Web Design Basics for Small Businesses
An effective small business website does not have to be complicated. Even if you are going to hire someone to design your business website, you must have some knowledge of web design basics, so you know what works and what does not work.
A good rule of thumb to remember with web design is: Keep it simple. Expect diverse visitors to your website. Some may be new to the internet or may not spend much time online while others may be pros. By keeping it simple, you cater to all of your visitors, decreasing the risk of frustration that could permanently scare away potential clients.
To ensure your visitors will enjoy a stress-free experience when visiting your website:
• Choose a relevant domain name . One of the first decisions you will make is to identify your website's domain name. Ideally, your domain name will be the same as your business name. But, if that name is already taken, opt for a name that describes your business or the product or service you offer. An effective domain name should be easy to spell, easy to remember, and easy to pronounce.
In addition to your domain name, you will need to choose a web host. A word of caution: Avoid the temptation of opting for a free web host, which will result in an unprofessional appearance. For example, you will not be able to use your own domain name and will instead have to use a name such as freehost.com/yourbusinessname. Many times free web hosts do not offer sufficient bandwidth for a business's needs.
The good news is domain names cost as little ten dollars a year while you can find web hosting for approximately $ 100 a year.
• Provide easy navigation . Web visitors want information, and they want it quickly, without having to muddle through pages of web content. In a study cited by Entrepreneur.com, the Garner Group asserts that "more than 50 percent of all web sales are lost because site visitors can not find what they're looking for."
To ensure ease of navigation, provide a site map, at least one navigation bar on each page, and a link back to the homepage on each page.
• Do not overload your pages with large files, videos, and photos . Users prefer websites with quick download times, and you will likely lose frustrated and impatient visitors if your website takes too long to download. That does not mean you can not use photos, for example. However, instead of using a full-size photograph on your page, opt to use a thumbnail image. A thumbnail image is simply a smaller version of the photograph. When your visitor clicks on the image, a larger version opens in a new page.
• Choose a color scheme that is easy on your visitors' eyes . Sure, a black background with a white or a red font might look different or maybe even attractive to you, but think about it from your visitor's point of view. Regardless of the font color, a black background makes reading difficult and could turn off your visitors.
One of the reasons computer programs – like Microsoft Word – use a white background is because it is easier for people to use and to read.
In addition to choosing a color scheme that is easy on the eyes, opt for commonly-used fonts – such as Arial or Times New Roman – that are generally recognized by most internet browsers, such as Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox.
• Avoid underlining text . If you are trying to emphasize a point, use another design method – such as bolding or italicizing – instead. Because most website URLs are underlined, using underlining to highlight information may only confuse your audience.
• Include a contact page . Make it easy for clients and prospective clients to get in touch with you by including a separate contact page on your website, preferably with a "Contact Us" form that visitors can submit directly from the page.
• Test your website in multiple browsers after it is complete to make sure that it looks as you want it to and that everything is working as it should. Be sure that your links – from page to page within your website and hyperlinks leading to other websites – are all working. Dead links can reflect badly upon you. After your website is live, periodically check that all links still work, so you do not frustrate your visitors and waste their time with dead links.