How to Create a Website for your Business
By Thomas L. Greenbaum
SCORE Mentor, New York Chapter
Many small and medium size businesses have not chosen to have a website because they were intimidated by the process of building one, or simply did not appreciate or understand the costs associated with having an active site.
As I discussed in a recent article published recently in the Bronx Voice, the website is essential in the current business environment both because it gives your business credibility, but also because you could generate additional revenues through customers you acquire via your website.
Also, a website can be a sales vehicle through which to sell products or services.
Different Types of Websites
There are basically three different types of websites:
An informational website is a site developed with the objective of providing visitors with information about you or your company that is intended to build your image, increase awareness of the scope of your business or to encourage people to contact you for the purpose of doing business together.
Nothing is actually sold on an informational website.
An e-commerce website is a site built specifically to create sales of products or services from individuals (business or personal) who visit your site.
While the e-commerce site should follow the rules (to be discussed later) regarding construction, imagery, optimization for SEO (search engine optimization) the focus of this type of site is on direct sales to the visitor.
A hybrid website is essentially an e-commerce site that does not do the direct selling to the visitor.
For example, a site promoting a new book might not take orders for the book and arrange the shipping to the customer, but rather might have a “buy it now” capability which links the customer to another platform such as ESTY or AMAZON who actually completes the sale, and frequently executes the collection and shipment.
How Does A Website Get Built?What are the mechanics?
In the current market environment, there are three basic ways sites get built.
Build It Yourself – For small business clients, the most common approach to building a website is to engage one of the many website companies that offer free website development, with the only costs incurred being the hosting fees (generally very low but depends on the complexity of your site).
These companies have menu-driven templates that take you through the steps of building a website.
For a relatively simple site, one should be able to complete their website in a few hours or less. There is virtually no knowledge of complex computer terms & processes in order to successfully develop the site.
The quality of the material in the site is completely dependent on the creativity and writing skills of the individually developing the site.
It is also important to note that virtually all the companies offering templates for websites have help lines you can contact if you are having problems achieving the end result that you wish to generate.
There are dozens of different free web development companies, with some of the more frequently used being: Web.com, Wix.com, GoDaddy, and 1&1.com.
The advantage to this approach is that there is no development cost, and it can be done very quickly.
The host company (i.e.: Web.com, Wix.com etc.) will handle the hosting for you, which is the process of getting the site you are building on the Internet so visitors can find you.
The disadvantage of this approach is that the quality of the site you create may not be as good as you might like, as you are not a website professional. However, it might be adequate!
Built By Web Platform Provider A second option is to talk to one of the many providers such as Web.com or Wix.com and have them build the site for you.
This can generally be done at a very favorable price ( often around $1,200) and the end result of this process will be a site that is probably very adequate for your needs.
The provider expects you to provide the content for the site, but they are generally very effective in arranging your inputs into a good website that you can use and modify for a long time.
Further, while this site is in development the process is very interactive as you can work with their development team to modify aspects of the site that you feel should be improved.
Built by a web development company (or individual) Many small businesses decide they would rather pay a consultant to develop the site rather than try to do it themselves or have a platform provider create the site for you.
This option has very significant advantages and disadvantages. Specifically:
It is likely the end result of your web development project will generate a better site than either of the other two options.
You have total control over how the site will look, as you are generally not constrained by the limitations of some of the templates.
You will have developed a relationship with an individual ( or company) that can easily make changes to your site in the future.
The biggest disadvantage is the cost. Web designers who are experienced and qualified can be very expensive charging $3,500 to $10,000 or more to create a website.
The other big disadvantage is that you normally don’t know much about the person/company developing the site.
While you could ask for references to see other sites they have created, most small business people do not have the knowledge or experience to know what makes for a successful site.
The above situation is particularly a problem for companies that go to the local teenager to develop their site, as the costs are normally very low.
However, there is a very good chance that this individual has very little experience developing a site that will work for you in terms of building and reinforcing your image, your “reason why” and functioning as a SELLING site for you.
Many web designers are excellent in developing very attractive sites.
However, they often are not skilled in developing sites that work for you to build the business.
The balance of this article will address some of the key principles in web development that will help you personally develop or supervise development of EFFECTIVE websites.
Principles of Website Development
The goal of every website should be to attract visitors and to communicate to them in a way that a product or service is sold and/or the most appropriate information and imagery is conveyed to the visitor.
Some Important Preliminary Information
Approximately 6 months ago, Google Analytics announced the results of a world-wide survey that indicated that 68% of all visitors to websites stay on that site for less than 10 seconds. This means that only 32% of the visitors were actually on the site, as there is virtually nothing you can communicate on a website in less than 10 seconds.
Another important fact is that normally about 70% of the people who go to a website enter through the home page.
Thirdly, a website must make very liberal and effective use of key words to generate traffic on its site.
As a result of these three very significant facts I believe there are some very important principles that should guide website creation, in order for your website to have real value to your brand, store or company.
Home Page Structure
I recommend that the home page on every website be constructed with three distinct horizontal sections.
The sections probably will not be the same size, but they should be obviously different.
The top section of the homepage should only consist of the brand/store/company name & logo, plus a very important 5-7-word slogan.
The 5-7-word slogan should always be an integral part of the brand identification for a small business, as it helps to communicate to the consumer what the name of the organization stands for and what the benefit of it is to the consumer.
A good example of this is the BMW name/logo which always is combined with the words the ultimate driving machine. While BMW has sufficient money to advertise and promote its name so that consumers know what it means, by definition, small businesses do not have this luxury.
Therefore, Klein’s Clothing Stores says virtually nothing about the store, in terms of the type of clothes they sell, whether they are for men, women, infants, etc. Also, they do not communicate any benefit in buying from clothes, such as they will make me feel better, feel more confident, look thinner etc.
We strongly urge all institutions develop a 5-7-word slogan for their brand that not only says what they are selling but offers the consumer with a benefit they get by purchasing in this store. An example of a good statement for Klein’s might be: “where men’s suits make you feel great.”
The middle section of the home page should consist of images that reinforce the 5-7-word statement.
This might show men in different suit styles. They should all be “clickable” so the individual who sees a style they like can click on the picture and go to a landing page that shows more styles or variations on this theme.
Also, in this e-commerce example they might be able to order this suit on that page.
The key is that the middle section should contain only a few images of whatever the business is doing as a way to reinforce the 5-7-word statement.
The bottom section of the home page should consist of a story about the business to give the visitor more information about what it does.
Importantly, this section should be loaded with “key words” in the story so when people type something into Google they will hopefully be transported to your website. This is the most important way we build traffic on the website.
Some Very Important web principles beyond the home page.
While I could write volumes about other things you should do to make a website effective, here are a few key principles:
- Ensure that your site is VERY easy to navigate. Visitors do not want to work had to find their way through the site.
- Make sure your site is optimized for mobile. This is to ensure that people who go to your site on a cell phone (often as much as 60-70% of site visitors) can see the site contents as intended. You probably will have to get help from your provider or consultant to do this.
- Create your site so it is one easy click from any page to get to the home page and the “contact us” page. Visitors do not want to have to work hard to find these pages.
- Ensure that you have a “contact us” page that includes both email and telephone contact. This is particularly important on e-commerce sites as you want to be able to help close a sale when a visitor has questions.
- All pictures on your site should have ALT-TAGS. An alt-tag is a simple add on to pictures that generates words when your cursor goes over the picture. This is important both the give the visitor more information about what they are seeing, but also it will enable you to be rated much higher by Google as they do not read pictures when their spiders look at your site. Therefore, a picture without an alt-tag is a blank. If you google to see how to put alt tags on your site, you will see it is very easy to do.
Summary: Websites are an essential ingredient in the current business environment for virtually every company. Hopefully this article was helpful in giving you a primer on how to build them, so they work hard for you.
Should you want additional information, contact your local SCORE office by www.scorenyc.org.
Tom Greenbaum is a 10-year veteran of SCORE in both New York and Connecticut. He has written 7 books about various aspects of marketing, the latest being the April 2018 edition of You Can Do It; A Guide to Starting and Running a Small business. It is available on Amazon, in digital form on almost every digital selling site, and throughout the New York City Library system. If you can’t find the 2018 edition in the library, ask the librarian.