If you’re a small business and you’ve followed all the branding guidelines, you have defined your audience, thought of a great name, crafted a brand identity and are promoting yourself through stunning photography, an attractive market stall, slick packaging and a great attitude.
And you have a beautiful, relevant and usable website, right? No? Do you even need one? Here are some reasons why it’s a good idea:
1. It acts as an online brochure
By putting your products on your site, you don’t need to invest in print and distribution of a catalogue. People can see your designs in one click at any time.
2. It increases your audience
Did you know that the internet is used by 2.4 billion people every day? You’re really missing out if you’re not in the mix. When people hear your name or see you at a market, one of the first things they’ll do is look you up online. If they like what they see, you’ll have gained a customer.
3. It gives you professionalism and credibility
Can you really afford not to have a website, when it’s the first place people go to check you out? When a search reveals nothing, potential customers’ impression will be that you’re not a viable business without a website, whereas a well structured website shows you mean business.
4. It’s easy to update and keeps you in touch
Once your site is up, it’s very easy to create news, run promotions and tell people what you’re doing, which market you’re attending and where your products are on sale.
5. It’s a great vehicle for marketing
One of the best ways to build a loyal customer base is to keep talking online about what you do, what offers you have and what products are available. You can either promote through your news or product pages, or run a database and tailor email campaigns through subscriptions.
6. It gives you the right email address
Linking your email to your domain name makes you look more professional. If you’re a customer emailing a designer called Beautiful Things, firstname.lastname@example.org looks a lot more professional than beautiful email@example.com
7. It’s an accurate reflection of your brand
A website can be tailored to fit your brand, giving you a unique presence and giving visitors a good impression of who you are and what you’re selling in a matter of a few clicks.
Getting Started – aka “The Planning Bit”
Ah, the digital minefield for the analogue small businesses. Don’t worry, it may be a challenge, but it doesn’t actually need to be hard or expensive, even if a line of code looks like something out of the Matrix to you.
Planning is key. Before you decide how to build your site, there are a few things you need to consider:
1. What do you want your website to do?
Is it to have a brochure of your products, to sell them, to talk about your skills and knowledge or to encourage people to get in touch?
Have a look at what other people in your field are doing. Take notes, bookmark the sites that appeal to you the most. Try to figure out exactly what you like and dislike about each of them. Sketch out what your site might look like and create a mood board of images that define the look and feel of your site.
3. Know your target market
We know that you’ve already figured this out, but your audience will dictate the usability, layout, content and design of your site, so always have a clear picture of who you’re targeting when you’re working on your website.
4. Choose and buy your domain name
It needs to be short, easy to remember and contain at least the basics of your business name. If your name is Beautiful Things, the ideal domain name is www.beautifulthings.com.au If this isn’t available, try a different suffix (.com etc.) or add a hyphen: www.beautiful-things.com.au There are plenty of online companies that will sell you a domain name for a fixed period of time and they are reasonably priced. They will also tell you what is available.
5. Plan and create your content
What is it that you want to tell visitors? What’s going to get them excited about your work and keep them on your site? How many pages do you need to create to do this effectively? Make sure the route from A to B is easy to navigate and instructions to the visitor are clear, Write your copy and keep it concise and relevant – rambling paragraphs aren’t necessary for a website. Then find or create images that back up what you’re saying – the more beautiful the better.
Getting Finished – aka “The Technical Bit”
Well, there are several ways to get your site built.
1. You can ask a web developer to take your mood board, sketches and content and build you a site from scratch. This has the benefit of getting you exactly what you want, but is of course, a more expensive option.
2. Sign up to WordPress, buy a theme and make small changes to customise it. There are literally thousands of great themes, thousands of plug-ins to make the site do what you want and thousands of online forums to tell you how to personalise yours. Read WordPress for Dummies, Take a coding course, go on a WordPress workshop or ask a technical friend and you’ll be up and running in no time.
3. Build your own through a website builder like Wix, Weebly or Squarespace (again, there are many options online), to drag and drop your content blocks into the layout you want.
You may be thinking that a website is too hard and a Facebook page is enough for now. Yes, social media has a huge number of benefits that we’ll be discussing next time. Our view is that in order to truly put your own brand online, a website AND social media is the best option, but we’ll soon have plenty of tips on how to use social media to your advantage while you’re planning your beautiful website. Good luck.