One of the most common things our clients ask us is: what makes a good website? The honest answer to this question is, it depends. There’s no one-size fits all solution. Indeed, while off the shelf solutions – the likes of Squarespace, Wix and WordPress – offer some scope for customisation, the best websites are normally fully tailored to the business in question. This is especially true for small businesses fulfilling local demand.
Online search has become the main channel people use to look for products, services and businesses. 90% of consumers read online reviews before choosing a business, with up to 80% searching for service providers online before they settle on a preference.
In today’s competitive small business sector, that number is only increasing. If you’re serious about growing your business and keeping up with the competition, you need an engaging digital presence.
At UENI, web design for small business is what we do. We know the best websites in this space are visible in local searches and attract customers who want the services on offer. With that in mind, we provide a complete visibility package for your business at zero startup cost.
For free – that’s right, for free! – We’ll build you your very own tailor-made website from the ground up, laying the foundations of an impressive online presence that puts you in front of the people you want to see your business.
In this post, we’ll break down what makes a good website and identify some basic features you can look to perfect.
Intent matters. Visitors need to see that you mean business when they land on your website. The golden rules here? Keep your messaging direct and give the visitor an easy ride.
It’s about usability and visibility. By making your messaging and navigation clear, you will make your site relevant and usable to potential browsers. The better your site, the better your Google search ranking. It’s all about connecting with the right people and pairing them up with what they’re looking for. More importantly, it will help with your conversion rate (how many people visiting your site decide to spend money with you).
At UENI, we build you a website from the ground up. This means we’re able to create powerful messaging and back this up with the perfect structure for your site.
The best business websites communicate a powerful value proposition to users landing on their homepages. A good website immediately tells prospective customers who you are, what you’ll do for them and how you’ll do it better than everyone else.
Branding and storytelling play a major part in this process. Slogans, logos and strong visuals are a good starting point. Make sure to use original copy that communicates your USP (Unique Selling Proposition). Consumers will also make snap judgements based on other small details like page layout, colour, fonts and images.
There’s an art to this. How you go about designing your homepage depends on your prospective audience and whether you’re going to sell online or offer more information about your business.
When we work with clients to get their businesses online, we always want to know what their main value proposition is. If you have some slogans you already use to characterise your business, our content team will look to amplify these in the messaging of your new site.
Having a contact details page is a no-brainer. People need to know how to get in touch and access your services. A ‘Contact Us’ page makes it easy for people to find you online and in the real world, converting leads into prospects. Best practice here is including your name, addresses (email and physical) and phone number (sometimes referred to as NAP).
The best business websites have listings in local directories as well, increasing their opportunities for traffic and improving their Google ranking. Use the same formatting for these details across the internet and update them as and when they change, otherwise you’ll confuse the search engines, not to mention potential customers!
At UENI, we find it’s often helpful to put phone and email contact options at the head of your page, where they are displayed more prominently to potential customers.
An about us page is another great resource for informing customers about your brand philosophy, offering you the chance to really hammer home your value proposition. Explaining how the business came about is your chance to humanise your brand and build trust. Remember, it’s about personality as well as purpose: the best pages are relatable and speak to the visitor’s pain points i.e. the problems that your business can solve.
This is another bread and butter feature of what makes a good website. At a basic level, it’s about telling potential customers (and the search engines indexing your site) what your focus is.
Good websites will have keyword strategies focusing on very specific informational and commercial phrases. These phrases are called long-tail keywords and will help you stand out from the big brands in your sector. Tailoring your website to specific product searches will help you to get more site traffic and pair you up with the right customers.
We outline a full strategy for this in our guide to SEO for small business: ‘How to rank higher on Google’.
What makes a good website when it comes to navigation? Giving the visitor an easy ride. Site users want to be able to find things without a struggle. Good business websites keep things simple with clear navigation tabs.
The stylish navigation bar at the head of this page makes it easy for visitors at different stages of the purchasing process to choose the page they want and find the appropriate information.
Think about what people will want to see when they go to your site. Remember to cater to customers who are at different stages of the purchasing process. It’s no good if they land on the purchasing page if they don’t know what they’re buying!
One contemporary trend for informational websites is having a seamless scrolling experience that walks users through a value proposition and sales offering straight down to a call to action (CTA).
This leads us to a final point. The best websites don’t just look good, they make people do things. Your site should be geared towards gently nudging the user towards taking some sort of action, whether that’s making a purchase or an enquiry.
A call to action is a rallying cry to sign up to a mailing list, take advantage of an offer or get in touch. The best websites also use layout to make these more effective, tactically placing their “contact us”, “learn more” or “buy now” buttons in headers at the top of the page, at the end of informational blog posts and in tasteful pop-ups that appear as the user scrolls down the page.
We’ve found the most effective conversion tactic for most of our clients is to place phone and email contact options at the head of the page.
Design matters. Your site visuals communicate a brand ethos that mirrors your verbal messaging. There are some basics you need to get right here but the real challenge lies in parsing out how consumers perceive visuals. People will make snap decisions about your business on the basis of colour, font type, layout and images: so you need to come up with a design that’s consonant with your offer.
The thing to know here is that bad-quality images are likely to cost you customers. Are you likely to want to buy something if you can’t really see what it is? Low quality image equals low quality product. Eventually you’ll want to enhance your site with striking visuals and professional photography, breaking up text and keeping people on side and on-site.
For those starting out, you can find free open-license images on Unsplash, Shutterstock and Pixabay. Make sure they’re always high-quality, clearly relevant and avoid obvious stock images.
We always encourage our users to upload high-resolution images, optimising these for the best display and loading speeds. Don’t have pictures? We’ll source some for you as well!
There have been full studies published on the psychology of colour in marketing. It’s a massive part of making an emotional appeal to your customers.
As a common-sense starting point, understand that different palettes fit different moods. You’d be unlikely to see an undertakers’ website using bright green as its main colour. Another pragmatic rule for web design is to limit your palette to three complementary colours and use white space as well. Having too many colours on the site will send a mixed message.
Another pro tip is to associate your brand with a colour that differentiates you from competitors in your space. In the UK financial industry, Natwest’s branding cleverly uses the colour purple to help them stand out in a sea of blue and red (think Barclays, HSBC, Santander, Nationwide).
UENI currently has a palette of 8 different colours for you to choose from and this is constantly growing and developing based on feedback from clients and consumers.
Closely related to your colour scheme is your font type. Again, there’s an opportunity to do things differently here and stand out. Be bold and opt for the font that gives you the right feel.
At the same time, readability is your first priority. Prioritising aesthetics over functionality sends the wrong message about your business. More to the point, people aren’t going to follow up if they can’t actually read your text.
How you lay out text and images also says a lot about your brand. When it comes to layout, minimalist design is in fashion. You can say a lot with very little.
The best websites know how to break up content into subheadings and boxes to make pages easily digestible and navigable. Multimedia content can also add value to your pages as part of an improved user experience (UX). Video content can sometimes be a more engaging way of presenting information than a wall of text.
The best websites have a suite of integrated marketing features that help them attract online users and keep them coming back.
Third-party validation is an invaluable resource for showing your product does what it says on the tin. Sometimes displayed under the heading What Our Customers Say, testimonials show users how your products have helped real people and can do the same for them. It’s all about creating trust.
Testimonials can also be a great place to use multimedia content and enhance user experience. Video is a great medium for really communicating a customer’s enthusiasm for your product.
Maintaining a consistent blog is essential for small businesses in the internet search era. It’s one way of building your own online community by making your website a hub of discussion for your chosen industry. It’s also an opportunity to showcase your business credentials and advertise as a go-to guru.
Keyword research is going to be key here. If you publish SEO content with the right keywords, you can generate a lot of extra traffic. Focus on informational searches within your niche.
Having a sign-up button on your webpage is all about keeping people coming back for more. The best mailing list CTAs do two things right: they place the “sign up” button in a couple of opportune places (in the header and at the bottom of a blog post). They also sweeten the proposition with some sort of sign up incentive, whether this is an introductory offer, free shipping, or the promise of exclusive content or events.
This photography website gives users the chance to opt-in to the mailing list on its online contact form.
The best websites also leverage online transactions to build a database of contacts with an opt-in button to receive marketing emails. You can cultivate a long-term relationship with your buyers. People who buy from you once are likely to buy from you again if you give them offers.
Mentions from trusted publications can help garner trust from your customers and increase their likelihood of spending with your business. A great business website will showcase some of these to potential customers with a selection of snippets, links, a press pack (with basic background information about your business) and a contact number to reach out to.
As well as helping your business’s credibility, getting the right media attention will also help your SEO score.
As a small business, you can’t afford to avoid social media. It’s another vital marketing channel and if you’re not there, you’re missing out. Giving people the chance to keep up with your brand on social media means giving yourself the chance to build an ongoing relationship and convert them at a later date.
Again, we generally include social media buttons in the header of the page to improve the likelihood of getting shares.
The big platforms are always updating so make sure your buttons are the latest model. You can also look to include share buttons on blog posts and products to encourage people to spread the word.
The best websites are built on sound technical foundations. These are the important features which are invisible to site users but nonetheless indispensable. Getting the technical fundamentals in place is a more clear-cut area than the other factors we’ve considered in what makes a good website: you either get these right or you severely limit your chances of making a good impression with your business.
At UENI, we keep on top of the latest technical trends in web design and incorporate these into your site to make sure it’s looking fresh, loading fast and showing up when people search for it. That leaves our clients free to concentrate on building businesses up to their best without having to think about added technical complexities.
Tinkering with your website is a risky business, so make sure whoever’s doing it knows their onions. These are just some of the most important features we work on behind-the-scenes when we’re making a new website.
The best websites are highly visible to the people they are targeting. Think of your business listing in a Google search as a billboard on the online highway. You want this to be as appealing a prospect as possible, matching the reason people are travelling that way in the first place.
As well as ranking high for specific Google searches, the best websites will have dozens of listings in vertical directories, making sure to include their business in niche directories as well. Vegan restaurant listing site Happy Cow is one great example of this.
If you’re going with another service provider, SEO is something that you’ll need to invest time and money in. Read how to rank higher on Google to get more info.
People don’t like to be held up during their online travels. They expect web pages to appear quickly and may even click off your website if things are too slow.
Load speeds aren’t just about enhanced user experience though, they also influence user behaviour. Most studies agree that around 53% of mobile users will be put off by pages that take longer than three seconds to load. No matter what industry you’re in, having pages that loads fast is integral to keeping visitors on your site and turning them into customers.
Major sites have reported serious sales losses due to site slowdowns. This is a particular challenge when it comes to making your site friendly for mobile browsing.
Responsive design means your website will adjust to the dimensions of the device it is being viewed on. The most obvious benefit of this is improved mobile functionality.
Mobile functionality has become an increasingly important feature of web design as online shopping moves into the palm of our hands. These days, Google effectively penalises websites that aren’t mobile-friendly. The best way to avoid this is by creating a pared back design without too much imagery that renders easily to the smaller display of a phone screen.
Google’s mobile site speed test analyses the speed of your website, giving it an overall rating for mobile-friendliness. It will also offer specific recommendations about how to improve your site for mobile users.
You’ll need to think about hiring a web designer to action these changes and make your site as mobile-friendly as possible. There are templates out there you can download for free but these come with limitations.
Having an (SSL) Secure Sockets Layer for your website will give you a small ranking boost. More importantly, it will give your customers peace of mind when buying from you and exchanging personal information.
There are different levels of encryption to consider but a basic security certificate with domain level validation will suffice for a small business which is not handling any information over the internet.
Cyberattackers will always target sites with weak security. If you’re handling sensitive information over the web, you might also want to level up with a security solution to help you protect customer data.
An SSL is part and parcel of UENI’s free plan. As far as we’re concerned, you can’t afford not to have one. Nowadays, sites without SSL encryption result in Google Chrome displaying a Not Secure message in the address bar. This can damage your business’s credibility and put people off buying.
A well-planned website will help you with two things: UX and SEO. Some web designers talk about the “three click” principle; the idea that you should be able to navigate to any given page on your site within key clicks. This also raises a related principle: that you should make sure your site isn’t too baggy with too many categories etc.
Having a sitemap on your website is also important for your SEO score because it shows Google that the website in question is well-organised and easy to navigate for potential users.
All the best websites have a few things in common. Getting the technical fundamentals in place is perhaps the most quantifiable measure of success. Good websites are clean, simple and easy to navigate on any given device. From Google search to social media, they’re also visible to their target audience. Finally, they inspire confidence and trust in potential customers in a range of different ways: by offering security, testimonials and positive user experience.
At UENI, we know that what makes a good website great is a strong appeal to its intended audience. The best websites have features that resonate with users. Whether it’s a pared back design advertising plumbing services or a multimedia online game, a great website understands why people are visiting and what they want out of the experience. This is at the root of every website we build.
To see this philosophy in action and find out more about what we can do for you, check out some more examples of our work: ‘UENI Website Examples – What You’ll Get With Us’.
We know that a free website designed by someone else still might sound too good to be true. If you’re still unconvinced, check out what other people have to say about the service: ‘UENI Reviews: Where To Find Them Online’.