November 18, 2011
Does your business have a website? To make sure it’s as effective as possible, keep in mind that a website isn’t something you can “set and forget.” Just as with all of your marketing materials, it’s important to revisit your website design on a regular basis to ensure it’s still getting the results you want.
What are some warning signs that your website might be starting to look dated?
Busy or cluttered sites, tiled backgrounds, multiple sizes and style of fonts, image sizes that aren’t uniform, and lack of a clear navigation system will all date your site, says SBDC Business Advisor Sé Reed. “However, while design is an important factor, it is out-of-date content that will let visitors know your site isn’t current,” says Reed. “And if your site has a copyright date, be sure it’s for the current year.”
What current trends in website design and functionality should small business owners be aware of?
Influenced by the popularity of Apple products, current Web design emphasizes simplicity, Reed says. “For most users, the Internet is a tool, and helping customers get the information or products they need easily and efficiently is more important than impressing them, or distracting them, with fancy graphics.” Use decorative fonts only as design elements, Reed says. “For body copy, stick with basic serif or sans-serif font. And unless your website is for a child-oriented business, don’t use Comic Sans.”
What types of companies should make their websites mobile-friendly?
Since a growing number of people are accessing the Web from their smartphones, Reed encourages all business owners to consider creating mobile-friendly versions of their websites. “According to industry projections,” she adds, “by 2013 more users will be accessing the Internet from their mobile devices than from desktops.”
Are there specific elements that certain types of businesses need to include?
For ecommerce sites, the key is to make products easy to find and buy, Reed says. “Every moment a customer spends looking for an ‘add to cart’ button is another chance for them to reconsider their purchase,” she warns. Brick-and-mortar businesses such as retail stores, restaurants or hair salons should prominently display a phone number, address and hours of operation. Photos of your location, products or signature dishes can entice customers to visit, but make sure the photos are well-lighted. (“Hiring a professional photographer can be worth it,” says Reed.) For a service business such as a marketing or design firm, photos are less important; consider using slideshow portfolios of work you’ve done for clients instead.
How often should you review your website and update its look?
While you can make small adjustments to the design on an ongoing basis, Reed cautions that major updates to the design and structure of the site can be confusing for existing users. “Total design overhauls are essentially a rebranding and should be considered as thoughtfully as a logo change,” she advises. “Redesigns, like initial designs, should be structured around the need to add new features and content, not just to jump on the latest design trend.”
When it is time to redesign, should you ask customers for their opinions?
“Asking customers about design is the surest way to get nowhere,” Reed says. Instead, she suggests asking them about the type of content they’d like to see, then consulting an experienced Web designer or developer to create a design that serves up that content in the most effective way.
Rieva Lesonsky is founder and President of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Before launching her business, she was Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva, read her blog at SmallBizDaily.com, and visit her website SmallBizTrendCast.com to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for free TrendCast reports.