Image is everything, and in today's world, a company without a website is a company without a face. With a professional website, you will improve your overall impression with the public and, in turn, your customers will develop a greater sense of confidence in your organisation.
Having a website significantly improves your customer reach no matter what services or products you offer. What's more, websites are never closed so they enable your business to be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Because people search Google when looking for things, you want to be high up in those Google search results, which is what a good website will do for you.
A website also enables cross-promotion of all your social media channels. You can use it to promote your Facebook page, display your YouTube, and promote your Twitter account. It's all about taking advantage of technologies that are available to you, to help your business succeed.
This BizConnect guide will help you to create a website that looks good and is user-friendly:
Basic features of a website
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A website must include information about your business, its location and contact details. In addition, it's advisable to have a section on key people, product offering, company and industry news, events, and links to where else you can find the company or organization on the web, such as Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and LinkedIn.
At the back-end, there are several features to consider:
- Contact forms that are integrated into the website, allowing visitors to contact you directly from the site. Contact forms must have anti-spam protection
- e-Newsletter signup which enables you to capture the visitors' email address and continue to communicate with them. Note that if you get people to sign up for your e-newsletter, make sure that you send out a regular, professional e-newsletter that enhances your company image
- e-Commerce functionality is a sophisticated and costly feature, but well worth it if you are going to sell products via the Internet
- Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a must for any business. It improves the visibility of a website in search results. The higher ranked your website is on the search results page, and the more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive. SEO considers how search engines work, what people search for, and the actual search terms or keywords typed into search engines
- Integrated social media feeds which are displayed on your website through visible, well-placed social media buttons. If you choose to incorporate social media into your website, remember to provide compelling information that is easily shareable
How to hire a website designer
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As a small business owner you are probably more likely to hire a freelance web designer than a design agency, as they are less expansive. Here are some pointers on how to hire the right person for the job:
- Ask to see a portfolio. Many designers specialise in certain styles, which can be useful, but you need to ensure that they can design well and innovate within that style so that they are able to deliver on the needs of your business
- Supply a written brief to the web designer detailing your expectations
- Request a written quote based on the brief supplied
- Pay a deposit if you are requested to do so, but ensure that you pay the bulk of the fee on delivery of the website. It's a payment schedule that encourages both parties to follow through
- Ensure that the files are transferable in the event that you part ways with your website designer. Find out what language and tools they are using and insist on technology that is widely available
- A good designer has good communication skills and should be able to pick up on what you're after and extrapolate on it
DIY website builders
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People without programming skills and a limited knowledge of HTML and graphic design can make websites using Yola. It has a drag-and-drop system that allows users to incorporate widgets without knowing HTML. Yola also integrates e-commerce and blog software and acts as a domain registrar.
You can choose from hundreds of professionally designed and fully customisable styles, and make the website your own by adding photos, videos, maps and forms. Yola is available 24/7 to assist you. You can also start with a free website, and select the premium features you need as your business grows.
2. Woza Online
South African initiate Woza Online offers a simple to use tool that enables you to get your own website up and running in under an hour, at no cost. You simply choose your template, add a few details about your business, tell people how to contact you and then publish. You get an easy-to-build professional website, a sub-domain name on wozaonline.co.za, free hosting, and access to training materials and workshops.
Weebly is another website building tool for non-techies and offers a one-step process for adding content that's already somewhere else on the Web, such as Flickr photos, YouTube videos and Google maps. Weebly doesn't charge anything to host your site, and there's no limit to the number of pages or amount of material you put up.
5 Common web design mistakes
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1. Poor navigation
If you don't pay careful attention to how people navigate your site, you could be creating a frustrating experience for visitors. People visit your site for specific information, and if they cannot find it they will quickly go elsewhere.
2. No clear call to action
Avoid brochure-type websites with endless paragraphs about the business. Driving traffic to your website is important, but that traffic is useless if there is no call to action. Decide what your primary goal is; such as getting people to sign up for your e-newsletter, and encourage people to do so.
3. Colour and legibility
Don't make it difficult for people to read your content. Colour and contrast are important because they can be used to create visual interest and direct the attention of the user. Use colour to organise and define the flow and hierarchy of a page.
People visit a website for its content, and it's vital not to overwhelm users with information. Present the content in such a way that they can quickly scan your site and sift through relevant information. Use text blocks, headings and sub-headings, bullet points and paragraphs. And remember to leave white space.
Don't cram. It makes a page unreadable and unattractive. A cluttered website will impact traffic because visitors won't return. Prioritise content and graphics so that visitors are encouraged to return to your site.