Learning to get your small business web design right is crucial to your online business success.
There are a lot of ways to build a website that we’ve covered on the blog before.
This post is a deep dive into getting the actual design of your website right, rather than how to hire the right agency for the job.
If you’re working with an agency that provides web design services, then you can use this post as a bit of a checklist.
So, what do you need to do from the start to get your web design right?
Well, there’s a few key things to consider, so let’s dive in.
It All Starts with a Good Web Design Brief
Before diving into this post, make sure you read our post about writing a good web design brief. Then download our free template!
It’ll help keep you on the right track as you progress with your small business web design.
Use it as a document to keep referring back to, and making sure expectations line up as you move forward.
Goals and Objectives
The first thing to consider with your web design project, are your goals.
What do you want your website to achieve? What is the tangible business result that will mark your website design project a success?
At Canny, our goal is to generate warm business leads through our website. So we’re focused on creating high conversions (website visitors into enquiries.)
Here are some samples of commonly used website design goals;
- Create leads for your business
- Sell your products
- Build brand awareness of your business or founders
- Build a mailing list
- Encourage return visitors
So first things first, is deciding what goal is going to have the biggest impact on your business, and aim for that.
As a side note, it is possible to have two or three goals.
Realistically at Canny, we want to generate leads for the business. However, to do this, we also want to;
- Build a mailing list
- Encourage return visitors
We know that most of our leads come through our blog posts.
To make the most of this, we offer a “free gift” which in turns adds you to our mailing list, which we can then mail when we release a new blog post.
Being clear about what you want to achieve with your website will help your chosen design agency build you a website that works to drive your business goals forward.
What Does a Conversion Look Like For You?
In the industry, we use the term conversion to describe a website visitor that has taken the desired action.
So on Canny’s site, if you fill out our Start Your Project form, that’s a conversion. Or, if you call us up to discuss a project, that’s a conversion too.
They’re our two main conversion paths.
Filling out the form to receive our “free gift” is also a minor conversion.
But you have to decide what works for your business.
One of our clients recently learned that they win 50% more projects when they talk to their prospects on the phone.
So that’s how their website was positioned. Phone calls as the main focus, email secondary.
Conversions happen because of correctly positioned Call to Actions.
Let’s take a look at them in more detail;
How Calls to Action Drive Conversions
On any website, you’ll have a series of “calls to action” that help drive conversions.
On our website, we use a big purple Start Your Project button that scrolls down with you.
On an ecommerce website, you’ll often find yourself on the receiving end of a “discount code pop up” when browsing products.
This entices you to add your email address in exchange for a small percentage discount.
When you leave without buying anything, the website can track your actions and remind you about your purchase.
A website is typically made up of main CTAs (call to actions) and sub-CTAs.
Usually, there’s a call to action in the header and footer. And, if a page is particularly long, you mighty put a CTA at the midway point on the page.
As well as that, you might look at exit intent pop ups, which are a last ditch effort to convert visitors.
A call to action is often;
- An attention grabbing button
- An offer too good to refuse
- Something that highlights your next logical step.
It’s important to think about what action you want users to take relative to your overall goal.
You Must Consider Your User’s Journey and Experience
Repeat after me;
“My website is not a one hit wonder. My website is NOT a one hit wonder.”
It’s very rare that people are going to land on your website for the first time, and take the right action straight away.
This is why building a healthy mailing list is one of our sub-goals at Canny.
Our website or blog is often the first brand touchpoint for a new lead.
It’s a rare treat when someone reads a blog post then reaches out to us. More often than not, people read three to five posts before contacting us.
So, we need to ensure we can re-engage leads at the relevant time. Which is where our mailing list comes in.
What I’m saying here is, you must understand your user journey and design your website accordingly.
At Canny, this is how visitors engage with our website;
- Visits the website or blog for the first time
- Engages to receive our “free gift”
- Enters mailing list
- Receives a notification when a new post is released
- Returns to the site and reads the new post
- Repeat cycle until lead is warmed up
- When they’re ready, they reach out
This user journey also works without a mailing list, but with a list, becomes easier to track.
A lot of our clients have reached out on our Live Chat feature after reading several blog posts in their own time.
The top level goal of your website is to push people down your funnel.
Blog post readers are at the top of the funnel.
When they decide to receive our “free gift” they enter the middle of the funnel.
Then eventually, they drip through to the bottom of the funnel.
To help you, try to draw out your funnel on paper. Don’t be shy, and write plenty of notes.
This will help to visualise the user journey for yourself and your design agency. They can also support you by poking holes in the funnel and asking you the hard questions.
As far as the design of your website’s user experience, you should always aim for your website to be;
- Simple and clear
- Easy to use
- Well designed
Simple, clear, and easy to use are the focus. Well design is secondary.
Function over form. Always.
Don’t Forget to Market It
One of the biggest mistakes small businesses make with their website, is forgetting to market it.
Your website is a marketing tool that allows you to achieve your business goals.
Don’t forget to market it.
Forgetting to push it out to as many people as possible is a big, big, mistake.
To get your new website out there, you could try;
- Shouting about it on your social channels
- Attaching a link to it in your email footer
- Paying for advertising
Whatever you do, it’s important to get your new website in front of many people as possible.
They’re entering at the top of the funnel, so make the language you use in your promotions relevant to that.
Nobody is going to visit off the back of an advert for “Widgets for £10” if they don’t understand what the widget is or what it does.
Relevancy is key. Tune your promotional messages to be in line with the audience you’re targeting.
Don’t be shy. Marketing is key to the success of your business.
How We Build Small Business Websites
Not too long ago, we wrote about the branding process we follow at Canny.
While we don’t have a website design process post, it will help you to get your small business web design right if you understand the process.
So, let’s take a look at everything that goes in, to help make a website work;
Your domain name is your website address, or URL.
Identifying a unique domain name for your business can be a challenge.
But you need one, because without it, you don’t have a website.
A lot of the typical names are taken, and getting a .com address these days is particularly challenging.
Recently, several of our clients have opted for trendier, newer, top level domain names.
Bespoke Garden Living opted to secure bespokegarden.life as their website address.
You need to secure something relevant to your business and industry.
Try to keep it short, and don’t be afraid to get creative!
Your website needs a place to live. Your website hosting is the land on which you build your house.
There are a whole range of web hosting options. From cheap, to expensive.
With web hosting though, it really is a case of you pay for what you get.
You can get GoDaddy hosting for less than £10 per year. But it’s bad. Really, really bad.
Slow, no support, hard to use. All of the bad things.
You don’t want the cheapest hosting you can find. You want the best.
In my opinion the best hosting, is managed, dedicated hosting.
At Canny, we offer a hosting solution that allows our clients to interface directly with us, rather than getting bogged down talking to tech teams at the hosting company.
We manage the hosting, and take all of the pain away from our clients.
Managed hosting lets you focus on what you do well, and leaves the hosting problems to your web team.
Inspiration, Inspiration, Inspiration
Just like music is never truly an original, neither is a website design.
There’s always something else like it. Nothing has “never been done before” in the web design world.
So, just like when Beethoven wrote his masterpieces, you need to find your inspiration. Your muse.
At Canny, we use Pinterest to create mood boards that form the basis of discussion for the Visual Discovery Session we hold with our clients.
To find our inspiration, we use a mix of websites, including;
- Site Inspire
Finding examples of website design you feel reflects your business, will help drive your small business web design forward.
And, going to your agency with a range of inspiration can help them get one step ahead of the game.
The Web Design Process
The website design process is easy enough to follow along, and starts with the basics outlined above.
However, your website design should absolutely be left to a professional design agency.
But to give you a quick overview of how it works, here’s the deal:
The research stage of any website design project is where a few very important things happen.
- We conduct a discovery session about your business, find out your goals and objectives, how your business works, how you get your customers etc
- We put together a Pinterest board full of visual inspiration as outlined above.
Research is fundamental to any good small business website design and it’s value should not be overlooked.
Wireframing a website means to take the raw ideas from our meetings that are on paper, and work them up into a digital version.
It’s the very first visual manifestation of your website coming to life.
By wireframing your website, we’re able to discuss and analyse the user journey, and work out what content needs to go where, before pressing ahead with a full website design.
Wireframing takes sketches, turns them into lines, grey boxes, and placeholder text, to create some very early visuals.
This lets us discuss internally with the team, and with our clients to make sure we’re all on the same page.
It’s far easier to change something at this stage than when the design is in full swing.
Once the wireframes have been agreed, it’s time to move onto the design of the website itself.
This is where you’ll see your website come to life in full colour.
We take the grey boxes and lines, and start to work your brand into the design.
Colours, typography, and other visuals are added to the base wireframes and you get the best understanding of how your finished website will look.
At this stage, we also pull together design work for mobile and tablet, so you can visualise how it might look when scaled onto different devices.
Once the design work is signed off, it’s onto the build.
This is usually the part in the project, where things get a little bit quiet.This is because we’re head down in code, bringing your visuals to life.
This part of the process can take quite a long time, depending on the complexity of your website.
Once your website is built, we’ll usually push it to a testing server.
This allows you to preview it, and check it on your own browser and devices, while allowing our team to do the same.
It also lets us run through our final pre-flight checks.
For example we;
- Test the mailing list signups
- Check the forms work and are pointed to the right email
- Test buying your products
- Check whether system emails are firing as expected
- Run the website on multiple devices to check for glitches
Testing is crucial. There’s nothing worse than launching a website that doesn’t work properly.
Testing can be handled entirely by your design agency, or can be a collaborative effort.
Either way, don’t skip it!
Once everything is fully tested, it’s time to launch your new website.
Launch days are both nerve wracking and exciting.
Essentially, a launch can take place one of two ways;
- You point your domains to your agencies hosting plan
- The agency move your website from their testing environment to your server
And all of that comes down to how you decide to host your website.
Launching a brand new website is exciting. Don’t forget to promote it across your social media channels and other business communications!
Also, make sure you have things like Google Analytics in place to review traffic after launch. You don’t want to lose that all important data.
I hope having a basic understanding of the website design process helps you to understand how many moving parts there are.
Getting your small business web design right isn’t easy, but following this web design process makes it easier.
Should You Hire an Agency or Risk the Self Build?
I know that I can be tempting to build your own website. But please, don’t do it.
There are professional design agencies out there for a reason. Builders like 1&1 and Wix just aren’t worth the time and hassle they bring.
You want to work with an agency that can look after you, give you the best advice, and help grow your business.
I don’t want to deep dive on the reasons, but here’s a handy post on the value a good design agency can bring to your business.
How Much is a Professional Small Business Website?
The cost of setting up a website is often the key deciding factor when it comes to hiring a web design agency.
To be frank;
Website design costs vary. A lot.
From £xxxx to £xx,xxx to £xxx,xxx – all depending on what it is you’re doing, and what your website needs to achieve.
Websites aren’t “nice to haves” anymore. They haven’t been for years.
Your website is a must have business marketing tool that should be an absolute game changer in marketing your business.9
The cost of a website design project is usually decided by the amount of hours an agency needs to allocate to the project.
We’ve discussed the cost of website design on the blog a lot.
Don’t be shocked when your website costs you around the mid-four-figures. That’s a fair price for a good small business website design.
To get an accurate cost on your website design project, why not decide to start your project with us?
Conclusion: How to Get Your Small Business Web Design Right
Getting your small business web design right is important if you want to have any sort of online success.
Remember, decide on your goals, the best calls to action, and create a clear, easy to use site, and you can’t go far wrong.
Help your agency out by understanding the web design process and you’ll not go far wrong.
Once your website is out there, don’t forget to market it. Small business advertising is tricky enough as it is, so use your brand new website to it’s fullest.
Did you get your small business web design right? Let us know in the comments below.
reading time: 15 minutes