So your business has a website — or you're in need of one for your brand new venture. Web design can be an overwhelming process, so we've spoken to a few web designers who told us what you need to have on your site ... and what you can probably do without (like crazy Flash animation). The first thing you must do is secure a good, catchy URL. Make sure it makes sense for your business, doesn't have quirky spelling and is available on social platforms, too. Panabee can help you get creative if your business name is taken, and Name Vine is a great resource for seeing what's available. Once you've set up your domain, it's time to build out the site and make some big decisions. Here are 10 must-haves for your website that will ensure your customers have a positive experience on the site, improve your company's digital footprint and increase engagement with your brand.
Easy To Read
Sure, a website should be aesthetically pleasing, but it's more important for it to be useful. Before you even pick a server or type an HTML tag, you should map out how you'd like the website to work. This is important both for user experience and for SEO, since Google considers the content and structure of a site when it ranks for search. So, map out and mock up a design for the site — what designers call "wireframing" — and run it by a few friends to make sure it makes sense and is intuitive. "If they can understand the logic, so will the people visiting your website ... and Google bots when ranking it!" says Pete Mills of web design consultancy
Crucial Business Information
"The biggest failure that people have is that they try to build the website they want, not necessarily the website they need," says designer Josh Frankel. Take a restaurant, for example — Frankel says "everyone wants music and this giant 'about' page," but they neglect the basic things like the menu, contact information and directions. Keep text to a minimum when it comes to your mission statement, because you should be writing things so people can skim — we all have short attention spans. One helpful tip for conveying your mission is to compare your business to something else, like how MeUndies.com is marketed as "Warby Parker for undies" to align itself with the eyewear manufacturer's keen curation and by-mail convenience. Don't underestimate brevity — one or two sentences can be really powerful, says Frankel. Depending on your business, you should have a few things on your website that fall into the realm of "information." We know restaurants need a menu and a list of locations (ideally with directions or a map), but every industry has its necessary items. If you're an etailer, you need product images (and they need to be good pictures). If you work in the service industry and have a business that relies heavily on customer service and referrals, put some testimonials on your site. For example, a wedding planner could have one of her recent brides write about her experience with the business. A web designer should include screenshots or link out to previous work. A hair salon could have client testimonials about a stylist's skills and promptness. Tailor your site so that it offers the information users are likely to be looking for.
We can't stress enough that most crucial business detail is contact information— which is why it has its own section. Mills exclaims, "How many times do you visit a website and think 'how hard is to contact this company?' Have a number, email, address and a contact form easily accessible and visible," he says. It makes a difference because there's nothing more frustrating than being unable to get in touch with a needed business or service. When you put an email address or a phone number on the site, don't upload this information as part of an image — the number or address should be able to be clicked on or copied right from the site in order to place the call or send an email conveniently and quickly. Most smartphones these days have the ability to do "click to call" on the web, so make the process as easy as possible for users.
A map is useless without a legend and a website is useless without clear navigation. Make sure you use easy-to-understand and logical names for the various pages of your site — contact, about, FAQ, etc. Being clever or cryptic will just be a turnoff for users.
When developing your navigation strategy, you should consider a call to action. What is it that you want people to do on your site? Place an order? Email for a quote? Become a member? Come to your brick-and-mortar store? Call to speak with a customer service rep? Make your goals clear and obvious.
If you're selling anything online, you need to put some effort into securing your site with an SSL certificate. The SSL will encrypt communications between you and your clients (i.e. a credit card number, Social Security number), which will allay their fears of providing such information, since there's so much identity theft on the web. VeriSign, TrustE, Entrust and GeoTrust are good options to explore.