During a time when so many businesses are closed, a key to success is staying connected to your customers. While you may not be able to connect face to face, you can do it virtually.
One of the first things a potential customer will do is Google or search for your business, which is why having an online presence is crucial. The first thing that needs to be established is a website – your website is your calling card for your business.
There are two things that need to bet set up before you can design a website, and that is a domain name and a web hosting account. A domain is the URL (web address} that users will type into a search browser to find your business, and what you will use to promote your business. Every website needs a host server, which is where all of the website data is stored for the public to access. Both of these can be purchased easily online and oftentimes from the same provider. One of the most commonly used providers is GoDaddy.
The next thing you need to do is choose what website platform to build your website on. There are numerous platforms that can be used to build a website, and many are free and user friendly. Anyone can make a website, regardless of technical skill level.
- Squarespace, Weebly, and Wix – These three platforms are drag and drop style builders that offer built-in hosting services and various themes to choose from.
- WordPress – WordPress is the most popular website platform – over 30% of all websites are built on WordPress. It offers themes to get you started, and can be fully customized and adaptable over time.
- Shopify – If you plan to sell products or services online, this is the platform for you. It is geared towards businesses who want to easily sell, ship and manage products online.
Necessary Components of a Website
Your website needs to clearly define the different aspects of your business. Each of the pages on your website should serve a purpose.
Some of the main components that a website should include are:
- Business description – Give a clear and concise description of what your business does.
- Contact information – Your businesses’ phone number, email address and physical location. Make it easy for customers to get in touch.
- “About” page – Put a face and name to your brand by including information about how the company was founded and the staff that are employed.
- A “Call to Action” – A call to action tells customers what you want them to do, whether that is buy a product, book a service, sign up for email notifications, or contact you.
- Shopify – The website platform offers “purchase” plugins that can be added to an existing website.
- Appointment scheduling – Platforms like Acuity Scheduling allow customers to book online appointments with ease, and help keep your business organized. For non-essential retail businesses who can begin to reopen, a booking tool is a great option for curbside pickup/to-go.
- SEO – Search Engine Optimization is a tool on the back-end of your website that helps drive traffic to your site. Customers use keywords to search for businesses and SEO can tell you what keywords are being used to access your website, and how to best optimize it.
- ADA Compliance – Your website needs to be accessible to those that have disabilities affecting their hearing, vision or physical capacities. The American Disabilities Act has set guidelines and your website can be checked for free here. WordPress also offers templates and plugins that improve accessibility.
Branding and Design
Your brand is your businesses’s identity and what sets you apart from your competition. Your business name, logo, tagline, colors and design aesthetic are all elements of your brand – your website should be consistent with these components of your business.
The website design should be both visually appealing and navigable. A few key elements to your design are:
- Navigation – Your website should flow from one page to another. A main menu should be simple and point to each of the pages on your website.
- Typography – The text should be easily readable – text size, font and color should be taken into consideration.
- Imagery – Images should be both high quality and used with a purpose. Original photography is the best to convey an authentic vision of your business. However, if the images do not look professional it can deter people from patronizing your business. There are many stock image websites that offer free professional imagery to use – Pexels, Unsplash and Freepik are just a few.
- Colors – Too many colors can be distracting, so use minimal color combinations to keep viewers focused.
- White space – White space (“empty” space) keeps your website clean and organized. This includes space between content, margins, and sidebars.
The final step before making your website live to the public is to test it. Make sure it works on multiple browsers and functions properly on your a mobile device. Once that is complete, press publish.
*There are many businesses that provide services and resources to build a website. We have only mentioned a few in this blog. Weingarten Realty does not endorse any of the businesses listed in this post.