One of the most important things you can do to grow your local business is invest in a great website. If your business already has a website, then you’re on the right track to creating an online presence that attracts the right customers.
But not all websites are created equal. It’s true that any website at all is better than nothing, but an outdated, cluttered, or slow website can actually turn visitors off instead of converting them into customers. This can be incredibly frustrating — especially if you invested time and money into marketing campaigns to get those visitors to your site.
Fortunately, most small business websites perform better with some fresh updates. Here is a list of modern web design elements that every small business website should include:
The number one mistake that we see on small business websites is that they’re not responsive or mobile friendly. A responsive website is one that easily scales to fit any screen size while offering the same ease of use on any device.
This feature is incredibly important for local businesses because more people visit websites from mobile devices now than from desktop computers. According to a recent study, 51.3% of global website visits come from smartphones and tablets, while 48.7% of visits come from desktops. And here in the U.S., we spend an average of 87 hours per month browsing on our smartphones.
That’s a lot of time for someone to visit your business website.
But that doesn’t mean that most small businesses are prepared for that kind of attention. According to Clutch, only 71% of small businesses in the U.S. have a website, and of those sites, only 79% are mobile friendly. But in the South, that number decreases to 72%.
That means more than 1 out of 4 of Southern small businesses are unprepared for more than half of their website visitors.
User experience isn’t the only thing to keep in mind when making the switch to a responsive site. In 2015, Google began using mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor when showing mobile search results — if two websites are equally relevant to the search term, but only one is responsive, that one is much more likely to show up first when someone searches. So not only is your business’s unresponsive website difficult for visitors to use, but thanks to mobile-first indexing, it will eventually get fewer and fewer visitors.
Even if your business website is responsive, there are ways to make it more mobile-friendly. Mobile website visitors behave differently from desktop visitors:
Let’s dive into some ways to keep mobile visitors on your website longer, encourage them to take action, and draw them deeper into your site.
A clearly organized site structure is important for both user experience and Google rankings. A navigation that’s easy to follow helps visitors find what they’re looking for faster. This decreases the chance they’ll bounce back to search results and increases the chance they’ll click through on your CTAs. And the longer that people stay on your site, the more Google learns what is and isn’t relevant when people search.
Your site structure also helps you earn sitelinks in Google’s search results. These are the smaller, more specific links indented beneath a main search result, like shown in this screen grab:
Sitelinks help people find the right page directly from search results instead of having to spend time wandering around your site looking for the right page. They can’t be added manually — Google automatically awards them to sites with great structure.
So what does a great site structure look like? The specifics depend on what you want to highlight about you business, but remember that your navigation should follow a logical progression that makes sense to the user.
Choose 2-7 main pages to appear in your navigation bar, like your About page, your product or service pages, your FAQ page, your blog, and your contact page. If you like, you can use drop-down menus to organize your pages even more — for example, the About tab in your navigation bar might include a drop-down menu listing Our Story, Our Team, etc.
Remember, too, that the longer your visitors have to look for something, the more likely they are to leave your site before taking the actions you want them to. Websites with great site structure typically have shallow navigation — i.e., a structure that takes only about 3 clicks to reach every page, according to Kissmetrics. This keeps your important pages near the surface of your website so that people don’t have to dive too deeply in their search for information.
One often-overlooked element of modern website design is the negative space between design elements, or whitespace. Whitespace is a part of every good design because it keeps the page from looking cluttered or messy. It makes your site text more legible, and it allows the eyes to rest as they scan the page. It also acts as a visual separator between unrelated design elements (for example, the paragraphs on this page). But most importantly, whitespace helps call attention to your CTAs, opt-ins, and other important features.
Here’s an example of a website we designed that makes good use of whitespace. Note how your eye is drawn to each feature individually as you scroll:
While whitespace is important, you also need to include a good color palette. We’ve written before about the role of color psychology in your website design, but we’re mentioning it again here because it’s so important to the success of your website.
Each color carries a hidden messages that your website’s visitors respond to on a subconscious level. Blue, the world’s most common favorite color, is widely associated with trust. That’s why so many doctors and dentists use blue for their practice’s colors. Red, on the other hand, is a well known “power color” that connotes energy, strength, and passion.
Let’s take a look at the example above. The site uses a simple color palette of green — which is associated with growth, healing, and calmness — and white.
Now look at the site content. This is a website for a doggie daycare that specializes in providing pups with a safe environment to learn and play.
Can you sense the company’s message of safety and growth as you look at the site?
Consider what meanings your brand colors carry as you start to think about your website. Do those colors convey the message that you want for your company? If the answer is no, you may want to give more thought about what colors to include on your business website.
Want to see what went into redesigning this website? Read the full case study here:
Poorly formatted page copy is one reason that many small business websites lose visitors. We see web pages all the time that lump all their text together into one large section. But when visitors see a wall of text with no photos or visual elements to break it up, they’re automatically more likely to click away from your page without reading your content or acting on your CTAs. In fact, the average visitor only reads 28% of the words on your page, according to a study by Nielsen.
A simple way to combat this is to trim your page copy, both visually and in word count. Be sure to use enough for good SEO — a minimum of 300-500 words is recommended — but beyond that, only use as many words as necessary to convey your message. Once your copy is shortened, break it up into sections.
Let’s take another look at the Hound Playground example above. The “What We Offer” section is a fairly lengthy 6 paragraphs, but because it’s broken into 3 short columns instead of being written out in wall-to-wall copy, the reader’s eyes travel down the page more quickly. which makes makes the work of reading 6 paragraphs seem like less of a chore.
This is one way to break up the text on a page. Another is to include plenty of other design elements, like colored backgrounds, buttons, and images. Let’s dive into images a bit more …
There’s a reason we labelled this section “Proprietary Images” instead of simply, “Images.” One of the pitfalls of small business web design is that too often, businesses don’t have photos of their office or warehouse, so they use stock images to give their website more visual interest.
Here’s the problem with that strategy —
You want your website to stand out from the competition. But if you use the same stock photos as everyone else in your industry, you simply blend into the background.
But when you use your own images, you begin to connect with potential customers before you ever speak to them. They get to sneak a peek at your office, meet the team on your about page, and start to develop a feel for how your business treats its customers … all before deciding whether or not to reach out.
Here’s an example of a company we worked with that did a good job of incorporating their own images instead of stock photos:
When choosing which photos to include, look for images with a high resolution so that they display well across all screen sizes. But make sure your images aren’t too big … large file sizes can bog down your site and cause it to load slowly, which can drive away visitors.
Before you start to build out your website, you need to decide what action you want someone to take on each page. Some pages, like the Contact page, have a clearly defined goal of getting visitors to fill out a contact form requesting more information. For other pages, the goal might be for a visitor to click through to another page, like from the Blog page into a post.
Once you decide what action someone needs to take on that page to move closer to becoming a customer, you need to tailor everything on that page to encourage users to take that action. Your color palette should be welcoming and encouraging (see No. 3) and your images should be warm and friendly. The copy on the page should move at a speed that keeps people moving farther and farther down the page.
It’s important to make your call to action appealing as well. Use CTA buttons in colors that catch the eye like, orange, neon green, or hot pink. Avoid red and yellow, as these warn the brain to stop or pause (think traffic signals). This action should feel like the natural, logical step for someone to take after reading the page, but a red or yellow button telling the brain to stop and think first could make them decide not to act at all.
Your CTA should link to a page on your site that includes an email capture form. Remember, the ultimate goal is to convert your site’s visitors into customers, so any action they take should be something that draws them farther into your sales funnel and gives you the information you need to follow up with them. You can’t do that unless you capture leads on your site, which we’ll cover in the next section. And if you want to learn more about CTAs, read or previous blog, “Everything You Need to Know About Compelling Calls to Action.”
If you don’t have a form set up on your website to capture leads, you probably get most of your business through people calling your business phone. But you can only answer the phone for so many hours each day. And thanks to texting and instant messenger apps, most people don’t want to make phone calls anymore. This means that unless you can get everyone who visits your website to pick up the phone and call you at a time when you happen to be available to answer, you’re missing out on potential business.
That’s why we recommend every small business website include a form where visitors can request more information, schedule an appointment, receive a quote, etc. These forms should provide space for the person’s name and email address at the very least. We like to include a space for the phone number too. Depending on your company, you may choose to ask for more information as well (we ask people to describe their project and set their budget). Once you have the visitor’s information, you can add them to your sales pipeline, email newsletters, and other marketing strategies.
You can either house these forms on a page, like we did on our contact page, or you can build them as a pop-up that appears on multiple pages. If you choose to house it on a single page, you’ll need to remember to link to that page several times throughout your website, and you may see a lower response rate. If you design the form as a pop-up, you run the risk of interrupting or annoying site visitors. You may also see some push-back from Google if you aren’t careful about where the form appears — pages may not rank as well if a pop-up obscures the content immediately for mobile users.
Take care to work these forms in naturally. You want your website visitors to see them as a helpful answer to a problem or question, not as an annoying interruption.
Here’s an example of a pop-up done well, courtesy of Hubspot. Their newsletter subscription box only pops up once you move your mouse back toward the top of the page as if to close the tab or select another option on the navigation bar. They know that you read marketing tips because you’re on their blog. So the pop-up works to solve your problem of needing marketing tips by showing you where to sign up for a newsletter full of them.
Your website is the first impression that many people have of your small business, so you need to make it count. Each of these elements works to improve user experience on your website, and when combined, they help your business make a great first impression.
Ready for a slick new website, increased traffic and more converting customers? Tell us a little about your business and we’ll reach out to get your project underway.