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The Do's and Don'ts of Website Design For SME's

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Knowing what makes a good website is crucial. Making mistakes as a small business is expensive, time consuming and doesn't allow you to hit your company objectives. You could apply a 'you get what you pay for' approach and you might be lucky or you could arm yourself with some facts before briefing a website designer. If you don't get satisfactory answers, choose another designer. This is what you need to know, what to do and what not to do...

Look great!

A poor design makes your business look cheap and no-one likes to do business with those who cut corners. People decide to stay or leave a website within four seconds and the decision is based almost entirely on appearance, just like a shop in the 'real' world. Start by having a look at your competition and make a note of what you like and don't like. What are the big national players in your sector doing online? Chances are they have a budget to research what works and what doesn't, you can learn from this just by looking at their website. What is the local competition doing online? Your starting point is to make sure you look better than them. A good shop is clean and tidy, it's easy to find what you want and it's easy to ask questions of staff. Online is no different, make sure your website is designed to be uncluttered, easy to navigate and include a frequently asked questions section and a 'contact us' page. All good websites have a search bar and you must include terms and conditions and a privacy policy, especially if you are collecting email addresses. Don't fall foul of the law. It's tempting to 'go cheap', especially in a recession but people will judge your company by your website and a poor design will cost you more in lost business than you will have saved.

Design with the customer in mind!

You can have a great design but if it only appeals to a small part of your customer base or even worse, just you, you may find your new website alienating everyone else. Ask your designer to keep your customer at the front of their thinking when designing. An electricians website should look authoritative and reassuring whilst a trendy bar appealing to young adults needs to appeal to the young and the trendy. A free template from the Internet is not going to achieve this as well as a bespoke design and you will again lose business that should have been yours.

Build a search engine friendly website!

You wouldn't market your business in the desert and the further down the search engine rankings your website is, the further into the desert you are taking your business. That's a waste of money if you've just spent a load on a great looking design! How will your new site be built? Is it using architecture that is friendly to search engines? Here again, the free website built using a template can equate to a waste of money - search engines typically don't like them and they can rank very low indeed. Be prepared to spend time link building, optimizing the content and understanding your meta tags. If that doesn't mean anything to you (and why should it!) ask your designer to explain. You can optimize your website yourself but you do have a day job remember so make sure you understand what costs on top of the build itself you will need to find to optimize your website. Page two of a search engine is where the desert exists, less than 10% of people ever bother to look there.

Browser Compatibility! Your designer must make sure that the site is built to be read by all the different browsers, not just Internet Explorer. What will your website look like in Safari, Firefox or Opera? What will it look like on someones phone? Make sure your designer builds for all of the different browsers, it takes time to do and costs more but it's better than putting off your customers. The designer must also minimize loading speed, the longer it takes the less likely the visitor to your site will stick around.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: ANTHONY TAYLOR
ORCA Web Design Buckingham design and build professional websites for small to medium sized businesses like REP Glass Leeds

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