Web Design for Small Business 1 – Homepage EssentialsPublished 1 week ago October 11th, 2017
WEBSITES are often considered a necessity for today’s business market, but one of the most significant facts to consider in web design for small business, is that not every small business actually has a website.
In fact, a 2016 report by business to business research firm Clutch founded that approximately 46 per cent of 350-plus small businesses in the US do not have a website, with over 10 per cent claiming that they are unlikely to have one even in the future.
Social media has become a popular option for many small firms in developing an online presence, but many startup and small firms cite a lack of technical expertise as a primary reason for not using or maintaining a dedicated website.
Companies that decide to develop a business website may well find their heads spinning at the sheer range of template options available, but underpinning the best websites are a set of principles that help to develop a strong foundation for your viability online.
In this post — Part 1 of a 2-Part series on the fundamentals of web design for small business — we look at 14 essential features of business homepages. You will find that even thinking about your business’s presence online in this way will be an indispensable aid.
Web Design for Small Business – Four Key HomePage Elements
IT IS helpful to sub-divide the homepage into four key areas — the Header; Above the Fold content; Below the Fold content; and the Footer. Let’s look at these four areas, and the essential elements of each.
I – HEADER
IN TERMS of web design for small business, the header of the website functions in almost the same way as a business card does, but obviously in a much more interactive sense. The best headers incorporate the business name and logo, the tagline for your business, they establish a clear navigation structure, and at least one call to action (CTA).
1. Business Name & Logo
In business, it’s essential that every component of the entity relates to and is in sync with every other part. It takes a multiplicity of elements to drive your business, and they must all be bound to the same purpose, like a team of horses pulling a wagon.
In web design terms, it’s a bonus if your website domain and your business name are absolutely identical, and absolutely crucial that the domain name at least incorporates the name of the business.
For that reason, it’s more important now than ever to have a simple and memorable business name that it reflects your company and what it does, and that the logo incorporates the name and/or is visually reflective of it.
Taglines should never be underestimated. They are essentially punchlines. In marketing terms, the best taglines leave a lasting impression even after the briefest of encounters with a client. The best taglines summarise or encapsulate the overall benefit of the product or service. They are comprehensive and easily remembered. Key examples are McDonalds (I’m loving it); and Nike (Just do it).
3. Top & Breadcrumb Navigation
Navigation is essential for any well functioning business website. Best practice in web design for small business dictates that customers should be provided with both a top menu bar—with which users can migrate to any part or the site—and a ‘breadcrumbs’ feature that shows the user exactly where they are and how they got there. So, for instance, if the user has accessed the services section from the home page, the breadcrumb bar might read something like this: “You are here: home page >> services”. The breadcrumbs page descriptions will be clickable to enable users retrace their steps.
4. Call to Action Button for Telephone/Email Contact
The Call to Action in the header should intuitively belong here. The most appropriate points of contact in a header CTA could be, for example, a telephone number or email contact address.
II – ABOVE THE FOLD
‘ABOVE the Fold’ is a traditional news media term, referring to the upper half of the front page of a newspaper, which contains the headline and initial paragraphs of the most important news story, and /or the lead photograph for that edition of the newspaper. In terms of web design for small business and web development in general, ‘above the fold’ means the parts of a webpage that are visible without further scrolling or clicking. This portion of the home page should contain the main image, a summary of your most important business information, and client testimonials.
5. Main Image or Animation / Slider / Parallax
This image should reflect and illustrate, either in an abstract or a specific way, the most important and distinctive features of your business, your USPs. Parallax scrolling on the homepage is a popular contemporary option, whereby the main image scrolls at a slower rate than the foreground or text elements, attractively adding to the depth of the homepage. Parallax images or video on the homepage have become one of the most popular features of web design for small business.
6. Important Business Information
Where is your business based? What is its most important feature? What are your opening hours. These are just some of the details that might be incorporated in this section. These details are crucial ‘above the fold’ items. Regard them as one of the fundamental elements of web design for small business.
Testimonials or reviews are a great way of giving new customers or clients a consumer’s eye view of your work. These can be text based, but video testimonials are becoming increasingly popular.
III – BELOW THE FOLD
This term traditionally refers to the information that is positioned in the lower half of a newspaper, which will not be visible when the publication is folded. While less immediately important than the ‘above the fold’ content, awareness of the importance of ‘below the fold’ content is one of the key fundamentals of web design for small business. In web design terms, below the fold content is hidden when the page first loads, and must be scrolled to or clicked. Mobile responsive sites—and they should all be mobile responsive these days—made more fluid the idea of the position of the ‘fold’, but the main design challenge is to engage with the header and immediate landing page so that users will keep scrolling to below the fold, where they will begin to drill deeper into what your business is about.
8. Specific Features
Having enticed the potential client with the big picture ‘above the fold’ inducement, this is where you will set out the main features of your business, be it a particular product or products, or services.
9. Quality Content with Links to Inner Pages
The first burst of quality content is likely to be the top or latest post in your website blog or news section. Bear in mind that content such as this should be written with the user in mind first, and then the search engines.
IV – FOOTER
A WEBSITE footer should never be regarded as an afterthought or a ‘footnote’. A well considered and designed website could be viewed almost like a safety net that catches a first-time before they fall off the home page, creating final opportunities for engagement with call to action buttons, reiterating contact options, direction to social media platforms, and enhancing the site’s customer care reputation by reiterating the site navigation options.
10. Contact Information
The footer will contain your business’s physical address, its primary telephone contact number and its main email address.
11. Business Hours
The footer should also incorporate your business’s opening hours. These have been stated above the fold, but reiteration of these in the footer is one of the commandments of web design for small business.
The footer is another opportunity to enhance the navigation unity and integrity of the website, by including links to your homepage, ‘about’ section and contact details.
13. Social Media Buttons
Social Media buttons should be used sparingly but strategically throughout your website, and the footer is a great place to include buttons with links to your social media platforms, whether Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and others.
14. Newsletter Signup CTA
Enhance your connectivity and intelligence on leads by including a sign-up to a company newsletter, inviting users to submit their email addresses.
Next week – Design Essentials for your Inner Web Pages
Next time, we delve into the finer detail of your website by looking at the design essentials of the inner pages of business websites.