Small businesses have it tough. Their web budgets are usually much smaller than that of large companies. At the same time their need for web exposure is much greater. However, instead of just curling up and giving up, many small businesses have begun to wow competition by offering up some innovative and cool ideas. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” springs to mind.
There is quite the tool-set available to small businesses nowadays. First of all, there are many companies out there that will design and implement the site for you. Sure, this may not be the most budget-conscious solution out there, but once it’s done it’s done. Additionally, many hosting companies offer do-it-yourself software suites that are intuitive and graceful.
For stone-age companies, let’s go over why you want a website in the first place;
Discovery - Once your online, customers can find you just by plugging your name into a search engine. Consumers nowadays don’t rely on the Yellow Pages or other antiquated notions of business location. They are going to Google and whatever they find they are going to use.
Engagement – In addition to finding you, customers can also find information on who it is you are what it is you offer. This can be make or break in the race to set yourself apart from the competition.
Sales – Engagement, often, leads to sales. Once a customer is assured you are on the up-and-and and you offer a service they are interested in, sales will often follow.
Service – This entices return customers by offering a suite of services that make it easier on consumers. This could be as simple as being readily available via email. The sky is really the limit here.
So. You want to make or update your website. What now? Well let’s go over five web design trends that are capturing the imaginations of small businesses everywhere.
This tip is about as old as the web itself. You don’t want a cluttered and awful workspace do you? The same should go for your web space. In short, keep things simple. This helps users get a bead on your company and what it is you do quickly and succinctly. That is the point, isn’t it?
Also, page weight now affects your Google ranking, so you are going to want to make sure your site is as streamlined as possible. Here are some steps to help you get that site up to snuff.
* Snip off anything unnecessary. This includes widgets and other accessories that serve no real purpose.
* Make good use of whitespace. This is the space between the various design elements. This helps the human eye figure out what is going on easier. Notice it in the photo above.
* Color choice is key. You are going to have less going on so what colors are used is important. Make sure to choose colors that work well together.
* Browse the site often as if you were a consumer. Keep an eye out for anything “off” and also feel free to have friends and family do the same.
2. Unique Photography
Stay away from cliched images. You’ve seen them all before. Two men shaking hands. A smiling doctor who looks like a model. These images are the equivalent of using Printshop to make greeting cards. People will gloss right over them and mentally think “Next.” It’s important whatever images you use are unique(To the best of your ability) and offer up a new point of view for the consumer.
Use custom photography or artwork whenever possible. Of course, you are a small business and this can be expensive. So follow this at your own budgetary discretion. You may, after all, have to rely on stock images. Here are some tips to make the most of it.
* Research competition and note what images they use. Stay away from these images or images that are eerily similar.
* Avoid being too literal in your image choices. Sometimes abstract can allow consumers to link things on their own, which gives them a sense of satisfaction.
* If you can afford it, opt-out of cheap lo-res images. These can make your site look unprofessional.
* Stay away from the bland and predictable. Try to spice things up a bit.
3. Bold Typography
Typography is more important than people often realize. Consider the website a conduit of information. With that said, isn’t every facet of how that information is presented important? Of course it is. Typography is the literal clothes upon your information’s back.
Big and bold typography has become a happening web-trend lately. This has happened for a few reasons. First of all, well, big and bold stuff is easy to read. It also tends to make the other design aspects “pop.” Finally, over-sized text establishes a hierarchy of information whereupon you can decide what is most important via text-size. Here are some tips for successful typography.
* Figure out the single most important idea you are trying to convey and find a type-set that fits. A singular idea is important because too many can lead to choice paralysis.
* Find a typeface that matches what kind of work you do. For instance, if your company embodies the feel of an Old Style font, you should consider Bembo, Garamond and Sabon. Decidedly, if you make astronaut supplies, avoid these fonts.
* Surround the typography with a good amount of white-space. Please see the entry on minimal design for more information on this.
4. Clear Calls to Action
What is it you want your visitors to do? Whatever it is, this is a call to action. Calls to action can be anything from downloading something to filling out a web form. These are some of the most important, and oft-overlooked, elements of a webpage.
Easing your visitors to jump through the hoops you have provided for them can be tricky. Here are some tips to turn calls to action into actual action.
* Language – Keep the prose short and to the point. Try to start every call to action with a verb. Be sure to amp up the urgency as well. Words like ‘now’, ‘hurry’ and ‘offer ends’ are great and, as always,’free’ is a fantastic word to use. Some things never change.
* Positioning – Calls to action need to be in the right spot. It does no good to place them in a sad little corner somewhere. Look at the photo above. Notice the “Try it for free” button and where it’s placed.
* Color – Make sure the call to action stands out from the rest of your design elements. Do this with proper use of color. Contrasting and generally pleasing color combos will result in your call to action button getting the attention it deserves.
* Size – Make sure the call to action button is the biggest button on the block. It doesn’t have to be the biggest design element, as seen in the photo above, it just has to be the biggest button. This helps let the user know how important it is.
5. A/B Testing
Competition is fierce online. You want to make sure your website does it’s best to convert visitors to actual customers. You can get a head start on this by continually measuring site performance, usability and conversions.
One of the best ways to measure and optimize your web design is via A/B testing, otherwise known as split testing. A/B tests examine the effectiveness of landing on one page over another. It works by randomly showing users the two versions of said page to see which one generates the best results. You can then evaluate the performance of each and use the very best version.
Just about everything can be tested. Here are some tips to make the best of it.
* Start with testing the things that can be changed easiest. No use to reinvent the whole house when just the kitchen will do. For example, you could tweak the copy on your checkout button to see if conversions can be improved.
* Don’t use A/B testing in a vacuum. Pair it up with other services to get a clear picture of what is going on with your site. Other tools include Feedback Army and User Testing. Taken together, these can give you a clear picture.
So that’s it. What changes would make the most sense for your business?