In this module, we will talk about the importance of having a website. We will also cover the features to focus on in order to make your website amazing.
In this chapter, I will talk about the importance of a website as your online blueprint and a platform to provide your customers with all necessary information on your business.
If you run a small business, having a website is absolutely necessary. In today’s world, before going to a restaurant, people check the menu (and then the reviews!) online, before having their shoes fixed, they check the available options in their neighborhood and their opening times. You could argue that everything happens online nowadays! Basically, if you’re not online, you might as well not exist. The chances of traditionally-run businesses to find customers are very thin nowadays, as having a strong online presence went from a great marketing strategy to a necessity.
In this article guide, I will outline the step-by-step process of creating your own website for a small business. There are several things you need to familiarise yourself in order to get the know-how on how to set up your own website. As everything, it requires work, but it’s far from impossible!
Pros and cons of creating a small business website
Having a website taps you into an enormous source of potential customers
As I said in the introduction – Google is the hub for all online activity. Having your foot in the door of the biggest search engine (but also consequently in others like Bing or Yahoo) will expose you to people who might be looking for products or services that you offer!
Whether your website is going to serve as an online store or an eCommerce platform, or simply as an online version of your business card, customers are going to be able to find you. And that’s exactly what counts!
People use the Internet just like they used to use phone books
When looking for services, people are more than likely to look online. So, if your business operates in a small niche of, for example, carpenters around the UK’s city of Lancaster, people looking for new furniture will be able to find you by typing keywords such as “carpenter lancaster” or “furniture carpentry lancaster” into Google. Otherwise, in order to find you, they’d have to actually have to go past your workshop! A website bridges this gap and allows businesses to be found much more easily! It’s available 24/7 and accessible from any place on Earth – even if your small business is located in the UK, you might get customers from the other hemisphere.
With a website, you will be able to start ranking in search engines
That’s a bit of a no-brainer to be fair. Everybody uses Google to find something. Having a website means being able to make it possible for your business to actually get found. As I mentioned before, people tend to check the places before making a choice where to go. Without a website, you will not even be considered in the choice-making process.
Having a website means that you can “pimp” your search engine visibility by the means of SEO. Your ultimate aim is to be able to find your website on the first SERP (search engine result page) – the closer to the top the better!
Cons of having a website
Well, to be completely honest, there are none! The only drawback would be the time and initial budget you need to spend to get your website up and running, but hey, it’s your business, so I assume that making it successful is a cause that’s close to your heart! Investing in a website will bring nothing but an increased ROI!
The aims of having a website for a small business
In the ancient times before the Internet took over our lives (so like, 30 years ago?), businesses used focused on different advertising channels as they do today. TV, newspapers, billboards and the radio were the main paid channels for marketing. They still play a huge role in contemporary advertising but are being slowly overshadowed by the Internet. Small businesses in the past were not likely to have enough budget to put up a billboard or a TV ad – they had to rely on the word-of-mouth marketing and on people simply walking past their offices.
As the traffic moves to the Internet, so should your marketing actions. A website is likely to costs much less (I’ll cover that in more detail later on) than a billboard or a TV ad, but it serves a similar purpose. A website is a way to get your business found – this is its ultimate aim.
Another aim, which a website for a small business needs to fulfill is to give an accurate description of what do you actually do. You need to include info such as: the history of your business (your values, vision and mission included!), contact info, products/services and prices. Having a website is one thing – making it informative is another!
In this chapter, you will read about the factors you should take into account when choosing your domain name as well as your hosting.
How to come up with a perfect domain name for your small business website
A domain name is the unique bit of the URL that describes your website. You can find it in the URL bar. It looks like that:
Every website needs to have an allocated domain name. How to pick a perfect one for your small business website?
Best domain names are named after your business!
It seems obvious that it would be most beneficial for your online exposure to name your domain with the same phrase as your business. It’s however, not always possible to pick such a domain name – it might not always be available. If this is the case, make your domain name reflect the nature of your business. For example, coming back to the carpenter story, the domain name could be: www.carpenterlancster.com.
Try to find short domain names!
Generally speaking, short names are easier to remember. Sadly, many short domain names are already sold. If you do manage to find a short domain name that’s available, use it over a longer option. This isn’t to say that long domain names are inherently bad – sometimes a short name might not be enough to outline your business’s specifications!
Long or short – make it memorable!
You could go for a longer domain name – try to make it catchy and “earworm-y” so that it’s more memorable. Avoid acronyms – for a customer, it might be incredibly hard to memorize all the letters and for a new visitor, it will probably look like a mumbo-jumbo of random letters.
Hyphens are fine, but only in certain cases!
Use hyphenated domain names if it is actually reflected on your content pages, in headers and on graphics. Otherwise, refrain from hyphens – it might cause confusion among people who would like to look up your website. Do keep in mind that most people will type your business name without a hyphen – it’s simply more convenient and quicker.
Different businesses need different websites. In this chapter, you will learn, what type of website will fit a small business.
If you run a small business and do not sell anything online, then you might not need a complex website. An elegant design with a short description of your business, a contact form and a map may be enough. The good news is that you can even do something like this for yourself and it is completely free. A lack of a website and social media presence will lead to a lack in your business presence; If you are not online you do not exist to you customer!
There are many free website builders like Wix.com allows you to pick a template and add your own content. If you are really short of cash or just starting with your business, then it is something to consider.
On the other hand, a ready-made template might make you look unprofessional. A well-designed website can significantly strengthen your brand and help you grow. Free websites designers usually come with heavy advertising. Each time your customers visit your website they would be greeted by an annoying pop-up that distracts them from the actual content. By opting for such a website you actually risk putting the customers off.
A professionally built website is then a worthy investment that will help you strengthen your brand and attract new customers. This does not come cheap though. Even a basic website with only a couple of subsections can cost about £500. Also, once your website is up and running, you will not have customer support. You will need to remember to pay for the domain yourself and if you want to make some changes to it, you will need to pay extra or do it yourself. Knowing the pain, Colibri Active decided to do things differently.
The company offers a ‘subscription-based’ website. For a small monthly fee, you can get a professionally built website and full customer support for two years. It takes care of everything including paying for the domain and making small changes on your request! If you decide to continue with the subscription after two years, you get a free redesign of your website which allows you to bringi it up-to-date with the latest design trends.
How to build a website for a small business from scratch
After determining your domain name, it’s time to start actually building your website! As a small business, your website can be built entirely by you. The second approach is to hire a professional to develop and update your website for you.
Each of the two approaches has its pros and cons. In this section, I will describe both methods in detail.
The DIY approach
So you’re planning to create your own website! However abstract and impossible it might sound, creating a website for a small business is actually feasible and, most importantly, doable! There are several technologies to help you do that:
The most popular CMS (Content Management Service) platform – 58.7% of websites that use CMS and 28.8% of a total number of websites.
WordPress can be downloaded onto your computer for an installation or used as a hosted service. The service offers hundreds of plugins for customizing the looks of your website. Additionally, WordPress is used by big names such as: TechCrunch, The New Yorker, The Official Star Wars Blog, Beyonce and even Sweden’s official website – that’s for recommendations!
WordPress can be used for free! Although that entails a WordPress.com subdomain added to your domain name and WordPress ads being displayed on your website. There are also three paid programs: Personal for €4 pm, Premium for €8.25 pm and Business for €24.92 pm. You can check the specifications of each program here.
According to websitebuilderexpert.com, Wix is currently the most innovative website builder allowing you to create a beautiful and interactive website for your small business. Wix offers the most up-to-date designs and constant improvements, and new features that are specifically targeted at small businesses and design/artistic companies.
Similarly to WordPress, Wix can also be used for free. However, apart from adding a pesito.wixsite subdomain and having to display Wix ads, you will have to buy a separate domain.
Wix also offers paid programs: Combo for $14 pm, Unlimited for $16 pm, eCommerce for $20 pm and VIP for $30 pm. It’s worth noting that if you order a yearly or bi-yearly plan, the monthly prices will be lower. You can check the specifications of each program here.
Squarespace is a design-oriented website builder. It can be used to create a visually stunning and rich-looking website for a small business in the UK. Minimalistic, trendy and chic, it is perfect for businesses that operate in the visual realm – photographers, artists, restaurants or craftsmen.
Squarespace offers two website programs: Personal for €15 pm and Business for €24 pm. Additionally, there are two online store programs: Basic for €28 pm and Advanced for €42 pm. You can check the specifications of each program here.
The hire-a-pro approach
Building a website from ready-made templates is not a bad thing! However, if you plan on really conquering the world, you might want to consider a type of website for a small business made just for you. This is when you need to hire a professional web designer. Yes, it will be much more costly than using website building tools. But you will get what you paid for – a website designed specifically for your needs! What is more, a web designer can fix any bugs and improve the website as your small business grows.
If you need a bespoke website we are here for you! We offer great building service along with an affordable monthly subscription fee!
What to look out for on your small business website
There’s nothing worse than spending time and money on a website and then realizing that it ranks low on Google. Here’s what to look out for on your website for a small business!
Make sure you do everything in accordance with Google
Google takes many more factors into account apart from the keywords. User experience is one of the most important criteria. If your content pages are jam-packed with keywords making your articles look like nothing but huge clickbaits, Google will notice that rank your website accordingly thus diminishing your exposure. Same goes for all the practices referred to as Black Hat SEO. These are prohibited by Google’s Terms and Conditions and can get your website banned.
Make your website responsive
Loading times have a massive impact on how potential customers will perceive your website. Quality and correct display of all the content – videos, text and videos, is also crucial. Optimize all images and videos so that your website does not lag!
Cater to the mobile audience
Probably all people who would look up any website for a small business in the UK, own a smartphone. And none of them wants to visit your website and be forced to zoom in and scroll all around to see the content. That’s why you should have a version of your website optimized for mobile devices. It’s a matter of convenience, but you’d be surprised at how such tiny things can have an incredible impact!
E-commerce solutions are not suitable for every business. It is, however, worth knowing how to create one. As your company grows, you might find yourself in need for it!
People will not expect you to have your own website if you are a traditional business. Things look a bit different when you sell online. Many businesses simply use E-Bay or Amazon to sell their products, which is very convenient because you don’t need any money to start selling your products. At the same time, you need to pay a fee for every sale you make and the more you sell the more you will have to pay. So as your business grows you might consider investing in an E-commerce solution. It can be pricey as it often costs more than £2000 depending on the number of products and the complexity of the website. In general, it’s a considerable investment, taking into account that it gives more credibility to your business and relieves you from the need to pay E-Bay and Amazon fees. However, this solution is often simply too expensive for small businesses. That is why, at Colibri Active, we decided to develop a new approach to E-commerce.
E-commerce fees start at £149.99 a month which is much more convenient for our customers. You don’t have to spend large sums of money on building a website, and you don’t have to spend extra every time you want to make some changes. The monthly fee includes full customer support, so you are being helped to manage the store. If you pay more than £150 on E-Bay fees each month, then you can be sure to benefit from an E-commerce solution.
As you can see, there are some interesting alternatives. If you are just starting with your business, you should definitely think what kind of online presence suits you best. However, don’t rely on low-cost alternatives for too long. A website based on a free template will help you to start but the annoying ads on a site will spoil the experience for the customers and hurt your brand. Similarly, E-Bay or Amazon are great when you only make a couple of sales each month. However the bigger you grow, the more you will pay in fees. E-commerce solutions can save you money and make your business look more reputable.
Hopefully, your business will grow. If this will be the case, you need to adapt your website to the changes and develop with the same pace as your business grows!
Setting up a new brand is costly and time consuming. Designing logos, building new websites, buying new uniforms are all expensive. It also requires a lot of planning and preparation, you need to think of a strategy for your new brand etc. Yet, some companies that already have established brands go through all these in order to rebrand themselves. When does it make sense to rebrand?
There are a number of reasons and although we can’t list every possible scenario here, reading this chapter should give you a good overview of the issue.
Outgrowing your brand
First of all, don’t assume rebranding is bad. Your brand should always reflect your business and your values. However, as your company grows so should your brand. Perhaps you are no longer just a local shop, but a small chain operating in a number of locations, or you expanded your product range and cater to more types of customers. Your brand should reflect that change and rebranding might be necessary. It doesn’t have to be a revolution – quite the opposite. Your brand should simply evolve. There is nothing wrong in showing that your business is growing and evolving. You are going to retain your existing customers who will recognise you, but you might also attract new ones!
Transforming your business
The market is changing faster than ever, new products appear and old ones lose relevance very quickly. Think of video rental stores. They evolved from renting VHS to renting DVDs to providing onDemand content online. If you want to embrace the change and provide a new type of service, you might need to rebrand (You don’t want your company to be called “VHS rentals” when you just rent DvDs). Again, you can do it in a way that old customers will still be able to recognise your brand for example, by using the same colours or fonts for your logo and changing the name only slightly to make it more relevant.
Sometimes, rebranding is necessary in reaction to external circumstances, e.g.If you run into a legal dispute regarding your company name. For example, trademark issues might cause you to change the name of your products or company. Reactive branding might also cover events like mergers and acquisitions. Rebranding might help you to retain the customers of both companies.
Remember- your brand should always reflect your company. So as your business grows, so should your brand!
People have a short attention span and no patience to wait. In this chapter, I will explain why and how you need to take this trend into account when designing your website.
Three to five seconds is what it takes for a visitor to form the first (and often final) impression of your website. This isn’t a lot of time, but it can determine whether the visitor will decide to do business with you or not. That is why we would like to share with you some useful tips that will help you ensure that your website grabs the visitor’s attention straight away.
1. A responsive website is a must
Not so long ago if you wanted to browse the Internet you needed a computer. Nowadays there are many devices capable of doing that. Ranging from 4” mobile phones to 50” TVs. It is no longer enough to design a website that works well on one type of device. You need to make sure that the website looks good and is easy to navigate on every device and every browser otherwise you risk losing valuable customers. If your page fails to load correctly on their mobile phone they won’t try again on another device. Most likely they will leave your website after five seconds with a bad impression of your company.
2. Clear marketing message
This point is directly related to your brand’s mission statement and general marketing. When a visitor comes to your website they want to know what it is that your company offers and they want to know it straight away. The first thing your visitor sees shouldn’t be a pompous message full of meaningless buzzwords and corporate ‘mumbo jumbo’. Yes, your message needs to be clever and unique, but it also should be direct. ‘Best independent garage in town’ is a much better message than ‘Delivering customer satisfaction through consistently providing high-quality services’.
3. Unique design
Making sure your website displays correctly is an important first step, but it is not enough to grab people’s attention. Your design has to make an impact on visitors. There is no single rule here, but there are plenty of examples on the web, depending on your type of business and your company’s brand, you could try going a bit retro, use interesting illustrations or try to make an emotional impact (fun, nostalgic, romantic etc). One thing to keep in mind is that you shouldn’t overload the visitors with too much content. Blank space plays an important role in attracting people’s attention to the key message
4. Ask for feedback
It is always a good idea to test your design to make sure it works. You can start by asking friends and relatives to take a look at your website and see what they think. You might even try showing it to them for five seconds and then asking what was one thing they remembered.