Planning a Website for Small Businesses is the second post in a series aiming to help small businesses stay out of the weeds on the web. Here we look at the actual planning process that helps you to avoid making decisions that will frustrate you further down the line.

So draw up a chair, pour yourself a cup of tea, put your thinking cap on and start making notes.

Who is your audience?

Your web site will languish unseen unless you can reach an audience. As will your business. So who are your customers? Where do they hang out? How are you going to get them to look at your web site?

When they do look at your web site - why should they return?

Very few people buy on the first visit to a web site. So what content are you providing that will encourage your customer to come back to your web site? This is about value. Put baldly, if your business sells screws, then your customer will most likely be comparing price with other sites. If yours are premium screws, what value are you providing that justifies that extra price? The answer could be many things, but here are a few suggestions:

  • free download explaining how to use the screws effectively
  • posts showing how other people are using the screws in their projects
  • gorgeous pictures of the screws in question!

One of the first web sites we designed was for a food company in Scotland. We made a feature out of providing recipes that became so popular I was offered a publishing deal for a Cookery Book!

The point I'm making here is about content. What is it? Why is it? and Where is it? The answers to these questions will help with the structure of the site.

Site Structure

The days when people would land  on the opening page and carefully browse your site, gasping in wonder at each fresh page are long gone. People visit web sites for a reason and they generally go either straight to the page that addresses their question, or to the front page and then via the menu. Statistics suggest that people don't browse nested menus so we recommend a flat structure - a short series of pages delivering the content that their name suggests. e.g. About,  Team, Products, Services, Blog, Contact, etc.

SEO

A significant amount of your visitors should come from search engines. If they don't it means either that your site is of no interest to anyone or that your SEO is  dysfunctional. We'll be doing a dedicated post on SEO in the coming weeks but I will say that more nonsense is talked about SEO than almost anything else in history! Broadly, Google requires that your pages contain content that is original and to do with the theme of your site. The content should be up to date and added  to. Keywords are less important as AI becomes more sophisticated, Google can tell if you're stuffing keywords into irrelevant content.

Impact

Your site is quite likely to be viewed by somebody using a mobile phone at a bus shelter in the rain. They're swiping rapidly through content... why should they pause at yours?

We have found that pictures, especially moving pictures attract attention. Imagery is very important indeed, it sets the tone for your site, sets expectations around quality and price and says more about your business than thousands of words. This is where we can help. If you're thinking about marketing using video, photography or animation to pull viewers in and increase your audience then give us a call or use our contact page to tell us about your project..

Summary

You should now be in a place where you are thinking about your customers (it's not about you!), working out how to attract them and thinking about structure and content. You need to have a map of the web site listing the pages and the content they contain. This can be extended to include the look and feel of the site. We'll be talking about that next week!

Other Posts in this series

  1. Web Sites for Small Businesses