Does your small business need a website? The answer is a very loud, enthusiastic “yes!” A website is by far the best way to attract new business, help customers find you, and serve as your official presence on the internet.
While we take for granted that everyone is online, the truth is that many small businesses still don’t have websites. In one recent survey, 60% of very small businesses (made up of 1-5 people) said they don’t have one. What gives?
Some people cite the cost, others say they don’t have time or the technical expertise. But many also said that they thought their businesses were too small to need a website.
The fact is, no business is “too small” to deserve a clean, beautiful, and easy-to-maintain website. Building a website for your small business is easy and affordable — with no coding skills required.
A small business website:
- Makes your business look more serious and trustworthy
- Helps customers find you, no matter where they are
- Serves as a landing page for all your social media profiles
- Grows with you as your business grows
This guide will walk you through the steps of making a website for your small business. You may be starting out small, but with the right website you won’t be small for long.Create a small business website
Plan your business website
Outline what you want your website to have on it.
The first step, before you start building, is to think about the different pieces of information you’ll need on your website and where you want them to go. This is your Site Plan. No need to get fancy here; writing this down on a piece of paper is perfect.
You know you’ll need a homepage, that’s a given. But what about other pages? You may want an About page, a Contact page, and maybe a page that lists your services. You don’t have to have too many pages —some of the most successful small business websites are surprisingly simple.
One way to think about your website is to brainstorm three things you want your visitors to be able to do. Focus on just three things and you’ll be sure that your website won’t be overly complicated, and that your visitors will be able to find just what they need quickly.
Some examples of answers to this question might be:
- sign up for updates
- learn who you are
- understand what your product does
- find your location/contact information
- see examples of your work
- read your latest announcements
- download your latest song
Anything that doesn’t make it into the top three can still be included on your site, but it shouldn’t be your focus. If you can only narrow your list down to 10 action items, then you’re probably expecting people to accomplish far too much on your website—meaning you’ll present too many options, visitors won’t be able to find what they need, and they may quickly leave your site for somewhere else.
Gather the pieces you need for your small business website
Once you have a brief Site Plan and an idea of what visitors should do on your website, gather the assets you’ll need to put your ideas into action.
Custom domain name
Your website should send the message that you are reputable and committed to your business. One of the best ways to do this is to have a custom domain name (website address). When you start your Insight website, its address will be an Insight subdirectory (e.g. www.insightwebsites.net/mywebsite). To make it fully yours be sure to set up the custom domain for your website.
Images really make a website. They break up text, keep readers interested, and help establish your website’s overall style.
Ask yourself if you have all the photos you need, and at the quality you need for them to look their best. Examples of photos you might need are:
- photos for your website background
- products photos
- a headshot or other flattering photo of you
- It can also be nice to include some behind-the-scenes photos of your office or workspace so that people can get to to know you.
You don’t need to take all of these photos yourself—there’s a growing list of websites that provide high quality stock photos free of charge. Just make sure that your images are large enough to show up well for all screen sizes.
Depending on what pages you have in your Site Plan, you’ll want to start writing some of the text to go with them. Part of the beauty of having your own website is that you can tweak the writing whenever you want, so don’t worry about getting it perfect right now. Just start with the basics—you can always add more later.
Remember that you may not need as much text as you think, since visitors likely won’t spend too much time reading it. Short paragraphs and sentences will work best. Text that looks normal in a Word document or on a printed brochure can seem way too long once it’s on a screen.
When you write, keep search engines in mind too. Try to use words that people might type into Google to find your business. This is especially important in your Heading Elements. By doing this kind of search engine optimisation, you’ll make it easier for customers to find you (see our section on SEO below for more information).
Extras for your website
Once you know what images and text you’ll need to get started, you can also think about other elements that would be nice to have:
- Newsletter signups
- Social media accounts
- Customer Testimonials
Check out this infographic on the Anatomy of a Business Website for more information on the different parts of a website.Create a small business website
The best templates for small business websites
Insight Websites has over one hundred responsive templates to choose from, and you can use any of them for your small business website. How do you decide? Here are some of our recommendations.
The best business websites make their most critical information available to visitors right away. Whether you’re a restaurant posting your menu and opening hours, a salon posting your contact information and booking widget, or a store posting your locations and latest products, you want to make sure the content you do have is easy to find without a lot of clicks.
A sidebar on the bottom can work too, but it will take customers a few more seconds to scroll down to see it. You should also stick with a short navigation menu, either horizontal or vertical.
The different parts of your small business website
Your website header is the first thing that visitors see, and will also appear on every single page of your site. Choose an eye-catching image (here are a few resources for finding good ones) and pair it with a logo, if you have one, and your site title (most likely your brand/company name) in the font and colour of your choice.
Your navigation, or menu bar, shows the main pages of your website. It’s also the primary way that visitors will navigate your site and find what they are looking for. Navigation menus work best when they are clear, straightforward, and only take up one line. Rather than cramming as many pages into your navigation as will fit, take the time to really think about the most necessary parts of your website. Only include the essentials in your top navigation.
Your website’s sidebar will appear on every page of your website. Depending on the template you choose, the sidebar might be on the left side, right side, or even on the bottom. Many people use the sidebar for some of their most important information that’s relevant no matter which page a visitor is on. For example this is a good place for your contact information, hours of operation, location, and social media buttons.
Products & Services
Every website is different, but you should describe your main products and services on your homepage. Just like with an elevator pitch, you only have a few seconds to describe your value proposition. If you have one chance to impress or interest visitors, what would you choose to feature? Use your homepage to highlight your main strengths and make your customers want to learn more. Then, you can direct them to another page for more details.
Call to Action
Most people leave a website within 10-20 seconds. Your goal is to get them to stay longer and explore. That’s where a good “call to action” can help. Once you’ve piqued someone’s interest with your header, products, and services, you want them to click in to your website and keep learning more about you. A link or button here with an engaging, active direction (“learn more” or “I want one”) will make it clear to people exactly where they should go to reach the next step.
Social Media Buttons
It was once common for social media information to be hidden on an About or Contact page, but no more. Now it’s standard to give social media buttons a prominent place on your homepage or in your sidebar. Whatever you choose, just make sure they are visible so that people can easily connect with you.
Your About Page will likely be one of the most-visited pages of your website, as potential customers try to learn more about you. While ideally you’ll have already told people who you are and what you do on your homepage, your About Page provides a place to go into more depth. You can talk about your professional background, facts about your company and its history, and what makes you unique. Include a picture of you and your colleagues, and don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through. Here are more ideas for building a great About Page.
While you want customers to be able to learn more about you from your website, probably the most important step is for them to be able to get in touch! Be sure to make your contact information easy to find. You can put it in your website sidebar or footer, or have a separate Contact Page. Whatever you choose, your contact information should always be easy to find without the visitor having to go through too many steps. You can also add a Contact form or a Map Element to show where you’re located.
Make your business website look more trustworthy
The primary goal of your small business website is to show that you’re a pro at what you do. Trust is a deciding factor in many customers’ and clients’ decisions, so make sure your website sends the right message about your business:
- Keep your information up-to-date: Outdated information is the number one pet peeve consumers cite when asked about small business websites. With your own Insight website, it takes just a few minutes to update your content at any time. Always keep your information up-to-date as seasonal hours shift or products and services change.
- Use a custom domain name (web address)
- Describe yourself honestly: Take some time to fill out your About page with your professional background, what makes you unique, and also a flattering headshot.
- Make sure your website looks polished and professional: Customers want to see that you put care and consideration into everything you do, including your website. Proofread your text carefully and keep your design clean and simple. Make sure to use high-quality photographs that aren’t fuzzy.
- Get a professional logo: If you’re serious about your business, a professional logo is worth the investment. Your logo will give a cohesive look to all of your branding, social media accounts, and website.
- Add testimonials and certifications: Customer testimonials lend legitimacy to your website, and can also help by letting other people talk about your strengths so that you don’t have to. If you’re a member of any professional associations or have any other credentials or awards, you can add a logo or icon for them on your site.