The first few months of a new year are the perfect time to review your business' online presence or get cracking with launching one. We look at the essentials you need for a great website.
1. Claim your Domain
Selecting the perfect domain name for your website should be one of the first things you do when setting up a new business. Choose it wisely. Make it as short as possible and easy to remember.
Depending on your type of business, you can select .com.au, .org.au or .net.au and so forth. You could select .com if your business was reaching customers overseas. An extension of .com.au is the most trusted one in Australia but may not be available for your business, as they are popular. In this case, try adding something different to the name while still keeping your business name visible. For example, if you have a bakery in Malvern, and your business name is Freshly Baked and you discover that Freshlybaked.com.au is not available, try Freshlybakedmalvern.com.au. Your customers will still know that it’s your business when they see it in the Google rankings.
2. Made to Measure or DIY
Website design and build by professional web development companies are the best way to go, especially now that prices have really come down in the past couple of years. Professional web development companies have teams of designers that can create the perfect website for your business, and they can also host your website and provide 24/7 support within Australia, as well as give you a Content Management System for you to manage your own changes down the track.
Costs can vary from $395 up to approx. $1,695 for something that has the lot. ‘Mobile-friendly’ is the standard for website development. A ‘mobile-friendly’ website adapts the layout to the viewing environment. For example, it shouldn’t be necessary to pinch or expand the Tabs or text to see them clearly on small smartphone screens. These items should be clearly legible and easily tapped, no matter what size device you are using.
Do not be tempted to have something developed overseas, since you will always be disappointed by the quality, especially in design, and simple issues like spelling and grammar. And, when you try and get it hosted in Australia, there will be problems with future changes down the track since the original developer has disappeared and there is no one around that can support it.
If you are particularly tech savvy, you can develop your own website using standard templates that many web hosting companies offer you. They offer lots of features and multiple templates for very little cost.
However, by the time you have mastered the templates and learned the skills, you will have been better to leave it to the experts. If you are tempted to use a friend who thinks they ‘know the ropes’, remember to ask your friend for two important things – a ‘mobile-friendly’ website for responsive design, and a platform for you to make changes down the track – preferable using a common application like Wordpress. And ensure they don’t disappear when you need help later on!
3. Are you contactable?
If you've already got a website, are you sure you've done everything you can to ensure people know how to contact you? And if you're launching a new website, contact details should be high on your agenda. As a minimum, your contact details should include your name, address, phone number, email address and a map of your location.
Are your phone number and email address clearly visible at all times, including on your Home page. Are your social media profiles obvious? Instagram is becoming more important for building your brand, so don’t forget that possibility. You only have a few seconds to convince people to buy your products or services and if they struggle to find out how to get in touch, you'll lose their trust and they will go elsewhere.
4. Ensure you're user friendly
Are you confident that customers can easily navigate your website and fully understand exactly what you're offering? If you've already had a website for a while it's easy to get complacent and assume it's doing what it should. But if you're getting limited engagement, there could be something wrong.
You need to review your website every now and then to ensure it is up to date. Information on your About Me page can become out of date and details on your Services or Products pages can change.
Ensure that all links to other pages actually take you to the correct page and links to your social media pages actually work – you would be surprised how many times a click on the Facebook icon fails to display a page because the Facebook account does not exist. Mistakes like these, lead customers to think you don’t care or are just plain lazy, and they will switch off immediately and go elsewhere.
You should also make a point of regularly checking your website analytics to monitor how people are arriving on your site and what they're doing when they get there.
5. Do you need all those social accounts?
There's no question that social media is vital for pretty much every business, but that doesn't mean you need to be absolutely everywhere. You should only be hanging out where your potential customers hang out so do your research and focus on the platforms that will work best for your business. Look at your bigger competitors and see where they are focusing their social media efforts.
Facebook is pretty much a standard these days, but is not absolutely essential for all businesses. If your business has a lot of customer engagement where you want to build loyalty, Facebook is excellent because it’s like your ‘conversation pit’ – you’re telling people what your business is doing and they are responding with Likes and Comments and Reviews. If on the other hand you’re selling bolts and washers, Facebook will pretty much be a waste of time! And don’t forget Instagram or even Twitter to connect and build brand loyalty.
If you've already got social media accounts, this is the time to review the ones that are working. If, for example, you're focusing lots of your efforts on Facebook but you're getting limited engagement, you need to work out why. Maybe you're posting the wrong type of content or your customers simply don't use Facebook. Ask them.
6. Content is everything
Content needs to cater to the needs of customers that you want to attract; are they looking for information, where to purchase a product or service, some type of interaction, or to transact with your business? Each page of your website needs to cater for your website users in the most effective way possible.
- Communication: People on the web tend to want information quickly, so it is important to communicate clearly, and make your information easy to read and digest. Some effective tactics to include in your web design include: organising information using headlines and sub headlines, using bullet points instead of long windy sentences, and cutting the waffle.
- Colours: A well thought out colour palette goes a long way to enhance the user experience. Complementary colours create balance and harmony. Using contrasting colours for the text and background will make reading easier on the eye. Vibrant colours create emotion and impact (e.g. for buttons and Call-to-Action). Lastly, white space is very effective at giving your website a modern and uncluttered look.
- Images: A picture can speak a thousand words, and choosing the right images for your website can help with brand positioning and connecting with your target audience. Photos should be of high-quality and be engaging.
7. Get selling
Your website is your shop window to the world and you can use it to sell directly to customers. Professional web development companies can include a shopping cart on your website at no extra cost.
However, before leaping into online shopping, consider there are other ways to selling your products. An online shop requires constant attention because you have to monitor orders and track stock levels. You have to wrap and pack, post and deal with returns and complaints – or use someone to do this for you.
Just having good quality photos and prices, with useful product descriptions, can attract someone to come into your business and buy. This works especially well for High Street businesses where someone can come in and browse, and you can ‘up-sell’ at the same time and build loyalty.
If however you operate from home, then certainly an online shop can work for you.
There’s plenty of useful information above to help you get started with a website for your business.
I currently provide small businesses with a rebate of 20% off the cost of website development. There is a national website development company located right here in Melbourne that will come out and discuss your requirements, all free of charge. They will also host your website and provide you with a ‘Content Management System’ for easy updates and free 24/7 support by phone and email.
They develop websites for as little as $495 and I can get you 20% off their prices. Even the most basic website can have integrated links to your Facebook, Instagram and Google+ accounts. To get a 20% rebate off these prices (excluding hosting), all you need to do is contact me.
For further information, contact me below:
(t) +61 (0)3 9885 7688
(m) +61 (0)412 550 020
(m) +61 (0)412 550 020
I have recently retired after 30 years consulting for corporate clients such as NAB, AXA, IOOF and AustralianSuper. My experience covers website design, social media and business strategies. I am now focussed on providing consulting services to small business.
My services are provided on a voluntary basis, free of charge, and with no obligation.