The Top Web Design Features Small Business Owners Need to Succeed Online
Discover the secrets to designing a website that speaks to your small business's unique identity
As a website developer in Michigan, I’ve worked with many small business owners looking to redesign their websites to increase sales and connect with new and existing customers. As such, I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t work and cultivated a list of valuable tips that I give to all my clients.
As a small business owner in Michigan, your website is frequently the first impression that customers have of your company. It’s essential that your website is not only visually appealing and functional but also leverages your greatest asset - your personality! In this blog post, I’ll cover the most important design features you should include in your website design to help attract and retain customers.
1. Leverage the home-town feeling and personal touch that a small business provides
One of the biggest mistakes that I see small business owners make is using a boilerplate website template that doesn’t highlight the company's unique traits. Being small means you’re agile, can provide fantastic personalized customer service, and provide valuable goods or services to your local community. Don’t hide this - make it known!
The human touch is something that large businesses struggle to provide, and you can attract customers who’d rather deal with a neighbor than a large corporation. If you’re a family-run shop, include a picture of your team smiling together! Show that by supporting you, a customer is supporting the community.
Maintain an updated list of your employees on your website so that customers can see who they’re dealing with and know you’re not a large conglomerate. You may be surprised how many people would prefer to shop at small businesses instead of dealing with big, faceless companies.
2. Have a clear and concise message
Your website’s home page should immediately communicate what your business provides and what services or products you offer. Remember to keep that personalized touch. Use language that’s easy to understand and be sure to avoid industry jargon or buzzwords.
Focus on the benefits that your products and services can provide to customers. Use real-life examples to help illustrate your points and establish credibility. Customers don’t just want to know that you can solve their problem - they want to see that you’ve been able to solve other customers’ problems in the past. To achieve this, consider adding testimonials from satisfied customers to help build trust.
3. Simple navigation
Your home page should not only effectively communicate your business's offerings but also provide easy navigation to other essential pages on your website. Use a simple navigation menu that’s logically designed and consistent across your website. Limit the number of menu items so that customers aren’t overwhelmed.
To brainstorm, try to imagine interacting with your website as if you were a customer. If you’re looking up local restaurants, what do you usually want to know? You probably want to know whether the restaurant is open, where it’s located, and what items are on the menu. Make sure that the items on your navigation menu align with what your customers want to know.
By providing this information upfront, you can help customers quickly find what they’re looking for and increase the likelihood that they’ll become paying customers. After all, that's what you want to achieve when designing your site!
4. High-quality visuals
Humans are visual creatures. You’re probably not reading this blog post word for word, but rather scanning it to find important tidbits. That’s why this bolded text stands out more than the rest of the paragraph.
Humans are more likely to engage with content that includes images or videos. Be sure to use high-quality images or videos that highlight your small Michigan business and your products and/or services. Avoid using stock photos that look fake or staged - remember, your advantage as a small business is a family feel and personalized touch. Use real images from work you’ve done in the past or photos of your team. Make it personal!
If you're in need of some design inspiration, be sure to check out our portfolio of small business websites that we've created in the past. Don't stop there, though. You should get as much inspiration as possible before embarking on your website development journey. Check out our previous blog post on "10 Landing Page Designs to Inspire Your Small Business" for more ideas!
5. Clear calls to action
A call to action is a design element on your website that serves to make your customers act. It could be a button, a contact form, a newsletter signup, or something else. Whatever it may be, make sure you have one!
You can have the most elegant website in the world, but unless your customers know how to get in contact with you, it’s all for none. Make sure your call to actions are clear, prominently displayed, and easy to use. Use action-oriented sentences like “Get started today” or “Talk to us to get started on your project now.”
Use accent colors to make it stand out. You want your call to actions to jump off the page and grab your future customers’ attention.
6. Fast loading times
The number one advantage that my websites provide are fast loading times, and it's for a good reason!
Visitors are impatient. If your website takes too long to load, they'll quickly move on to the next site, which is most likely a direct competitor of yours. Obviously we don't want to help the competition, so having a fast website is of paramount importance.
I've written in depth about this topic before precisely because it's so important to a websites success. A study conducted by Google in 2017 showed that when a website takes just 3 seconds to load, 32% of users leave and go to a different website. Furthermore, people who have a negative experience on mobile are 62% less likely to make a future purchase.
If you're interested in reading more about page load times and how they're affecting your small business, check out our blog post about Google Page Speed Scores.
If you're interested in how I can help speed up your website, I'd be happy to elaborate. In fact, I'd love to tell you! I use a framework used by companies such as Little Caesars, Affirm, National Geographic, and many others. For small businesses, the ability to use this same technology gives you a huge leg-up. The sites I build boast up to 50% faster page load speeds and 2x SEO performance vs. competitors. If you want to read more about how this is possible, check out the blog post titled "What the heck is Gatsby js and why use it"
7. A responsive design
More and more people use their mobile devices to browse the internet. Thus, it's essential that your website is optimized for mobile devices. What does this mean? It means that your website should function essentially the same on your phone as it does your computer.
Approximately 52% of web traffic originates from mobile devices in 2023 and this percentage is expected to grow in the future. Additionally, Google uses both speed and mobile-friendliness as a factor in ranking websites in its search results. That's why it's one of my main focuses when building websites - and it should be yours too!
What NOT to do when building your website
Now that I've covered some tips to utilize when building your small businesses website, I want to share some things to avoid. I see small businesses make these mistakes all the time and it pains me to know that simple changes could greatly improve their website and therefore, their sales. Please read carefully to be sure you avoid these common pitfalls!
Don't be faceless
All too often I see small business owners neglect to include design elements that showcase their authenticity.
In the age of AI, deepfakes, and offshore companies posing as local businesses, it's more important than ever to be authentic. While I certainly empathize with wanting to keep your personal life separate from business, it's important that you show you're real.
If your business has a brick and mortar store, this is easier to accomplish. Include pictures of your storefront, your team, and include your address. Customers in your community will immediately know your business is authentic.
If you're a B2B supplier, however, this can be more challenging. Make sure to include photos of yourself and your team (if your team is willing to be pictured). More Americans are willing now than ever to shop locally - but if your website doesn't make your business feel like a local business, then you're missing out on a pivotal opportunity.
Remember - you're a small Michigan business owner - and people want to support your local business! Avoid sounding overly professional on your website and never forget to include that personal touch.
Don't hide your contact information
Often, I see small businesses with websites that are simply a catalog online. There's no way to know who's behind the business, and there's no way to find out either.
This goes hand in hand with the tip above about not being faceless. Don't, for example, just have one catch-all email such as "firstname.lastname@example.org." Often times customers see these generic emails and assume their emails will go unread. Have a personal email that indicates a real person will be on the other end of the message to read it and respond. Although it's good practice to have a contact form, also consider including an about page that lists employees and has a more personalized email to contact, such as "email@example.com."
Don't leave out important details
Ever visited a website looking for a key piece of information only to be completely unable to find it? Me too! And we all know how frustrating it can be.
Your website needs to deliver the key pieces of information that people are expecting or hoping to find when they visit it. Again, it can be beneficial to test driver your website from the perspective of a customer. Once you've done that, get input from others! Ask your customers if they've used your website and what they think can be improved. Ask your employees to test it out and see what they like or don't like.
Don't neglect SEO
The grandaddy of the common small business owner mistake when it comes to websites. For good reason - as a small business owner and operator, you're probably an expert in your field. You're probably not an expert at marketing or SEO. However, that doesn't mean that you should neglect SEO or understate its importance.
SEO can be the difference between a thriving business and a struggling one. For example, I rely on ranking high in the search results when small biz owners google "michigan web design companies." Without that, I can only rely on word of mouth.
If you're lost when it comes to SEO - consider hiring someone for advice (no, it doesn't have to be me that you hire!) Just like you higher qualified people to help you in your business, you should find someone qualified to help you with optimizing your search engine performance.
If you're in search of some quick tips to self improve your SEO performance, you can check out some useful blog posts on this very website.
One great way to improve your search engine rankings is to have a blog on your website and provide valuable information. For tips on writing content, check out "Tips to Write Content for Your Website"
Wrapping it all up
One of my greatest pleasures is the opportunity to help small business owners thrive by capitalizing on a great website. If you've made it this far - pat yourself on the back. You clearly are hungry for knowledge and are putting in the effort to improve your business and community.
My biggest closing tip to you - the autodidact - is to remember to leverage the unique personality of your business. Being small is an advantage, not a drawback. Remember to keep your website personal and include those elements that give it a home town feeling. Express your personality through your website, and show that you care about the business and its customers.
I can't wait to see your website come to life. At Snappy Web Design, we're here to help you achieve your digital goals. If you're interested in learning more about the services we provide, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or learn about the Snappy Web Design advantage.
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