Business Website Design: Getting Started
A business website is a worthwhile investment and can help you grow your business online. The effectiveness of your business website as an online marketing tool can sometimes make or break your company as you compete for clients online. Don't let your competitors dominate your market online, make sure your business can be found by potetial customers.
The manner in which you approach your business website design is important. There are a few basic principals and best practices that will insure that your website is properly setup to yield the best possible results for your business while minimizing your overall spend in the short term and investing in long term development.
Principals and best practices for optimizing your business online
Expect change & embrace it
Never assume that you have it all figured out. Over time your website will evolve to meet your business objectives and improve customer relationships. You want to continually improve your website so that is more effective, user friendly and optimized to be found online.
Plan for at least 5 years in advance
When setting up your website it is best to use a development tool or standard framework with the flexibility that will enable you to grow with your business online and take advantage of features and extensions as they become available.
Avoid using services that put limitations on the amount of pages, products or access you have to your website. Some important questions to ask your internet consultant are:
- Can I easily add to and edit my website?
- What happens id I decide to move my website to another hosting service?
- Is there anyone monitoring my website to make sure that it is working properly?
- What features does my website come with to help me promote my business online?
- can I change and customize my design as I see fit or is it based on a template?
Use open source or a trusted solution
Open source platforms such as Drupal, Joomla & Wordpress are the most used applications for running business websites. They are widely supported and offer free extensions that will enable you to easily add ecommerce, blogs, forums, advertising, image galleries, directories and more to your website, usually free for the do-it-yourselfer.
Many web design companies have taken open source solutions and configured niche market solutions that are built to meet the needs of a particular industry. Some will also create their own platforms using their own proprietary technology.
Carefully research companies that offer custom proprietary solutions for web design before committing to any contracts. In some cases you may end up investing time and resources into building a business website that you can never fully own or take with you should you decide to move to a different platform or hosting solution.
Potential uses and functionality for business websites
Generate leads for sales departments
Your website can be setup exclusively for the purpose of generating leads online. Two basic approaches are commonly used to drive relevant traffic to a website.
- Create an online resource for potential clients by offering information and thoughtful insight related to the products and services that your business sells.
- Setup landing pages optimized to convert traffic generated through online marketing and advertising campaigns.
Creating an online resource will require a substantial investment of time but is a great way to optimize your website to be found online in generic search results.
PPC and other online marketing and advertising initiatives can be expensive but can also yield immediate results based on the effectiveness of landing pages.
Increase brand awareness
Your website can simple be used to provide information about your company and present a portfolio to customer and business associates.
Social networking efforts can be centralized arounfd a business website designed to manage marketing campaigns and initiatives.
Affiliate and Advertising
In addition to promoting your business, your website can be used to promote products and services offered by other companies. Affiliate marketing can generate supplimental income or can be the main revenue generating business of a website.
Online sales of products and services (ecommerce)
Many websites are used to generate sales of products and services online. Some ecommerce websites sell the products of other companies and never actually store inventory but rather use a drop-shipping service (usually offered by manufacturers, warehouses and dropship companies).
Online Business Card
Sometimes all you really need is a simple online business card. A website can be just that. A logo, company name, contact information and perhaps some graphics. Of course this would be the most basic format, an enhanced online business card can provide a button to allow users to call and speak to a representative from their computer or cell phone or provide a NFC scan and links to directions and map on Google Places.
The Basics of Web Design
There are three basic approaches to web design. You can either build your website yourself, use a pre-existing framework or get some help from an experienced web designer.
building your own website
You can build a website using basic HTML code widely available for free throughout the internet. You will, however, need space on a server configured for hosting websites. A home computer can be setup to host a website but is not as secure and not as efficient as a professional hosting solution.
We recommend purchasing standard web hosting on Linux/Apache/Mysql with access to a cpanel. This is one of the most commonly used business web hosting configurations and offers great performance, security and flexibility.
With a hosting account you will be provided with access to the server so that you can upload your html files.
Finding the right web design company
You may be tempted to go with the cheapest web design company you can find, however this is probably not the best approach. As we all know you usually end up getting exactly what you pay for.
Some draw backs of using a service that enables you to "build it yourself" is that you are often quite limited and stuck with the technology you are given, meaning the minute you outgrow your website you find that moving is not such a simple task. The more information and resources you have already put on your website the harder it will be as most of these technologies are proprietary and you are not provided with any simple means of migrating your content.
Therefore choose a company that will build your custom website on a platform that is widely available, the best platforms to use for business websites are Drupal, Wordpress, Joomla and Magento for ecommerce. By having someone build your website on any of these platforms you will enable yourself the freedom to switch designers, migrate from one hosting company to another or simple migrate content to another installation.
Before settling for any particular client make sure you look at their portfolio and contact a few of their existing clients. Know what you are getting into, not all web development companies are the same.