12 Tips for Creating the Best Business Website

Most of my readers and clients are small business owners who want a website that WORKS!

Like you, they don't have deep technical expertise or extensive budgets to design, build and promote their websites. 

These 12 Tips for Creating the Best Business Website have been painstakingly 'earned' on the altar of experience.

Tip #1: Have a Clear Purpose

Be clear about the purpose of your website.

It’s all about your business and how your website reflects your business image and supports your business goals.  

All business websites deserve a fair chance of delivering successful outcomes for you and your prospects, customers, suppliers and partners.

Tip #2: Understand Your Competition

Competition is everywhere.

The Internet is a competitive environment.  There are MILLIONS of websites and BILLIONS of web pages of content.  The quality of the internet surfing experience enjoyed by your customers and prospects on other websites IS one of your major competitors!  

You also have direct competition from businesses in the same industry or category.  So it’s worth having a look around your own industry to see what kind of content and features your competitors have adopted for their sites.

If you present a website that makes people think “ho-hum” or “who-cares?” then you will not be able to convert many visitors to paying customers.  For example, look at the home page for a debt collection business below.

Tip #3: Organize a "Traffic Jam"

Traffic that converts is your main goal.

The goal of ALL webmasters is to generate as much traffic to their site as possible. And then convert that traffic to paying customers.

The number of visitors that arrive on a website is dependent on the website promotion activities undertaken by the webmaster.

Tip #4: Deliver an exceptional user experience

Delight your visitors … create a great user experience.

Best practices and prevailing wisdom from search engine optimisation professionals states that your website content should adopt a consistent THEME.  For example, imagine a gift ideas site that has pages of content about fixing up classic cars. Doesn't seem quite right, does it?  

Tip #5: Plan to make changes

Everything changes, so plan for evolution.

After you’ve launched your website, I hope that you feel a tremendous sense of satisfaction.  But don’t stop building and evolving your site after launch day.  You WILL need to change your website at some point in time.  

Some changes will be required by law (e.g. European Union directive in 2009 for website owners to seek consent from their users to use cookies and other tracking technology, sales tax changes).  Other “heavy” changes might be the inclusion of a new feature.  For example, adding an e-commerce or a shopping cart function.

The bulk of changes will likely be from normal business operations such as adjusting stock and prices, products/services added or removed, business details amended, photo gallery updates to show recent work projects, testimonials from customers etc.    The best websites have a content management system that is “built-in” to help webmasters and website owners take charge and implement the variety of changes required.  

Tip #6: Close your knowledge gaps

Understand your knowledge gaps and fill them in.

There is nothing worse than being put in a position where you need to make a decision but you don’t have the required information and knowledge to guide you.  

The old adage “you don’t know what you don’t know” can end up costing you valuable resources (time and money) as well as two key ingredients for success – focus and motivation.

If you plan to work with a web designer for creating your website then you should make it clear to them your level of knowledge.  Reputable designers will use a defined and repeatable process for their design and development activities.

Tip #7: Understand Who You're working with

Getting on the Web - develop your key relationships 

There are three important roles in a website relationship:-

1. The Domain Registrar: the organization that is officially accredited by the industry governing body “ICANN” (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), to issue domain names.  The full list of domain registrars that are governed by ICANN can be found at this link: http://www.internic.net/alpha.html

2. The Hosting Provider: the organization that has the technology hardware and software (infrastructure) for your website to exist.  Ideally your hosting provider has their equipment located in the country where the majority of your website visitors are located. If your visitors are from all over the world, it's best to use a host that has a content delivery network (CDN).

3. You: As the website owner you must take responsibility for ensuring your website conforms to all of the various laws including those that relate to data protection, data privacy, distance selling etc.

Tip #8: Stay Focused, don't get distracted

Avoid “SOS” (Shiny Object Syndrome)

It seems as if we are all easily distracted.  As you go about the task of learning more about websites and closing your knowledge gaps you will come across some pretty interesting stuff.  

For example, you might see a cool feature while investigating a direct competitor’s websites and think “Oh, I need that on my website”. Or you might visit a great website recommended by a helpful friend or family member that fills you with ideas.  

It’s natural.  

You don’t know what is possible until you see what is possible.

These 'shiny objects' are distractions and generate 'noise'. It's important to learn how to filter out the 'signal' from noise so you can avoid traps that lead to poor results. 

Tip #9: Learn to recognize a Scam

Avoid Scammers - Trust, Verify then Buy.

Some people are naturally skeptical, while others give trust easily. Both groups are equally at risk of being scammed because no-one is immune from their own emotions.

Scammers use tactics that prey upon emotional triggers and ignorance

Before you part with your hard-earned cash and/or spend countless hours pursuing advice from so-called gurus, remember that you have the right to ask for proof that a product or service actually accomplishes the result.

Do not be overly swayed by testimonials that are published unless you can reach out to the person directly and verify the claim being made. For example, if I'm evaluating a product (add-on or widget), I look at the reference websites to see if the person is actually using the product they claim "works".  Over time it's fair to say that testimonials get "stale" as people often move on from the product choices they've made.

If i'm evaluating a software package or script for a client, I will check working demo's and again validate the individual websites referenced in the customer profiles or portfolio section. Ideally, the software provider will provide a trial version, with all the features available so a proper assessment can be made.

As a buyer of products and services you have the greatest leverage during the “sales process” before you issue payment.  Make sure you have completed due diligence before you part with your cash!

Tip #10: Working with Web Designers

Working with Professional Designers - Be Fair, Firm and Methodical

If you plan to work with an individual or organization to develop your website, you must establish a balanced working principle of “fairness” and “firmness”.  

You will need to provide an overview of your requirements so that a proper estimate can be created.  But to be fair, you should expect the estimate to be “ballpark” in nature – plus or minus 30% (schedule and/or cost) is a reasonable expectation for planning purposes. 

As you embark on your project, don’t try to hold a person or company down to the last penny of an early estimate.  Rather, you should realize that just as you don’t know what is possible until you’ve seen something in action (Tip #7), the website professional(s) don’t know exactly what you want until something tangible has been produced.   

On the flip side, don't let a web designer pull you off track with fancy features and functions (Tip #8). Follow a methodical approach to designing, building and launching your website.

Tip #11: Documentation, Documentation, Documentation

Don’t Forget to Document Everything! 

It is fair to say this is probably the MOST IMPORTANT tip in this book.  

Given my 30+ years of experience in the Information Technology profession, “lack of documentation” is cited as one of the top reasons for failure of projects.

Make no mistake, building and launching a business website is a project so please don’t let your venture become an example of this “failure” statistic.  

Here are some common items that should become part of your website’s documentation library:

  • Website Brief 
  • Wireframe
  • Target  Keywords
  • Target Visitor Profiles (Personas)  
  • Branding and Images
  • Direct Competitor Analysis
  •  Website Promotion Plan
  • “Wish List”/ future enhancements
  •  Site Content Blueprint
  •  Accounts / login details for various products and services you own

Tip #12: Demonstrate Personal Leadership

Become a leader.

Ultimately, your successes in life will be predicated on moments of failure. People who are resilient, resourceful and honest will recognize that failure isn’t a weakness rather it’s an opportunity to learn and grow.

Creating a business and building a website are not trivial endeavours.

There are common elements shared among various areas. For example,

So if you want to become a “master of the web” you should heed lessons learned from successful business leaders and entrepreneurs.

“Learn to fail fast” is the best advice I ever received from a multi-millionaire entrepreneur.  He said, “failure is an option – it might make the difference to you being successful one day”. 

How So?

By exposing me to situations that are out of my control and giving me the opportunity to learn, adapt and grow. 

My Experience

It's very difficult to admit to yourself (and others) that you've made mistakes or bad decisions. 

In 2009, I ran out of time and money to launch a "dream" online business because I didn't know what I was doing -- I chose the wrong web professionals to help me.

The completed website never materialized after weeks of receiving empty promises and assurances that "everything's good and on track".

Learning from mistakes

As a result of my frustration and anger at being MASSIVELY let down, I vowed to learn as much as I could about websites so that I could make better decisions.

Given my background in the Information Technology profession, I thought it would be fairly easy and straightforward to learn what is required so I could make better decisions.

Not true - there is a LOT of information (and bad advice) out there.

I realized there was so much to comprehend that a non-technical person might struggle to make sense of it all.  So I leveraged my "inner geek" to get up to speed quickly and realizing there was a real gap out there for someone who could honestly and faithfully help others, I turned my attention to local small business owners with their web projects.

Ultimately, I extended my reach when I launched this website in 2011.

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