Whether you are running a small business or a multinational conglomerate, a website is essential in the 21st Century. If you’re yet to launch your online presence, or feel that it’s time for a change, ensure you go about the build in the best possible way.
- Small business website design – why is the design so important?
- What features are the most important for a small business website?
- What is the best website builder for small business?
- Free business websites – what are the pros and cons?
- Business website templates vs bespoke development – pros and cons
- Average costs – how much should a small business website cost?
- What are the additional ongoing costs besides the initial build?
- Mistakes to avoid
- How to make a small business website – step by step
Small business website design – why is the design so important?
A small business will likely lack brand awareness to rival a corporate powerhouse. This does not need to be a bad thing. Less notoriety can also mean less baggage, and many consumers prefer small businesses – if such a supplier remains convenient.
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|The importance of first impressions|
|The necessity for convenience is a substantial caveat, so always factor it into the user interface design of a small business website. If consumers are not familiar with your brand, they will be equally ignorant of what you can offer. As users frequently bounce from poorly designed websites, they will not stick around to find out.|
Effective small business web design is your chance to make a positive first impression. Think of attracting a first-time visitor to your website as akin to attending a blind date. If your potential match is clean and dressed smartly, you’ll likely respond well. If they are scruffy and unkempt, you’ll understandably assume they did not make any effort. That’s a tough initial impact to overcome.
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You will not need to stuff a small business website with bells and whistles. In fact, that could work against you. Consumers turn to small businesses for a personal touch and assurance of a job well done, not to be dazzled by cutting edge sales techniques. A well-designed website with an intense focus on user experience provides this reassurance.
What features are the most important for a small business website?
The design of a small business website is important, but all the visuals in the world cannot make up for thin content or a bad user experience. Take the time to plan out your website, draw up a wireframe, and ensure that you cover all essential components.
A solid small business website will offer the following features:
|Website feature||Why is it important?|
|List of services or products||If a user is unfamiliar with your business, they may not be sure if you can meet their needs. Be clear about what you can offer to keep interest engaged. A search function can also be helpful for this.|
|Call to action||Once you’ve managed to get your potential customer to land on your web page, what do you want them to do next? An effective Call To Action will prompt your visitor to convert, whether that’s by making a purchase or contacting you for a quote.|
|Blogs||Content marketing is a major weapon in the arsenal of a small business website. Master your SEO strategy so consumers can find you through a generic online search.|
|Testimonials and reviews||93% of consumers are influenced by peer reviews when making purchases. Including these on your website can be more effective than any snazzy sales copywriting. Link to a reputable review site like Trustpilot too.|
|About us page||Consumers shop from small businesses for a personal touch. Introduce your business to build a relationship.|
|FAQ||Users may want to learn a little more about you and your businesses before committing to a purchase. Pre-empt any indecision by utilising an FAQ page to address concerns before they arise.|
|404 page||Design a bespoke 404 error page to address any broken links or incorrect URLs, flexing your UX microcopy muscles. A 404 page is annoying, but it’s preferable to simply hovering in the ether wondering if a page will ever load.|
|A good user experience (UX)||You must ensure that your business website is intuitive to use, and caters to the needs of your visitors quickly and easily.|
|Good technical performance||A danger with website builders or budget websites is slow loading speeds and unintuitive usability. This could make a big impact in your conversion rate and lead to fewer sales.|
What is the best website builder for small business?
When you’re ready to start building a website for your small business, you have two choices. You can use an online website builder and create your online presence in-house or hire an agency or freelancer to build it for you. The latter will be referred to as “bespoke” throughout the remainder of this guide.
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Let’s review some of the most reputable website builders available for use by small businesses.
|Website builder||Good to know…|
|Shopify||If you’re new to ecommerce and need a website from scratch, Shopify will offer everything you need. Unfortunately, it’s by far the most expensive option on our list and will take some time to truly get to grips with.|
|Squarespace||Squarespace could be called the market leader in the realm of website builders. The platform is well advertised and offers great in-built features for ecommerce sites. If you’re a complete novice to website building, however, it may take a while to master using this platform.|
|Weebly||Weebly is probably the easiest and fastest platform to learn how to use. It’s also free to use basic features. Alas, you’ll need to pay for a subscription to unlock most of the features you’ll need. If you do so, you’re better off using a platform with more advanced additions.|
|Wix||Wix is the best all-round website builder for a small business. The drag-and-drop approach is very user-friendly and offers plenty of features. You can also add any number of third-party apps. If there is a drawback to Wix is that it’s not the cheapest subscription model.|
|WordPress||Once upon a time, WordPress ruled the internet. It’s still popular, especially for content-focussed sites. WordPress also places virtually no restrictions on the customisation of a website. Fairly substantial knowledge of coding is required to make the most of WordPress, though.|
|Bespoke||If you commission a bespoke website design for your small business, the sky will be the limit. We’ll discuss more in a moment.|
We consider Wix the best platform for a small business website if you are taking a DIY approach. Give serious consideration to hiring an agency for the best possible experience, though. If you’d like to discuss your website needs with Creative.onl we would love to hear from you.
Free business websites – what are the pros and cons?
Other than the aforementioned Weebly, the only genuinely free website platform for small businesses is Site123. This Israel-based company allows a small business to create a website using a basic, core template.
The big pro of these sites is simple – they’re free. That’s the favourite price point of any SME operating on a limited budget.
Unfortunately, the term ‘free’ comes with a caveat. If you want anything more than the most basic package, you’ll still need to take out a paid subscription. If you’re building a business website, this is advisable. Remember what we said at the top of this guide – first impressions matter.
Business website templates vs bespoke development – pros and cons
We previously promised to discuss the opportunities provided by hiring an agency (or indeed a freelancer) to build a bespoke small business website. This table examines the differences between this approach and using an online website builder.
|Website Builder||Bespoke Service|
|The website will be free to build, but a monthly fee will be payable to keep it active||You’ll need to pay a flat rate fee for the building of the website|
|You’ll need to build the site yourself, either through coding or drag-and-drop prompts||You will not need to get involved in the build. Create a brief and leave the task in the hands of professionals|
|You’ll have no central point of contact in the event of a technical problem, just a generic customer service hotline or email||You’ll have a dedicated team to resolve any issues or pain points with your website|
|You will be limited to the features available through your website builder of choice||Within reason, an agency or freelancer can add any component to the website – for a fee|
|Your website may not stand apart from competitors that have used the same platform to build their site||Your website will be 100% unique, tailored to your business in terms of design and features|
If your business can cover the cost, we always recommend building a bespoke website. While there will be an initial expense, this will theoretically pay for itself in the longer term – especially if your business grows and you need to expand your site. Website builder software can be a useful short-term measure to initially launch your online presence without breaking the bank, though.
Average costs – how much should a small business website cost?
If you consider the limitations placed by a free website builder restrictive, you’ll need to pay for a subscription package. Budget for the following expenses for our recommended platforms.
|Website provider||Indicative prices|
|Shopify||14-day free trial, then a monthly subscription fee of US$29 (basic account), US$79 (standard account) or US$299 (advanced account)|
|Squarespace||14-day free trial, then a monthly subscription fee of £21 (business account), £24 (basic commerce account) or £37 (advanced commerce account). Commit to 12 months and pay upfront for a 30% discount|
|Weebly||Free for a basic account or a monthly subscription fee of £18 for a business account. The latter package will also include a free domain name and US$100 of free Google Ad credits|
|Wix||14-day free trial, then a monthly subscription fee of £13 (basic business account), £16 (unlimited business account) or £22 (VIP business account). A VIP account offers priority customer support|
|WordPress||30-day free trial, then a monthly subscription fee of £20 (basic business account) or £36 (ecommerce account). You’ll need to pay for 12 months upfront with WordPress|
|Bespoke||Various – every agency will have its own price point. There will typically be a one-off cost for the build, though there may be additional fees for hosting and maintenance. Discuss your needs and ask for quotes|
What are the additional ongoing costs besides the initial build?
If you use one of the packages offered by the platforms discussed above, the build will be free. If you decide to hire an agency for a bespoke small business website, you will need to agree on a build fee that fits your budget.
In addition to these expenses, prepare to pay for the following services linked to your small business website:
- Domain name renewal (if applicable)
- Domain hosting (if not included in a monthly subscription)
- Maintenance of your website, including resolving any downtime
- Annual SSL certificate
- Additional apps and plugins
Of course, the most significant potential expense is content for your website. If you need to hire a copywriter or graphic designer, professionals will need to be paid for their work.
What mistakes should a small business owner be careful to avoid when commissioning a business website?
Having established how important it is to create a well-designed small business website, let’s discuss the potential pitfalls to avoid. An effective small business website will sidestep any of these common mistakes.
- No clear message or brand values. Visitors want to know what your business can offer them and how you’ll do so. If you focus so much on flashy images and effects, neglecting the primary needs of your client base, they will quickly lose interest
- Excessive tabs. Effective website UX involves guiding a user by the hand, getting them where they need to be swiftly and efficiently. Too many options can become overwhelming
- Too much stimulus. Focus on your brand’s primary colour scheme, embracing the psychology of branding for additions to the palette. A wide array of images, sounds and videos can feel like an assault on the senses
- Absence of mobile optimisation. Like it or not, users are likelier to be visiting your website on a smaller screen. If your content is impossible to read or navigate on a 5″ smartphone, you’ll lose potential business
- Substandard operation. We hope this is obvious, but it bears confirming – ensure that everything on your website actually works! If users click on buttons and icons to no avail, they will have no reason to assume that your business will meet their needs
How to make a small business website – step by step
So, it’s time to build the website for your small business. Follow these nine steps to give yourself the greatest chance of success.
How to make a small business website
- Consider why you are building a website
Write down your core aims so that you’ve got something to refer back to during the website design project.
- Decide upon the look and feel of the website
Should it be formal or fun, informative or sales-based? Your branding and identity are important.
- Create a basic wireframe for your website, ensuring that the UX design meets the needs of visitors
A wireframe is a simple black and white diagram of how your website pages and navigation will be organised – comparable to an architect’s drawings.
- Work out a budget for your website
And decide how your money would be better spent – paying upfront for a one-off build and keeping monthly maintenance expenses low or spreading the cost monthly through subscription fees.
- Based on the above, choose between a bespoke website or building your own through online software
We always recommend a proper bespoke website which has the best chance of winning you sales; but a simple website builder can be a cheaper place to start with the first version of your website.
- If you choose to hire an external web builder…
…create a detailed brief and find an appropriate supplier. Remember, Creative.onl would be delighted to help.
- Build your website
Or wait for your supplier to provide a beta site for you to test.
- Test, tweak and perfect the website
You gain nothing by launching too soon. Ensure the site meets all your needs and represents your business.
- Launch the website, and spread the word!
Marketing is the topic of a whole other article, but it’s the next step to grow your online presence and your customer base using your new website.
If you need a website for your business, you have two choices. You can create it yourself, using software on the internet (we recommend Wix or Squarespace), or hire an agency or freelance web designer to assist with the build.
If you use DIY software from the web, the build will be free. To make the most of such platforms, you’ll need to sign up for a monthly subscription (average cost around £30 per month), though free trials are available. A freelancer or agency will charge anywhere from £2,000 to £10,000, depending on your required services.
If you want to make a small business website for free, use online tools like Wix. Just bear in mind that you get what you pay for, and these websites will offer minimal features.
If you’re doing business in the 21st Century, a website is a necessity. 87% of consumers begin the process of researching products online. If you have no internet presence, you leave a considerable amount of potential turnover on the table.
If you must use a free website builder, we recommend Site123 or Weebly. However, if you’re taking the DIY route, it’s better to pay for a monthly subscription to a service like Wix or Squarespace. You’ll still need to pay for anything more than the most critical content on a free site, and the above offer more features for your money.
A small business website has three main aims: introducing consumers to your brand, explaining what you can offer, and convincing users to spend with you. To this end, a catchy homepage, clear messaging, peer reviews, and content marketing (such as blogs) are all essential.
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