Website Design

Guide to Building Your Small Business Website

Starting a new business is exciting and time-consuming. With so many balls in the air, it’s easy to overlook your website. Your small business website will be one of your most effective marketing tools and is essential to a successful marketing strategy.

If you are unable to hire a designer, the responsibility of your website will fall on you.  Let’s explore what makes a successful business website. I’ll cover the pages you will need and what to put on them along with best practices for user experience and search engine optimization. 

Contents

iMac, tablet and iPhone showing responsive web design

Part 1

The 10 Things Every Small Business Website Must Have

Cluttered desk with iMac and UX design

Part 2

The Home Page for Your Small Business Website

Typewriter closeup of paper saying What's your story?

Part 3

The About Page for Your Small Business Website

Hands open with media icons

Part 4

The Contact Page for Your Small Business Website

Laptop showing e-commerce product page

Part 5

The Products Page for Your Small Business Website

Laptop displaying a privacy policy

Part 6

The Privacy Policy/Terms and Conditions Page for Your Small Business Website

View of desk top with lap top and tablet and what our customer say sign

Part 7

The Testimonies Page for Your Small Business Website

Table top display with keyboard, coffee, iPhone, glasses, pen, journal, cactus and the word blog

Part 8

The Blog Page for Your Small Business Website

Part 1

The 10 Things Every Small Business Website Must Have

Let’s begin first with an overview of what every small business website needs. I’ve compiled a list of the 10 things I feel make a successful small business website.

iMac, tablet and iPhone showing responsive web design

The 10 things your small business website should have:

1. A Strong call to action

Book a service, sign up for a newsletter, or make an appointment? Think about what you want someone visiting your website to do. Make it clear and make it be the first thing they see.

Little Owl Design Website home page screenshot

2. Mobile responsive

Let’s face it your website will most likely be viewed from someone’s cell phone or tablet. When designing your site make sure it looks good while on a cell phone. Online tools like https://responsivedesignchecker.com can be a great help.

iPad on marble table top with pink carnations and coffee displaying website for upholstery company

3. A website address that is easy to remember and spell:

Keep it simple and if your name or the name of the company has a peculiar spelling, consider also purchasing the domain name using the more common spelling and redirecting that domain name to your website too. 

4. Social media links and buttons:

Your website and social media will work hand in hand when marketing your business. Make sure your social media accounts link to your website also.

5. A Contact page

Your customer/clients need to know how to get a hold of you. Later in this blog series, I’ll teach you the most important elements for your contact page.

Little Owl Design Contact Page

6. The story of you and your company:

When I wrote my blog series on branding (you can check it out here.) I emphasized the importance of getting your customers/clients to know who you are and to like and trust you. Sharing your story and a bit about yourself will help you to be more relatable. Don’t be someone hidden behind a website especially if you run a service business.

Website screen shot of about page for Christian Music Artist

7. Photos or video:

We are attracted to visuals. Break up written content with high-quality photos (make sure all photos you put on your website are reduced to 72 dpi (dots per inch) For more information on file formats for websites visit my blog post on file formats here.

8. Customer/Client testimonials:

Remember when I wrote about trust. Having the testimonies of your past customers on your site is just one more way that you can gain the trust you need to close the sale.

9. Effective web copy:

Writing for a website is very different than writing for print marketing. Short paragraphs, headlines, lists, and bullet points are your friends. Writing to convert is a talent that many business owners do not have. Don’t hesitate to enlist the services of a copywriter to help you.

10. A Blog:

This is the most important part of your website as it accomplishes a variety of things

    1. First, it gives you the opportunity to frequently update your website which makes Goggle happy.
    2. Second, writing content that offers value to your reader will help to set you as a thought leader in your industry and help you to gain their trust. 
    3. And third, frequent blog posting gives you quality content to share on your social media sites. It’s a win-win

Now let’s take a look at how you need to create successful website pages for your small business.

“Your website is one of the first impressions that someone will get of your business.”

– Stoney Degeyter

Part 2

The Home Page for your Small Business Website

Your home page is your first impression on a new customer.

Does your home page have what it takes to turn lookers into customers?

Since this is the first page most people will see it’s very important that you include some key items

Cluttered desk with iMac and UX design

What you need to include on your small business website home page.

Let us begin with the end in mind. What do you want your website to do for your business?

  • drive customers to an email list
  • encourage customers to make an appointment
  • drive sales for your latest product or service

The list goes on and on. – Once you have determined what you ultimately want a new customer to do you can design a home page that fits your unique needs.

This is your “Call To Action” and all the elements on your home page that are “above the fold” (meaning on the screen without the need to scroll) must lead your customer to this action.

Now let’s think about the problem you solve because that’s really why someone is visiting your site. They have a problem and they are hoping your service or product can solve it.

Have a benefit-driven headline

How can you solve their problem? – What can you do that your competition can’t?

Talk about who you help

Who can benefit from your product or service? Think of your target market and target them.

view of table top with call to action sign

Finally, your home page should include testimonials. This is social proof that you can deliver on the promise to solve your potential customer’s problem.

View of desk top with lap top and tablet and what our customer say sign

“If your business is not on the Internet, then your business will be out of business.”

– Bill Gates

Part 3

The About Page for your Small Business Website

Do you really need an about page? – Yes!!!

Your about page is where you are going to display your credibility and build trust with your visitors. How can a potential client get to know you, like you, or even trust you if they have no idea who you are? This is why an about page is so important. Here are the the items you should have on your about page.

Typewriter closeup of paper saying What's your story?

What you need to include on your small business about page.

Your Story and Your Company’s Story

Your visitors want to know your story and the story of your company. I encourage you to keep it real, but it keep it simple. Your visitor is not looking for a full autobiography. Just share some key moments that define you and your business making sure you can connect what makes you the choice in your respective industry. You should also include some fun facts about yourself that reflect your personality.

Your Picture

Don’t hide behind your website, let your visitors connect a face to the brand. This is key to earning trust.

Woman with hat hiding her face in sunny field

Try Video

While not mandatory on an about page, adding a video of yourself will boost credibility as well as trust. In a video, your visitors will get a good opportunity to see your personality first hand. One note on this subject though, don’t use video to replace writing about yourself and your business, use your video as an enhancement to what you have already written.

Your Contact Details

Make sure your visitors will have an easy way of getting ahold of you by including your contact information on your about page. If your about page includes a team of people make sure to have their contact information also.

Contact us sign on a wooden desk in a bright living room with green plants

Customer Testimonials

Let your past customers help share your story. Pick some of your best testimonials that reflect who you are as a business owner and highlight them on your about page.

The bottom line when it comes to your about page keep it simple and don’t over complicate your page. Remember:

  • a little bit about you
  • a little bit about your company
  • a photo and/or video to bring a face to the brand
  • your contact information to show you are open to communication and finally
  • testimonials to let your past clients/customers tell your story.
View of desk top with lap top and tablet and what our customer say sign

“If you have a website, it makes your small business look big.”

 – Natalie Sequera

Part 4

The Contact Page for your Small Business Website

Your contact page is the easiest way your new customer/client will be able to reach you especially if they are visiting your website after hours. Here is a list of things you should have on your contact page

Hands open with media icons

What to include on the contact page for your small business website.

Tell them why 

What can you do for your customers/clients? Tell them why contacting you will help solve their unique problem? 

Your contact information

Include an alternative format to get ahold of you. Add your email and/or phone number on the page.

Blocks spelling out the word WHY

Set the expectation on your response

Either on the page itself or within an automatic response pop-up or email after they have submitted the form.  In your response include a thank you as well as your expected response time. 

Add a picture of yourself and/or your team

As I’ve stated in all my previous posts. Don’t hide behind your website.  Your website is your tool to get a new customer/client to know you, like you and trust you. Adding your picture will only benefit you and help you achieve your goal. 

Add your CTA (Call to Action)

Sometimes a visitor is not ready to contact you. Give them something else to do while they are visiting your page.

Blocks spelling out the word Thanks!

What to include within your contact form.

Ask the question “How did you hear of us?”

Getting this information accomplishes two things. First, it will let you know where your marketing efforts are most successful, and second if this is a referral from a past client you now have a reason to reach out to that client because you will certainly want to thank them for referring you.

Clipboard with page labeled referrals

Add a checkbox – “to receive future communication click here.”

Are you working on building your email list? By adding this checkbox you can immediately add this inquiry to your email marketing campaign.  

Computer keyboard with blue newsletter button

Add a checkbox – “By clicking here I agree to the GDPR terms of this website.” 

GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation and if any of your website visitors are in Europe then this simple checkbox is a must. The GDPR are government regulated guidelines website owners need to follow when it comes to handling the data of the visitors on their website. While the United States has not adopted these guidelines yet, I believe that these or very similar ones will be required of all websites in the near future.  To learn more about the GDPR visit https://eugdpr.org

GDPR InfoGraphic

“Email has an ability many channels don’t: creating valuable personal touches – at scale.”

– David Newman

Part 5

The Products Page for your Small Business Website

When designing your product pages be consistent. Having your product pages look different will only confuse or distract your customers. This applies to the colors and fonts you use as well as the sizes of your images, the way your page is laid out, and your tone of voice in your product description. Consistency is key for product pages to your small business website. 

Laptop showing e-commerce product page

How to create the best products page for your small business website. 

High-quality product photos

Your customer wants to know what they are buying. Make sure your product photos are placed on the top of the page called “above the fold”. This means your customer will not need to scroll down the page to see it.

Product images best practices:

  • Make sure your photos show your product from a variety of angles.
  • Does your product come in different options? Make sure you have photos that cover them all.
  • Are your photos clear?  Avoid using photos that are blurry or grainy.
  • Use custom product images, avoid using stock photos.
  • Include photos that are close up and show your product details.
  • Be consistent keeping your photos the same size and quality within all your product pages.

Need help taking product photos? I found this article very helpful.

Photo shoot for red high heels

Detailed product descriptions

Just like your photos need to be “above the fold”, so does your product description. In fact, your description should also be below the fold. Have your description be persuasive and really sell the product. My favorite example of amazing product descriptions is from The J. Peterman Company. Their product descriptions are stories that make you want to live them out yourself. Check out the description for their Gingham Western ShirtBefore you do up the snaps on this shirt, you should consider your intentions. If going around town unnoticed is your aim, pick a different shirt.” (from The J. Peterman Company). I just love that!

 

Remember when I said above and below the fold? – Use your longer more detailed description below the fold and a shorter description in the same wit and style above the fold.

Clear pricing

To keep your customers from having to search around, make sure your pricing is above the fold

Pricing best practices:

  • Place your pricing near the product title or near your “add to basket” button. 
  • Use a large font size
  • Use a contrasting color 
  • If you are having a discount – be sure to highlight it.
Wooden blocks spelling out the word pricing

Online Reviews

According to this article from OptinMonster – 97% of consumers say that online reviews help them with their purchasing decisions so make sure your star rating is “above the fold.”

Have your customer reviews placed further down the page and don’t be afraid of negative reviews. Reply quickly and politely and resolve the issue. How you handle a negative review is one of the biggest ways to build customer confidence.

Product Recommendations

I spent 7 years working retail sales and the ability to upsell is what can make or break your month. Give your customer the opportunity to see additional products that go with their desired product. A great example of upselling on line is Amazon. As soon as you add a product to your cart, the next screen takes you to additional items that you might like. I have even noticed this tactic when I shop for groceries on Instacart.

Someone on phone with 5 stars depicting recommendations

“I was sad but then I bought something online. I feel better now.”

author unknown

Part 6

The Privacy Policy/Terms and Conditions Page for your Small Business Website

What is a privacy policy page? 

According to Wikipedia, “a privacy policy is a statement or a legal document (in privacy law) that discloses some or all of the ways a party gathers, uses, discloses, and manages a customer or client’s data.” (taken from Wikipedia)

What is a terms and conditions page?

Your terms and conditions page sets out the rights and responsibilities of anyone using the site. (taken from websitepolicies.com)

Laptop displaying a privacy policy

Resources to help you create your privacy policy and terms & conditions page.

There are several “generator” sites you can use to help you create your pages. I’ve included links below. I don’t have any recommendations on which site to use. Take a look at them yourself and choose the one that will work best for your industry. 

Terms & Conditions Generator or Templates

Termly

Website Policies

TermsFeed

Terms and Conditions Sample

“When you decide to put your business online it is a little bit tricky step for novice computer users because they want to keep data safe & secure.
This problem developed from companies which did not take security seriously”

Mohamed Saad

Part 7

The Testimonies Page for your Small Business Website

Tell the world what your clients and customers think. As I shared in part 1 your testimonies help share your story and most importantly they help in building trust.

You are amazing at what you do and your product fills a need. Be proud of that and share it.

Testimonials are essential to have on your home page  but it’s best to limit your amount, that’s why having a page dedicated to your customers/clients is setting yourself up for success.

View of desk top with lap top and tablet and what our customer say sign

Why it’s important to have a testimonials page on your small business website.

Testimonials can be some of your best referrals

People trust the word of someone like themselves over a business. Your testimonials will be online referrals for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

 

Testimonials can help you to explain how it works and the benefits

You know the benefits and how your product and service works but sometimes when you try to describe it something gets lost in the translation. Having clear and detailed testimonials that talk about the how-to and benefits of your product or service will be helpful to your new customer/client.

 

Testimonials can be great for making an emotional connection.

If you have permission to use your client’s picture and name in the testimonial, use it. Let your website visitor relate to your client. This will help create a connection between your past clients and your potential clients.

 Not sure how to best present your testimonials? According to WordStream these 11 companies are doing it right. 

“Courteous treatment will make a customer a walking advertisement.”

Jame Cash Penny, founder of J.C. Penny Stores

Part 8

The Blog Page for your Small Business Website

Your blog will be your greatest marketing tool for your business. I believe every website should have blog and every business owner should blog on consistent bases. 

Blogging helps build trust and credibility. It establishes you as a thought leader and go-to person in your industry.

Blogging gives you opportunities to share on social media and get your brand out there in your community.

Table top display with keyboard, coffee, iPhone, glasses, pen, journal, cactus and the word blog

What you need to begin blogging for your small business.

Guess what? As of this writing (June 2020) Google has changed its algorithm. Thankfully it’s for the better and is favoring high quality content. This recent article from Pathfinder SEO goes into detail of the change and discusses how to audit your current blog content to stay ahead. 

So let’s discuss best practices for blogging on your small business website. 

 

Writing your blog post – include:

  • A great title
    • Top-performing blog posts use the words “how-to” or a number “top 10 ways to” or even “guide to.”
    • Make sure your main keyword or phrase is also in your title.
  • Strong opening paragraph
    • Just like you learned in school, use the first paragraph to pull your readers in and get them to want to read more.
    • Include your main keyword or phrase within the first line of your paragraph.
  • Use subheaders and bullet points
    • As readers, we tend to skim over blog posts articles and pull out just what we need. Using a subheader will help your reader easily find the answer they are looking for.
    • Using bullet points helps break up your text and makes it easier to read.
  • Include images
    • Let’s face it people come for the photos. This is even more important if you are sharing a how-to post. Having images to go along with the steps will be helpful and make your post more valuable. 
  • Use Tags and Catagories
    • Allows readers to find posts easier by using relevant tags (keywords).
    • When creating categories best practice is no more than 5. 

 

Wordcloud with blogging keywords

Also, add to your blog post:

  • A call to action
    •  Think of what you want your reader to do after they have read your blog post.
    • Common actions are: Leave a comment? Share your post? Visit another page on your website? Schedule an appointment?
  • Include an opt-in
    • Email marketing is the 2nd greatest tool in your tool belt. Provide an offer to your customer that makes them want to give you their email. 
  • Social sharing buttons
    • Make sure your blog post gives your readers the opportunity to share on social media. 
    • Shares are like a thumbs-up vote telling Goggle this is quality content people will want to see.
  • Include your bio
    • Many people will find your post through other means besides your home page. Give them the opportunity to get to know you by including a short bio at the end of your blog post.

 

Thought bubble with social media call to action phrases on clothes line

Your small business website will be your greatest marketing tool but only if you use it. Blogging is essential in your SEO (search engine optimization) strategy. Without consistent movement on your website, Google will rank you lower and lower as time goes on. Check out my Guide to SEO for your Small Business for more details on creating a SEO marketing plan for your small business. 

Karri is the owner of Little Owl Design, a design firm located in Discovery Bay, CA. Little Owl Design specializes in graphic design (print and digital), logo design, branding, website design, and SEO management. To see a full list of services offered by Little Owl Design visit our services page. 

Headshot of Karri Reiser, owner of Little Owl Design
Desk top with computer screen

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