their platform with a subscription to their hosting fees. Or you may want to go through a third-party domain registrar like GoDaddy or BlueHost.
To see what domains are available, visit one of these third-party registrars or the website builder you intend to use and search for the domains that you want. They will show you what is available and provide alternatives if your first pick is not available.
How to design your simple business website
Once you have your site planned out, it’s time to start the design process.
First, you’ll want to find a website builder that fits the needs of your business. There are several different options available here, but some of the easier (and cheaper) options are Squarespace and Wix.
Want more options? Check this out: 5 best DIY websites for small businesses on a budget
A website builder is a platform that generally has prebuilt templates that you can choose from to build your website. Most templates are easy to customize to fit the design that you are looking to create.
For most website building platforms, you don’t even have to call anyone to get started. You just sign up on the platform you want, choose your template, and start designing. You’ll be able to easily add the sections that you want into your website and create new pages.
Want a deeper look? Go here: How to build your own business website (step-by-step walkthrough)
When you are done putting together your website on the platform that you choose, you may need to sign up for a subscription or pay for the web hosting and domain fees. So be sure to have your credit card handy in order to get your site launched quickly.
Best practices for designing your own website
We have a few best practices to help guide you along your web design journey.
Keep your domain name simple
A long and hard-to-spell domain name is not going to provide a very friendly experience for your customers. Try to find something simple and easy to remember. This will also be useful for your business emails.
Make sure your brand is prominent
You want your customers to recognize this new website as your business, your brand. Make sure your logo is loud and proud on your home page (it doesn’t have to be huge, but keep it prominent).
Also make sure that the colors, fonts, and other styles on your website are reminiscent of your brand. If you don’t have branding guidelines, now might be a good time to implement some.
Write unique content
Don’t copy and paste content from other websites. You wouldn’t think we should have to say this, but you’d be surprised how often this happens. Unique content will help you develop the tone that you want to set with your customers.
Google can also detect when you have content copied from other websites, and that could hurt your search engine visibility. If you’re not comfortable writing your own content, find a freelance writer or employee to help you out.
Use high-quality images (and other media)
Media will help diversify your website and keep your audience engaged with your content. Images to click through and videos to watch help increase the engagement on your site.
That being said, make sure that you are using high-quality images. Blurry images and slow-loading videos are a sure way to lose some credibility with potential customers. You might want to make sure to have your site reviewed by a competent web developer to make sure it’s loading as quickly as possible.
If you can’t afford a professional photographer, that’s okay. Most phones can take images that have good quality for websites. And you can also look through free stock photo sites like Unsplash to find beautiful images.
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Keep it clean and simple
Remember that less is more. A busy website with too much information, or flashy images and videos, or—Zeus forbid—sounds on one page can quickly become overwhelming for your visitors.
Keep your website well-organized so that your visitors can quickly find the information they are looking for.
Pay close attention to how you set up your navigation bar. Ask several people to try to find a particular part of your site during the design process. Pay attention to any hiccups or anything people find counterintuitive.
Many times, website designers create great-looking sites but the user experience is so confusing as to make the entire website pointless from a business perspective.
Include a prominent CTA (call to action)
Why do you have a website in the first place? To provide more information for your customers, sure, but also to get more sales!
Make sure that you have call-to-action prominently placed on your home page and contact page (at the very least) to help guide new customers down the sales funnel.
This could be a phone number in your header, a “call now” button, or a “book appointment” link that points to the contact page or your online scheduling app, or even “order now” if you have taken the time to set up your online store.
Additional resources for your online marketing strategy
A website is just the first step (and a very important step at that) towards improving your online visibility.
There are several other things that you can and should be doing to help grow your reputation online and show up in the search engines.
Here are a few resources that can help you get started:
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