With today’s tech-savvy consumer, a website is a given for any successful business -- regardless of size or industry.
Without a website, businesses won’t be taken seriously and likely will decrease their chances of being found by new customers. A well-designed website can also allow a small-business owner to compete with the big boys, leveling the playing field in an increasingly competitive consumer market.
Here are the six essential elements business owners need to think about when building or revamping a website:
1. Let everyone know what people think about the business. According to a study by BrightLocal, 85 percent of consumers read online reviews for local businesses -- up from 76 percent in 2012. As consumers continue to get more comfortable and familiar with reviews, they will become one of the leading generators, or losses, of new business.
Reserve a space on the website for reviews that highlight positive things customers are saying. Adding a plugin that allows visitors to add reviews directly on the site is great, but it is also fine to add a plugin from a third-party review service such as Yelp or Facebook.
It’s also important to have new and updated reviews, so train employees who directly interact with customers on ways to approach customers for reviews without being too abrasive.
2. Get social and connect. Customers like to have options to connect with businesses. Social-media channels not only give them those options, but different social-media channels also enable businesses to connect with different consumer groups as well. Including all active social channels a business is on is critical for a website.
It’s also a great idea to add “share” buttons that give site visitors the option to share the website and tout their favorite products or services with their social-media networks. This is also a great, low-cost way to spread the word about the business organically.
3. Keep it visually pleasing. Consumers nowadays expect to come to a well-designed website that provides some sort of interactive experience. Whether it’s with impressive images, video or responsive design, get as creative as possible with the website experience.
Use photos that clearly depict the products or service and display them predominantly on the home page. High-quality images and video will differentiate the business’s website and products from competitors.
Related: Tips for Designing Smarter Websites
4. Remove all barriers to make a purchase. Any business that sells products should have an ecommerce site to break down any barriers to purchase. There is nothing wrong with having a brick-and-mortar location, but it’s also important to give consumers an easy way to purchase if they can’t get to the store.
Choosing to use outside ecommerce sites such as Etsy or Amazon are sufficient, but in reality this is just another barrier to purchase. The best option is to add online ordering or a shopping cart to the website with the help of a product such as Paypal, or invest extra money into developing and maintaining a fully integrated ecommerce store.
5. Keep it fresh and relevant. Maintaining new content on a website shows customers they have reached a lively business that they can trust. The majority of pages on a website won’t require constant updates, but there should be at least one page that requires some regular maintenance.
Add a blog or page that shows upcoming workshops, new products, etc. This is a great way to show a lively and thriving business, as well as contribute to the website’s search-engine optimization rankings. Google rewards websites that frequently update content and add relevant content to the industry, so keep that in mind with the updates that are included.
6. Prove there is a person behind the website. Adding contact information is a commonly overlooked detail when creating websites. Even if the business has no actual location, forgetting or purposely leaving contact information off websites can cause a business to lose customers and its credibility.
Consumers expect to be able to get in touch with a person when they’re purchasing something. Make it obvious how customers can get in touch with a customer representative through email, phone and social media.
It’s also important to include a business address, even if it’s a P.O. Box. This information will ideally be on the the bottom of each page of the website.