Congratulations, you’re online. Now what? So what’s the big deal?
Most small business owners want to run their businesses and not have to worry about web design, hosting, domain names, WordPress, html, optimization, SEO – whatever that is! – call to action, headers, footers, content, video, mobile, responsive, user interface, user experience, blogs, search engines, social media, and logos.
You’re absolutely right. You shouldn’t have to worry about those things. You’ve got enough on your business plate to concern yourself with. However, it doesn’t mean you should ignore those things. Ignoring the very basics of an online presence is a recipe for trouble. In other words, your competitors will understand those terms, do something about it, and eat your lunch.
Let me explain. All of those items mentioned above are important for your so-called “online presence.” If you don’t care if you have an online presence, you should. Why?
Let me ask you this, are your competitors online? Of course they are.
But more importantly, your customers are definitely online. And even more crucial, your customers are on their mobile devices. Think I’m wrong? Go to a restaurant some time and watch how many people talk to each other and how many are on their phones. It’s not just for the younger crowed either.
Getting your business online is not difficult, but it takes some concerted and deliberate effort on your part to do it. Otherwise, it will never get done. And it needs to be stated bluntly, the sooner you get your business online, the sooner traffic will start flowing to your site.
So, all of those words and phrases above mean something. You may not need to know how they work together, but you still should at least be aware that us web design types use these terms (and a lot of others) every day. I will attempt to briefly explain them below. In subsequent articles I will write about each one. Unfortunately since my audience is potentially large, I have no idea how much or how little you know about any of these terms, so I will simplify as best as I can. My apologies if it seems like I’m talking down to those who are already familiar with the terms.
If you’ve come this far, you probably already have heard the term. In fact, web design is what you are hoping to achieve. Actually you are more accurately hoping for an online presence, and designing a web site for your business gets you closer to that goal. Web design as a term refers to how everything on the site is designed to facilitate that. Within web design there is structure, layout, headers, footers, color schemes, calls to action, landing pages, and content. This should suffice for now, but know that web design is more complex and more involved than most people think. We just make it look easy!
Small Business Hosting
Simply put, hosting is where your website will live or reside. Within hosting there are any number of options that web owners can choose from: dedicated, VPS, semi-dedicated, and simple shared. A site like Amazon would never work on “shared” hosting. In fact, those types of sites are on multiple sites and are served up to customers that are closest to that particular site. Most small businesses are fine with shared or semi-dedicated hosting. It’s cheaper and cost effective if you don’t expect a ton of traffic. On the other hand, the non-dedicated hosting sites “serve up” websites slower, and it is one of the factors for search engines in determining where a site will rank. More on that later. I realized as I wrote that that I introduced several new terms that I will need to explain before this is finished.
There has been a lot of talk recently about domain names being turned over to an international body. You probably have an idea what domain names are as they seem to be self-explanatory. In essence, your “internet protocol” or IP address is a series of four sets of number such as 192.168.0.1. Domain names are attached to those IP addresses. Domain names merely make it easier to remember the IP addresses. Instead of having to remember four sets of number we simply remember the name attached. This topic could become a real hot button issue in the near future, but this should suffice for now.
WordPress is a content management system (CMS) platform that many developers build websites on. It’s a mature technology that makes sites easy and affordable to customize. A full 25% of all websites in the world is built on WordPress. It is easily the number one platform for site building on the web today according to W3Techs. Obviously it is not the only platform but it is one of the easiest platforms to find your way around in. Other popular platforms include Drupal, Joomla, and Squarespace.
HTML stands for hypertext markup language. If you right click > View Source on this page, you will see what this site looks in html. HTML is the “programming language” that much of the internet was founded upon. I know that programming geeks will cringe at such a statement but it’s the truth when you boil it down. Essentially this language tells a “server” how to display a page.
SEO for Small Businesses
Search Engine Optimization is a fancy term that describes the process that web designers go through to tell the search engines what each site is about. For instance, this post might be difficult for a search engine like Google to determine what the main theme of the page is. Because the post is so varied, I have to be very deliberate about what I am writing about. Incidentally, I do have one keyword phrase I am attempting to rank for, can you guess what it is?
On the other hand, if you clean carpets in Raleigh North Carolina, and you sprinkle that phrase throughout your post, the search engines will eventually figure out what that page and your company is all about. No one really knows what the search engines rank for except to say that often there are 200+ variables such as page load speed, time on site, how optimized the text is, who is linking to the site, where is the site linking to, what kind of social signals are apparent, and many more. So when someone calls you and tells you they know exactly what Google is looking for, that’s partially correct. That person may know 50 things that Google is searching for. Unless that person worked for Google, he/she probably doesn’t know all of the factors.
However, it doesn’t mean the person can’t help you, but it’s just not quite honest to say that they know everything Google wants. This topic obviously is very necessary in the online world because search engines will “rank” your site based on those 200+ factors. If you are not on the first page for your desired keyword, not many people will find you.
Call to Action
This is what you want your visitor to do after arriving to your site. Do you want her to call, fill out a quote form, or just be educated? Web pages are best if they have one call to action per page. What many small businesses fail to do, however, is make ONE call to action. Worse yet, they make seven calls to action. Talk about confusing and sending your visitors elsewhere! You want the visitor to do one thing. Only one thing. What is that one thing?
This is getting into the weeds a little bit about web design for small businesses. These terms will serve you well when speaking to a competent web designer. You know instinctively what you want in a site. Just know this, headers are at the very top of a page, and footers are at the very bottom. A third term related to both is the sidebar. The sidebar can be a column to the left or right of the main content on the site. It is not necessary to have a header, footer, or sidebars, though most sites have at least a header and footer.
Of course we all know what content is, but I will expand upon the normal term. Content can also be audio such as a podcast, video, photos, text, and comments from users. All types are content are useful for SEO purposes. They all also serve user purposes as well. For instance, a photography website would be worthless if it only had a long text body without any photos at all. Business owners really should be producing a variety of content regularly. Why? Mainly it helps establish you as an authority in your field.
Every minute users upload 100 hours of video content to the internet. Think about that statistic, and ask yourself whether people would watch your video or not. The greatest little secret that local small business are NOT doing is video content creation. It’s not difficult and can achieve great results. Plus none of your competition is doing it. I can almost guarantee it.
You probably use your phone for texting and calling others, but the world is already switching to mobile site more than you know. If people are out and about, and decide to search on the spot for roofers in your area, are they going to land on your site. When they do, what will they find. Optimize for mobile now or your customers will go elsewhere.
Having a responsive design goes a few steps beyond mobile design. Essentially, it’s the process of web design that makes it easy for a site to be desktop-ready, tablet-ready, and mobile-ready, and not need to change sites to do it. The easiest way to look it is like this: what does your site look like right now on each of those platforms? Web design has necessarily transformed over the last few years to being more responsive to the end user. It’s not where the world is going; it’s where the world already is.
User Interface / User Experience
These terms are two sides of the same coin. You might see them as UI and UX. Interface is how a user uses the website. Experience is how they feel after they’ve used the site. Is it easy to get around on? Does it frustrate the user? Do the back buttons work? Those are all part of the user experience and user interface.
Blog is short for web log, though most people don’t know that. A blog is something that most users have but really don’t know what to do with. Blogs for small business owners are still very useful for fresh, engaging content. People want to know the inner workings of businesses. What troubles are you having? What challenges are you facing? Without getting into confidential information, write a paragraph or two every week and before you know it, you’ll have a following plus fresh content for the world wide web! Your visitors and customers want to know how things work. They want authenticity.
Video blogs (vlogs) are a great way to do that. If you recall under video I mentioned that videos are a great way to advertise your business. Read this definition again and let it sink in what you should be doing.
Google, Yahoo, and Bing are all and the most common search engines. Type something into the search bar and each search engine will display what it thinks your search term is asking for. They may not always agree because they each have algorithms that they use to determine web page rankings.
This is a big item, and will continue to be that way for many years to come. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest are the most common examples of social media. They each have a different role in promoting websites, products, services, and ideas.
The last in this list is a logo. If you’ve been in business awhile, then you probably have already created logos. In web design, however, the logo is probably the first thing a user sees when he/she arrives at your site. The logo is the beginning of your brand.
I know I haven’t covered all the items that are critical to a great and affordable web design for small businesses. The most important piece that I intentionally left out was you the small business owner. You are key to making all of this happen. Your ideas, your planning, and your feedback probably make up at least 50% of the final web design products because, after all, it’s your business and web site. You know what you want, and more importantly, what you don’t want.