Are you fed up of having a lackluster website? Is your website out of date and in need of an overall? Then the Build A Better Website series is perfect for you.
Throughout the entire month of January, I will be sharing a daily tip to help you improve your website and increase your chances of converting visitors into customers. During the series, I will cover:-
- DOMAIN NAMES & HOSTING
- COPY & IMAGES
- CUSTOMER SERVICE
- WEBSITE ‘MUST HAVES’
- GAINING CREDIBILITY
- AND SO MUCH MORE…
What’s in it for you?
We all know the importance of having a website for your small business. But it’s not enough just to throw something together and think ‘That will do, for now, I’ll work on it when I have more time’.
That just doesn’t work anymore.
We live in a world dominated by the internet and you need to make sure you stand out amongst the competition with your own unique style and voice. And to do that, you need a professional website that markets you perfectly 24/7.
The Build A Better Website series is designed to help you do just that. After the 31 days, you will have a badass website that will be ready to take your business to new heights in 2016.
DAY 01 – GET A DOMAIN
To kick off the ‘Build A Better Website’ series, we are going to start with one of the most important factors of a professional website.
And that is having your own domain name.
The reason a domain name is so vital is that it is likely the first element of your business that people see. You’ll add it to your business cards, leaflets, social media profiles and tell people about it when they ask. So, what do you think is better?
A domain showing your chosen name such as myawesomebiz.com or one with a third party added on like myawesomebiz.someothercompany.com?
It’s gotta be your own name, right? Those first impressions matter, especially online when you have mere seconds to hook people in. It’s also a lot easier to remember which is important when people are looking you up.
For a minimal investment of less than £10/$10, you can buy your own unique domain name of either your business name or your own name. Instantly boosting your online image and overall business brand.
If you’re serious about growing your business online and want to secure clients, sponsorships as well as projecting a professional and trustworthy image then having a domain name is your first step in doing that.
DAY 02 – OWN YOUR SPACE
Let’s talk about hosting. Website hosting is the place all your files, pages, databases and photos are stored and accessed when someone visits your website.
As a website designer, I passionately believe that self-hosting and choosing the right host for your website is vital.
So, how will a good host will make a world of difference to your website?
Full control – You have full control of your website, you don’t have to rely on subscription services that can cut you off suddenly, delete your files or hike up the price to continue using their service.
Load speed – Having a quick loading website is important for the visitors to your website, but it also helps with your reputation on Google.
Security – Decent hosting providers keep their servers and systems up-to-date with the latest security and patches. Regular monitoring, backups and sending you alerts of any problems so you can prevent or reduce the risk of hacking and downtime.
Flexibility – Most hosts give you access to a control panel where you can manage your website and email. You can set up email accounts, databases, and website statistics. One-click install features are also commonly available which allow you to easily install WordPress, Joomla, and other services with little technical
Support – If you have a technical issue on your website, you need it fixed asap. A good host will provide a quick support service to help you resolve the issue with as little disruption as possible.
Owning your own space, will give you peace of mind that you are in control which is important when you operate a small business, especially one that trades online.
DAY 03 – CHOOSE A THEME
One of the hard parts of building your website is finding a theme that suits. You need to find a look that you can either use ‘out-of-the-box’ or a framework that you can DIY and customise to suit your aesthetic.
Whether you are on WordPress, Squarespace, Wix or Blogger you won’t be short of themes to choose from. However, there are a few things to consider when you are choosing your theme.
Features – Will this theme do everything you need it to do; blog, pages, e-commerce? For example, if a blog is the focus of your website make sure the layout and options for blogging are suitable.
Style – When you look at the demos for themes, it’s easy to think wow this looks amazing. But the demos tend to show off every feature the theme has; do you have content to fill all of these and make it look like the example?
Too much – Themes can come with lots of fancy bits that although look nice add no real value to your design and can end up clogging up your site with extra code, slowing it down in the process.
Easy customization – Check that the theme has the option to easily customise the options without a complicated process. Typically, you want to be able to change the logo, colours to suit your branding, main images and fonts.
Reviews – Have a look over the reviews and support forums for the theme you are considering as you’ll get a good indication of the positive and negatives others found and how good the themes support is (in case you run into any issues).
DAY 04 – GET BRANDED
To create a cohesive style for your business, you need to settle on your branding. And having your website match your branding will go a long way to forming a recognisable professional look.
Branding is more than just your logo. It is everything you put out into the world from your visuals and colours to the copy on your website and the way you communicate online and offline.
Defining your branding early on is quite important as it sets the tone for all the elements on your website. Allowing you to create a consistent theme across all your digital and printed materials.
When branding your website, consider these points:-
Consistency – Choose a colour palette that speaks to you and your target market. Use these colours across all your visuals and people will begin to recognise your unique colour combo.
Find your voice – Your website is one of the first places that people interact with you. So it is really important to get your intended message across through the way you communicate on your website. Figure out what you want your brand to communicate, and tailor your visuals and content to that message.
Images – Use branded or a specific styling for your images on your website. Again this defines your unique look and gives you a more professional online presence.
DAY 05 – GAIN CLARITY
When you are building your website, it’s good practice to set aside some time to get clear on your goals, aims and target market.
Gaining clarity during the early stages will help you to fine tune your website to fit in with your needs and those of your business.
Without a clear plan of attack, your website can end up all over the place and without a clear focus on what you want to achieve. Making it hard for people to know or care what services and products you are providing.
A couple of questions to ask yourself to gain that all important clarity:-
Who is my target market? Women aged 20 to 35, men 40 plus, young adults who love fashion. Whoever it may be, have a brainstorm about who they are, what they do and where to find them.
What can I offer? Decide what services or products you want to offer and how you plan to package them to sell.
Why are you different? It’s not easy coming up with a service or product that has never been provided before. And if your field is saturated with others
offering something similar, it can be hard to make your mark.
So, it can help to get clear on what it is that you have that others don’t and how you can put your own spin on it to make you unique.
DAY 06 – LESS IS MORE
When it comes to website design the saying ‘less is more’ is commonly thrown around. And in recent years the trend for minimalist, clean design has
There are a number of reasons minimal design works well with websites:-
Fewer distractions – Don’t waste valuable screen real estate by adding things that have no purpose other than to fill the space. It can make the page or post confusing, moving the focus and attention from the actual content.
Responsive – With a large portion of people now visiting websites on their mobile or tablet devices it is vital that the layout you present to them is easy to view. A less cluttered design will make their user experience much more positive.
Diluting your message – Ever been on a website and thought ‘what is this actually about?’. Adding lots of filler content can dilute what you are trying to say. By sticking to your key message, you make sure your website visitors know exactly what you are offering them.
We’re demanding – That’s right, I said it. We want stuff and we want it now! This is especially true on the internet when we expect to find things instantly. You have less than 7 seconds to make an impression (good or bad) on someone visiting your website.
A less is more approach to your website or blog layout will allow you to showcase your products and services quickly so you can hook those impatient visitors in as soon as they drop by.
DAY 07 – FIND YOUR NICHE
We touched on this briefly yesterday but it’s a crucial part of a successful website so it’s getting a whole day in our #buildingbetterwebsites series.
Pinning down your niche market is always part of your business plan (or, at least, it should be) but we can sometimes forget to carry that over to our website effectively.
And as your website is your top marketing asset for attracting and informing visitors of who you are, it needs to be targeted at your desired niche.
Finding your niche will allow you to design and build the look and feel of your website to appeal to the type of customers/readers you want to attract.
You can write the copy on your website pages and blog posts to speak directly to those people and get them to jump on board, read and share your posts.
But how do you find your niche?
Experience – What are you experienced in? Small business, wedding photographers, food on a budget? Use your experience and knowledge to share valuable information to your ideal market.
Who are your people? – Do you have the idea of your perfect client? If so, take some time to define who they are – age, location, lifestyle, income and where they ‘hangout’ are good points to consider.
What do you love? – Find out what you love doing and build on that. If you don’t enjoy your work or the people you are working with then you are gonna to end up miserable and frustrated.
DAY 08 – USE GOOD PHOTOS
I’m sure you will have heard this a million times but images play an integral role in representing your brand. For this reason, it is beneficial to use images that look good. As this will give the right first impression to those visiting your website.
The images used throughout your website are one of the first things people see. What do you think makes a better impact a professional high-quality photo or blurry, low-quality phone camera photo? I know which one I prefer!
Something as simple as a good photo can transform a website from ‘nice’ to ‘awesome’; just by adding that final touch of professionalism.
If you are using your own images, make sure that you show off your products or premises off in the best possible way. Before taking any photos, have a look over space; is there anything that doesn’t fit in or looks out of place? Take the photos in natural light (if possible) and with an actual camera instead of a phone.
Even if you can’t or don’t want to use your own photos, there is a vast selection of stock libraries and suppliers where you can find images. And these places don’t have your typical stock photos you are used to seeing, you know the cheesy stuff that makes you cringe? Yeah, thankfully we have moved on to real-life and more lifestyle stock photography.