Websites for small business start-ups

Eleven crucial steps to take before starting to build a start-up business website.

  1. Keep it simple. Custom website development can cost £1,000s, £10,000s, £100,000s. Use free resources such as WordPress to keep your costs to a minimum, at least to start off with. Your website can grow later, as your business grows.
  2. Thoroughly research your competition. What are they doing right? What are they doing wrong? What can you learn from them? Keep a list of the best sites found.
  3. Pretend you’re a prospective customer of your proposed business. What do they really want? Remember that a product or service is usually only a means to an end. For example, when you buy a vacuum cleaner, what you really want is a clean carpet.
  4. Devise a slogan for your business. Even if it’s not finally used on adverts or your website, it will focus your mind on describing the purpose of your business in as clear a way as possible, in as few words as possible. Test your slogan on friends and family – does it make sense to others, does it describe what you do?
  5. Consider your search engine key words and terms. Again, pretending that you’re a prospective customer for your own business, what search engine key words and terms would you search for in Google, etc., in the hope that your business would be the first one found? Make a detailed list as these are words that will need to appear on your website.
  6. Devise a logo and colour scheme for your business. Make sure that your logo and colours are in keeping with your business.A logo may be just your name or business name, or also include graphic elements. If suitable, your slogan can also be used in conjunction with your logo.
  7. Consider how many pages your website really needs. One good page may be sufficient, and one good page would certainly be better than lots of poor pages. Only add pages that contribute real value, such as a ‘frequently asked questions’ page.
  8. Devise your navigation. From your number of pages, work out the best, simplest and clearest navigation. Users want websites where they can quickly and easily find the information they are seeking.
  9. Devise your text. Using your list of key words and terms as a starting point, start to construct the text for your web page(s). Be very careful that the key words that people would use to search for your business actually do appear in your text, but that it is natural and well written. Compare your text with competitors, especially the ones that are highest on search results pages. You obviously do not want to copy your competition but you should certainly carefully analyse what they have done and strive to improve on it.
    • Important Note 1: Google and other search engines read the text that is on your page(s). They ignore graphics, colours and design. For good search engine results it is vital that the first paragraphs on your home page contain your essential keywords.
    • Important Note 2: Carefully check your text for spelling and grammar. Mistakes here will send a subliminal message to your prospective clients that your business offering may also be poorly delivered.
    • Important Note 3: Remember that website users rarely read all of your beautifully crafted text. They’ll scan it very quickly, looking for clues that you can provide the solution to their problem. To help them, keep words, sentences and paragraphs short, use bullet points and plenty of ‘white space’ (so they’re not confronted will sold blocks of text) and if relevant, your own photos of your offering.
  10. Consider what you want your visitor to do as a result of visiting your website.
    • Contact you for more information?
    • Buy from your website?
    • Visit your physical shop, showroom or market stall?
  11. Consider how you plan to promote your business and website. A well constructed website will often get good results from free search engine listings. However, to get faster results, supplementary methods should be considered, some of which can be done free or for very little cost.
    • Link exchanges with similar but non competing businesses. (e.g. bespoke greetings cards / florists / bridal gown hire shops)
    • Leaflet drops in target market area (perhaps in conjunction with other businesses)
    • Very small classified adverts in local newspapers and magazines.

Done all that? Great, you’re now ready to start thinking about actually building your website!

Louisa Watson

If you would like further help or advice, please take a look at Maybe’s Business Services. We offer great-value website design, logo design and copy-writing services.