Your company’s online presence should reflect your level of professionalism and expertise in your industry. Create something that shows your brand personality, fits your niche but also gives you a unique edge over the competition.
If you don’t already have an online presence, now is the time to develop one. The U.S. Census Bureau reported massive increases in e-commerce sales amid the ongoing pandemic. During the second quarter of 2021, e-commerce sales increased 9.1%, reaching 13.3% of total retail sales in the country.
At first, people shopped online for safety reasons and to social distance. However, as more consumers see the advantages of digital commerce, they’re embracing the ease and flexibility of omnichannel shopping. If you’re ready to jump in and create a professional business website, here are the steps you should follow to get from zero to live site.
Why does your business need a website? You must know your customers as well as possible. Dig into any internal analytics you have about their buying behavior and personal habits. How would an online store most benefit them?
For example, if you own a restaurant serving most soccer moms ordering carryout, how can you create a site where they can order online or even via a mobile app and pick up on their way to the next activity? Perhaps you can add delivery to the venue? Know what your users’ needs are to best serve them with your site.
Jimmy John’s is an excellent example of a restaurant catering to busy people who want to order and grab a quick bite to eat or have it delivered to their office or other location. They’re tagline is “freaky fast delivery.”
Note how you can choose “Delivery” or “Pickup” at the top of the page. They also offer calls to action (CTAs) as you move down the page. Want “Beefy Black and Bleu” for lunch? Click the CTA. Want a combo? Click the CTA.
The site is very user intuitive. Of course, they offer an app as well.
Before you create your site, you must decide what platform to build it on. If you’re working with a web designer, they can offer some advice about which ones work best for your needs. If you plan to open an e-commerce store, you might want to look into software as a service (SaaS), such as Shopify or WooCommerce.
On the other hand, if you just want to put up information about what you do and how to contact you, you may not need a WordPress site. An HTML5 option might work best for your customers.
Think about the level of expertise you have. If you want to post on a blog but don’t have a lot of coding experience, you should probably stick to a content management system (CMS) that’s easy to use. WordPress, Magento or Drupal.
Before you build your site, take the time to plan out your navigational hierarchy. Ideally, you’ll have four or five main categories and any subcategories fall under those primary ones.
Keep in mind that your site will grow over time and you want a system that adapts to the changing needs of your business and customers. Ideally, you’ll choose a setup and stick with it throughout the life of your website.
Think about the topics most likely to draw users to your page. Do they want to know information, contact details and see a gallery of images? Your categories might be “About,” “Projects,” “Contact” and “Blog.”
CornellCookson has a simple but highly effective navigational setup on their website. They feature six tabs across the top to serve the needs of their buyer personas. You’ll find information about commercial products, parts and service, customization and inspiration. They also have a tab for architects who want to work with their products.
Their contact information is above their primary navigation, making it easy to find. Note how the contact CTAs are in a bright red to draw user attention and lend an element of trust to the entire site. As you scroll down, you’ll see beautiful images in four clickable categories. These are frequently visited areas on the site and designed to grab user interest.
You likely already have a color palette for your brand. Your site should reflect those hues, but you may have to adapt them a bit to create enough contrast for screen viewing. It’s also okay to add a pop of color for your CTAs.
You may normally use blue and white, but you can certainly add some orange buttons to grab reader attention and create engagement.
Every presence you have online should look similar. If you have social media pages, they need to match the website somewhat in colors, logo and even fonts.
Don’t be afraid of adding white space to your professional business website. Some companies make the mistake of cramming too much into a single page. Just as you need to know the purpose of your site, each page needs a separate goal.
Add enough negative space to draw attention to the purpose of each page on your site. Your contact page should put the emphasis on contacting you, so highlight the phone number, add a live chat icon and use CTAs to encourage contact.
Lunchbox limits the information on their landing page. Note the massive negative yellow space without images or text. Because the number of elements above the fold are so limited, the user’s eye goes exactly where the web designer wants to the headline and then the CTA.
By limiting the options, you move the user through the sales funnel much more efficiently than if you distract with many different choices.
If you sell goods or services, you’ll need an easy way to collect payments from your customers. There are many different options, such as integrating PayPal or Stripe into your site, setting up a point of sale (POS) system with your bank or taking multiple payment types via a SaaS program.
Think about how your customers pay now and perhaps survey them to find out their online preference for payments. You can always change payment systems later, so choose the best option and see how it works for your needs.
Before you publish your new professional business website, make sure you text everything. Do all forms work and arrive on your end? Does the customer get confirmation their action was successful? How does the site look on different screen sizes? Are there any bugs? Click on every link.
Once you’re sure your site is the absolute best it can be, hit publish. Owning a website means ongoing updates and tweaks, but you can make an excellent first impression by following the tips above.
Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a digital marketing agency before becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philly with her husband and pup, Bear.