Developing a business website can broaden your reach, expand your audience and help you achieve your goals, but it’s not easy and won’t happen overnight. As with any business task, determining your needs and defining your goals helps you craft an effective website. Research your Web hosting, website design and copy, then build your dream site.
If you’re starting from scratch, you’ll need a domain name that describes your business, and a business hosting plan that will hold all of your website’s files, images, media content and more. You can reserve a domain, especially if you think some other business may take the domain name, and then take your time developing the site. Many places offer small business web hosting plans that are budget-friendly. To choose between plans, determine what each offers. Compare space, bandwidth, uptime and customer support. Especially for small business owners, 24/7 customer support can be invaluable when it comes to building a website and troubleshooting problems.
Purchasing your domain and selecting your host is the easy part; building your website comes much harder. To design a website that meets your needs, spend time thinking about what your website should do. Are you hoping to spread product information via word-of-mouth, drive sales with an e-commerce portal, leverage intellectual capital to increase your brand or achieve another goal?
Once you have a goal in mind, let your goal define your website organization and design. An e-commerce site will need a very different design from an informational site. The e-commerce site should be able to support large image files and the designer must create it to be easy to use. An informational site will need to showcase thought leadership through blog posts, social media or downloadable presentations or white papers. It should provide more contextual information than a commercial site.
As you brainstorm your website goals and design, consider the conversion or the desired goal for users. If you have an e-store, then you’ll probably want the conversion to be a successful purchase. If you’re trying to build brand awareness, you may want to harvest emails for your newsletter or get website visitors to like your brand on a social network.
While you cannot make users convert, you can design the website to strongly guide users toward conversion. For example, making your online shopping cart easy to use, offering multiple shipping modes to accommodate different users and providing clear, up-front policies helps users who visit your site to feel comfortable purchasing from you. Conversely, not stating your policies, not putting shipping costs on your website and choosing a difficult shopping cart widget will drive sales down.
Once you’ve put all of this thought into your website, you can build the site you need — or hire a web developer to build it for you. While it can seem like a long lead time to a website, you’ll actually end up with a better product when you put time in to develop your goals and information architecture beforehand.