According to a study earlier this year from digital marketing firm UpCity, about 70% of small businesses nationwide have a website. If you own a small business, you probably have one too. But when was the last time you updated it?
This is important because if your website doesn’t follow the latest design trends, you risk losing customers. A 2015 survey by marketing software provider Adobe found that 38% of people will stop engaging with a website if the content or layout isn’t engaging.
Your website cannot look outdated. It can’t be slow. It can’t be unattractive. So what are the main things you should be doing?
For starters, your site should be mobile-friendly. Most visitors, especially younger ones, get their content on their phone. Visitors on these devices need to be able to easily read your site, otherwise they will quickly go elsewhere.
Ross Cohen, Founder and CEO of GetPhounda web design agency in Conshohocken, said a “mobile-first” design has become hugely important.
“Some businesses, especially restaurants, for example, get all of their traffic from people’s phones,” he said.
Due to the popularity of mobile browsing, the design of home pages has changed significantly over the past few years. Back then, websites had a home page with lots of links to other pages. But thanks to the proliferation of mobile browsers, today’s designers like to keep visitors on the homepage, scrolling down for more content, instead of clicking away.
“People’s attention span is limited to scrolling on their phone,” said David Kale, owner of a web design company, kale design, based in Blue Bell. For this reason, Kale said, the landing page has a huge impact on the likelihood that a visitor will stay engaged.
“The homepage is so critical to doing well,” Kale said. “That’s where we spend a lot of our design work because we’ve learned that most of the time people won’t even go to the site. They will look at the home page and decide whether to contact you or not.
What about pop-ups, those little boxes that jump at a visitor asking them if they want to request information, or that automatically play videos? Although he thinks they are sometimes important, Cohen generally finds them boring. He hates when a pop-up takes up the whole screen and the design makes it difficult for the user to find where to close it.
However, he admits that, if done well, they could be of some use. “A minimalist approach is best,” Cohen said. “A pop-up with an offer, promotion, or even a pre-exit pop-up [users] leaving, to keep them shopping, can be good sometimes.”
When Kale designs sites, he prefers to use videos on the homepage or in a popup. Indeed, he and numerous studies have found that using videos dramatically increases the time a visitor stays on a site and ultimately increases the rate at which a visitor converts into a prospect who offers information or purchases a product.
“Videos are definitely a sweet spot,” he said. “We like to put a video that’s maybe a minute to a minute and a half long right on the front page. They always seem to have a significant impact on engagement.
The colors of your site are also important. A survey last year from Top Design Firms, a directory of design, marketing and development firms around the world, found that nearly 40% of consumers value colors the most among visual elements on corporate websites, close to the half of consumers (46%) preferring that businesses use blue on their websites.
Cohen likes to recommend dark, “homey” and “delightful” colors — like black and red — for her restaurant patrons and white, hygienic designs for medical and dental practices.
“When I think of a doctor, I think of this stuff,” he said. “If I come to a dentist page and it’s like black and brown and green, I think, well, teeth that are deteriorating! The colors really set an immediate tone.
Good websites offer many opportunities for a visitor to take action, from requesting a product brochure to chatting with customer service agents. That’s why capturing your visitor data should be a key part of your website design.
Good websites are also optimized for search engines.
To ensure that your site is acceptable to Google and other search engine services, frequently check all links on your site to make sure they are not broken. This applies to links to your own pages and to other websites.
Your site should also load quickly. Google gives good information on page speed here.
You’ll want to make sure your site is secured with a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate – a digital certificate that authenticates a website’s identity and enables an encrypted connection so users can have some level of trust that their information will not be stolen.
And while the prevailing scrolling homepage approach is popular, there is still a need for standalone landing pages on a website to receive – and then measure – traffic from your online ad campaigns.
All of this takes time and constant attention. Inexpensive website builders such as Wix, come on daddy and SpaceSquare can be useful for some companies with tight budgets or for those who just need a simple online presence. But most established businesses should hire an experienced web designer to continuously monitor and update their site.
“I think business owners should put it on their calendar once a quarter to check their website,” Cohen said. “It doesn’t take very long and there will always be something to fix. Otherwise, you could lose visitors – and business –.
Gene Marks is a Chartered Accountant and owner of Marks Group, a technology and financial management consultancy firm in Bala Cynwyd.