In this Guide to Starting a Small Business Website, I'm going to take you "step by step" through all of the elements you will need to consider before you begin looking for a website designer to create your new website.
The first question you should ask yourself and that your web designer should ask you is.
Why do you need a website?
Now, this might sound like a "No Brainer" but answering this question will set the focus of your new website.
Take this recent client of mine for example:
Gary is a plumber who has been operating a successful small Plumbing business for a couple of years.
The majority of his business comes from referrals from happy customers which is great.
Gary knows that there are many more potential clients in his service area and he wants to tap into that market and reach out to new prospective clients.
So Gary's reason for needing a website is to promote his business to a larger potential customer base and to generate new leads and clients to expand his client base to increase his sales potential.
In Gary's case, his business will just roll along and as long as he keeps up the great relationships with his current clients however his business will probably remain at the same level without the opportunity to grow and expand.
But the chances that his business grows in any significant way is minimised because he has no avenue to attract new customers.
Not to mention the fact that other Plumbers are operating in his service area and they are all competing for the same customers.
Now that we have identified the focus and reasons behind why you need a website, we can now start to bring together some of the elements your website designer will need.
Don't worry if you don't have all of these elements, to begin with as this guide and a great web designer will be able to help you with many of these elements.
These Elements will include.
Now that we have our list let's break it down for you.
Feel free to jump ahead if you already have some of these elements.
This should be the business name that you registered when you applied for your Australian Business Number (ABN) and business name with the Australia Securities and Investment Commission. (ASIC)
If you haven't applied for an ABN or a Business name then you will need to do this as soon as possible.
You can apply for an ABN and register your business name at the following link to the Australian Governments Business Registration Service.
This service also has some helpful information on starting a new business. Here's a link to their Starting a Business Guide.
If in doubt wait until you have negotiated the services of a Web Designer and let them help you with this process.
I would always consider purchasing your Domain Name from the same company that will host your website as this can save your web designer time and some small complications further along in the design process.
Your Domain Name is the name or online address that people will type into the search browser to find your website.
You could think of it like this.
If your business was a house then your Domain Name would be your street address.
Ideally, your domain name should have a direct correlation with your business and your business name.
Gary's business name is Bowen Plumbing as he services Bowen and the adjacent regions of Northern Queensland.
So an ideal Domain Name for Gary's business would be.
The .com.au at the end of the domain name indicates that you are based in Australia and this will help you to show up in more Australian based searches.
If you find that the .com.au business name is already taken then you could try a .net.au instead.
On average a domain name shouldn't cost you more than $20 to $30 per year, but the prices can vary so shop around.
The easiest way to think of website hosting is by using the house analogy again.
If the Domain Name is the street or postal address of your house then the Website Hosting is the land upon which your house is built.
There are so many company's offering websites hosting that I would also wait until you have a website designer and take their advice as to who to host your website with.
Any web designer worth their salt will have worked their way through several hosting providers over their tenour as a designer and they will have a couple of options for you to choose from with a hosting plan that suits your business.
I would certainly recommend that your website should be hosted in the country where most of your clients are active.
The reason behind this (and this is just a simplified answer) is that the closer the server is to your clients the quicker the information will travel to and from your client's web browsers.
If your website is not hosted in your country then you should try to utilise a hosting company that uses a CDN within your country.
A CDN or Content Delivery Network is (simplified) a copy of your website that sits on a server in your country and all of the search traffic is loaded and delivered from the local CDN which speeds the interaction and loading time for your clients.
Your clients will react more positively to a faster and more responsive website loading time.
Again there are so many different pricing and hosting packages available today that it would be impossible for me to answer this question.
I will add however that once again your web designer will want you to use a web hosting company that they know and trust.
One that will not only have fast speeds and a CDN available but one that has backup and sound security policies and great customer support.
Definitely chat this through with your web designer, they should be happy to expound on the benefits of their prefered web hosting providers.
Your email address will become an essential communication tool for your business and a professional email address including your business name, sends a professional branding signal to your clients.
In truth, you're going to need 2 email address.
One Google (Gmail) email and one Business Email address.
Your Gmail email will be used to access and set up your Google My Business account, your Google Analytics account and also your Google Adwords account if you decide that you would like to advertise your products or services on Google.
Setting up a Gmail account is something that you can do yourself by following this link to Gmail and following the instructions
I would recommend that your Gmail email has direct relevance to your business.
For Gary's Plumbing Business his email address could be for example [email protected]
And as you can imagine you will use your Business Email address for your day to day communications with your clients.
Often when you're purchasing your Domain Name and your Hosting package you will be able to create and or purchase your mail address at the same time.
This is another time where your web designer will be able to help.
Your Web designer will need these details to add to your website and your Google My Business account.
Make sure that you use consistent Business Address details across all of your web and social media business citations.
Google will use the instances of your business address citations to confirm and authenticate your business across these multiple platforms.
Do you have a business Brand Logo?
Your Brand Logo helps to identify your business and it gives a visual anchor to your Brand across not only your website but across all of your promotional materials, stationery, uniforms and the list goes on.
You have to pay for the design but the prices are quite reasonable.
Once you have settled on your Logo Designer make sure that they will supply you with a variety of files for the finished logo product.
These files should at least include AI / JPG / PDF / PNG / PSD / EPS / SVG
Your Web Designer will need these files to reproduce your Logo across a variety of digital and hardcopy materials in the future.
When you're considering the design of your logo try to keep the number of colours you use to a minimum.
Apart from Black, White and variations of Grey one main colour and one accent colour should be all that you use.
A logo design with too many colours can draw attention away from the logos focus message.
This leads us nicely into your website branding colours and as you guessed it the same colours that you chose for your logo should be the same colours that you use for your website.
The only caveat to this is that you could easily include variations on your main colour palettes through subtle shifts in the colour shades on your website.
A great place to easily chose your hue and shade variations is at PALX
PALX will allow you to add the HEX code for your main or accent colours and it will seamlessly produce for you a variety of Hue and Shade variations for you to choose from.
Speaking of HEX codes, it's a great idea to have the HEX codes of all of the colours you wish to use on your website so that you can pass them along to your web designer.
Your Web designer will use these HEX codes to accurately reproduce your branding colours across your website design.
Along with your brand colours, the choice of Fonts that you use for your branding is equally important.
Whilst like your brand colours your choice of fonts will be subject to your tastes there are a couple of rules that you should try to follow.
Like your brands, colours try and limit yourself to just 2 fonts.
One main font for your headings and titles etc and one font for base text. (your base text is the text used in the main text content of your website).
Limiting yourself to using just two fonts will add consistency to your website and allow the emphasis to fall onto your headline and titles.
Where possible try to avoid fonts that are difficult to read, like very thin fonts or handwritten fonts so that your headline is easily read on mobile devices with smaller screens.
The best style of fonts that are used most commonly across the web is Sans-serif fonts and Google fonts.
A typographer could certainly take up many paragraphers explaining these different fonts in detail and if you're interested in delving deeper then head over to google and jump right, in but for the moment it's probably enough for you to know that if you chose these styles of fonts then you can go too far wrong.
When choosing your branding Fonts I have found FontPair to be a great and free tool to compare different fonts and how they look together on a page.
If your business has a Slogan or a Tagline make sure that you also supply this to your web designer as they will often incorporate your slogan into your SEO wording to help solidify your online brand presence further.
Google My Business is a free tool for businesses to manage their online presence on Google for both Google Maps and Google search.
Creating a Google My Business profile is fairly straight forward and something that you can do for yourself.
Follow this link to the Google My Business Website to begin the setup process.
Know where you will be providing your services might also seem like a "No Brainer" however your website designer will need to know these details for SEO purposes.
So having a clear view of where your services will be provided is essential.
Having a budget is for your new Website Design Project will allow you to start making decisions around which website design company will be within your pricing range.
Simple websites can start from as low as $500 and then the prices will increase upward depending on the size and complexity of your site.
Always shop around and do your homework as with many things cheaper is not always better.
Being able to have a concise overview and description of your potential clients and their demographic can significantly drive the focus of your final website's design and structure.
If for example, you're looking to sell products online you're going to need to know who you are selling to and what motivates them to purchase.
Knowing these motivations can influence everything from your site's colours and content inflections to the type and style of images you may use so spend some serious time deciding who your potential clients may be.
A great way to help you decide on your new website project design will be to look at what your competitors are doing.
Of course, you won't want to copy their websites but checking our your competitors can give you some great insights into what you may or may not want to include within your website.
Go and find some design inspirations from other websites that you have seen and used.
Taking a screenshot of different parts and elements from different websites you like will help your designer to get a real-world feel for how you would like your website to look, feel and the user experiences that they create.
Below are some links to inspiration website design resources.
Setting yourself a reasonable deadline is a must-do to keep your project and your web designer on track and focussed.
I would always recommend setting some milestones to the design process and asking for these to be set and established within the design contract or proposal.
Your design milestones should also coincide with your payment process to the designer if applicable.
Some typical milestones could include some of the following.
Having great and contextual imagery is a must for every website design.
There are loads of Royalty Free Imagery providers online today and some of the images they have available may be great for your website.
However having images of yourself, your team, vehicles, products and services and your business premises (both internal and external) all add additional levels of uniqueness, creditability and brand awareness to your website.
Most people these day are very web savvy and if all they see on your website is generic web images that they have seen many times before then they will think twice about the legitimacy of your website and in turn your business.
The phrase "Content is King" has never been truer than when creating a website.
All search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo determine the relevancy of your website by the words that are used on your website.
They will then use this relevancy to show your website to prospective clients.
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is one of the most important factors when it comes to getting your website to rank well in the search engines listings.
This is quite an in-depth subject and I would suggest that you talk with your website designer at length about the SEO of your website and its potential implications to the performance of your website.
You know your business better than anyone else so it will be yourself and your team that will need to create all of the Textual Content for your website and believe me it can take quite some time some so make sure that you give yourself the time you need to complete this important task.
Your website designer can certainly help you with some aspects of the SEO like your site metatags for example.
For a more detailed read take a look at the link below.
Having a solid understanding of how your potential clients will search for your services and products online will go a long way to focusing on the SEO of your website.
These search terms are known as keywords and it's these keywords that will be used within your SEO strategy to help inform and direct the search engines.
The simplest way to find relevant keywords for your website project is to get onto google and start searching for your products and services just like your clients.
Then make a list of these keywords to use within your SEO and content wording.
Your website designer will also be of great help in this process.
Another great and free resource is below.
Having a solid idea of how many products you will be potentially selling online will influence the cost of your site, so make sure you're very clear on this point when your speaking with your website designer.
Take the time to read up on each services being aware that they do charge services fees.
Many banking institutions also have online payment facilities so have a chat with your bank manager to see what your bank can do for you.
Your website designer will also be able to provide you with insights into what they have used before on other eCommerce websites that they have created.
Receiving online inquires is great, it means that your customers are finding your business online and that they are reacting to your site in a positive way.
Make sure that you have the resources to deal with the influx of new business in a timely and professional manner as you often only get one opportunity to make a positive impression.
Once you have made your sale its important to identify the potential for further sales to the clients who have already purchased your products or services.
Email campaigns are often a great way to stay in touch with previous clients.
Having a website is often just the first step into the potential benefits of having an online business.
You should also be discussing with your website designer the potential for increased sales and brand awareness that can be found through harnessing Social Media and online advertising with google for example.
One of the questions that is often asked is how long will it take before you start to realise significant traffic and sales from your website.
Leading SEO firms will offer that it takes at least 4 to 6 months before you start seeing any real search results.
However as more time passes and with constant work on your website you will see a reasonable increase in site traffic.
How much traffis and to what extent will depend on many variables but like with most things in business, the more time and effort you put into a project the great the rewards that project will yeaild.
On the whole owning a website is not a sprint but more of a marathon effort.
I hope that you have found this guide to starting a small business website as a solid introduction into the elements and process and decisions that have to be made as you start your website project.
Many of the elements that I have discussed withing this articale need there own dedicated articles so please feel free to take a look at some of our other posts.
Thanks you for your time and I hope that you found this article helpful.
Here at Illuminate Web Designs, we are always looking to improve our products and our customer service and we appreciate your comments and feedback.
So please feel free to email us or leave a review on our website for any of our products or services.
If you also think that there are products or services that you would sit well within our brand then please let us know and we can take a look at adding these in the future.