4 Ways to Optimize your Small Business Website for Great First Impressions

August 26, 2016

As we move almost all aspects of our lives into the online world – we now shop, learn, read, watch movies, fall in love, and make friends in the digital world. Being present online has never been more important – if your business isn’t online, it’s almost as if it doesn’t exist at all. However, leading our lives in the digital world has but one disadvantage for small businesses of any kind.

How to differentiate your brand from the pool of big players? How to find your place under the sun?

First and foremost – you need to have a great website. Think of it as a shop window – it’s the showcase of your business that is meant to attract visitors. If it were a real shop, and it didn’t visually appeal to visitors, they would most likely pass right by it and think you didn’t have anything interesting to offer. So, what can you do to present your business in the best possible way with your website?

We’ve gathered the essential pieces of advice to help you on your way to drive more traffic to your website and build a substantial customer base.

Make sure your content is clear and concise

You have limited time to capture the attention of the people who decide that your website might we worth looking at – data say that 55% of visitors spare only 15 seconds of their lives to glance at the content of your page. Assuming the home page is what they first see, you need to design it carefully while putting yourself in the shoes of your visitors. Taking into account that the visitor has clicked on your website looking for a certain service, or a product, you need to be very clear about what you do. Remember, you only have 15 seconds – if the visitor is not able to assess you potential value to them, they will most certainly click the infamous back button and you’ve lost a potential customer.

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To assert which benefits your business brings to the table in a way that is clearly understood, take a minimalist approach to homepage design:

  • Limit the usage of images – Use few simple, yet powerful and quality images that reflect some aspect of your business. Using too many images can be distracting and can drive the visitor away from undertaking the action you want them to. In addition to that, cluttering your homepage with images can cause it to load more slowly which is a big no-no.
  • Use different font styles – Not all information on your homepage is equally important, thus you need to decide what you want to emphasize – use headings, subheadings, bold or italic to visually distinguish what is more important from what is less. Important note: don’t overdo it. Using too may font styles can lead to confusion. In addition to enabling your website to have a clear and concise structure, careful usage of headings can have a positive influence on your search engine ranking.
  • Use clear language – Avoid using complicated phrases that can make your visitors’ head spin. Instead, use simple, yet to the point language that will get your message across to a great number of people and make your business look down-to-earth and approachable. Research suggests that most of the web users find content that scores low on the Kinkaid readability score easier to understand. If the visitors have to stop and think about what you have to say, they might say “This is too complicated to understand – I’m not sure if this is what I’m looking for.”

A great example of a beautifully designed, minimalist home page is that of Sagmeister and Walsh, NYC design firm.

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This homepage image features company’s working space, allowing us to take a sneak peak and feel as a part of their team. With the ingenious placement of menu items as a real part of the image, this picture clearly makes a statement, with no need for additional text.

Use a unique and consistent website layout

It is important to be consistent so that the visitors of your website know what to expect from you. Pick one font and use it throughout the entire website. Mixing different fonts will not be of help in creating your unique business identity (which is very important for businesses starting out) – it will give out the feeling that you are indecisive and not sure what you are doing. If you are in doubt which font is better to use, conduct A/B testing and find out which one is best perceived from the visitors’ perspective.

When it comes to inner pages, try to structure them in a similar way, with navigation placed where visitors expect it to be. Again, take the minimalist approach to inner pages design – the less distractions, the grater the possibility that visitors will focus on doing what you want them to – clicking the call to action button, for example.

If you want your business to be recognizable, chose a unique color pallet that people will instantly associate with your brand. Don’t be afraid to use bold colors if it fits your business voice.

Be responsive

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It’s 2016, which means that people are more and more browsing the internet from their smartphones and tablets. The fact that people spend a lot of time on their mobile devices leads to expectations that every website they want to visit is fit for their devices thus responsive design is not something that should be underestimated. For businesses, it means that they should plan the responsive website layout alongside with the desktop version. Avoiding doing so can lead to potential loss of a great chunk of your prospects.

So what does building a responsive website means for the message you are trying to send? Cut down on all unnecessary information leaving only essentials. Leave the most important information that you want your potential customers to learn, and put everything else in the background.

The most important considerations you need to have in mind when creating responsive website are:

  • Use percentages to define image size. That way, the image will automatically adapt itself to screen size it is displayed on.
  • Simplify your navigation. Use a drop down menu to place your inner pages so as not to overtake the screen space with all your menu items. Save that space for something of greater importance.
  • Choose the right font. Make sure your font is easy to read on mobile devices for creating the best possible user experience. Another important point to consider is the font size – pay attention to how your font is displayed on smaller devices – if it is too big, it can take up a lot of space, making it hard for text to be read.

One of the websites that has done a great job in responsive design is Food Sense.

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They used responsive images while at the same time boiling content down to the essentials yet not loosing anything in terms of great visual impression.

Create a personal connection with your customers

People love to see the faces behind brands and companies. That allows them to see you as humans and to connect with you on a more personal level. It has become quite a common practice to include “meet the team” section on a company website, and it is a practice that should be nurtured.

By giving your visitors a chance to see who is responsible for creating magic in your company, you are building an aura of trust around your brand.

Include real photos of your employees and behind the scenes photos that showcase the work process – that will definitely humanize your brand and earn the trust of your customers. If you started your small business with your family members or friends, there’s definitely an interesting story on how you decided to go into business together – tell that story in a compelling way, and it is something that your visitors will be attracted to since we as human beings can’t help being drawn to stories.

Live Chat went really creative in presenting their team members. Funny tone and emphasis on personal interest of their employees is what makes this “Meet the team” page original and something people can relate to.

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Taking into account all the pieces of advice mentioned above, another important point must be made. Changes happen constantly in the digital world, now faster than ever, and you need to keep up with trends and modify your website to accommodate them. However, be careful not to lose your voice and identity trying to keep up with everything. Follow the trends that are relevant to your niche, and implement the changes you feel can improve your online presence further.

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