Website essentials revealed – what you do and don’t need for a top-notch website.

If you’re planning to get a website for your business or you know yours needs a refresh, you’re probably thinking about what information and content you need to gather. If you turn to Google you’ll find tens of thousands of results, and it can be hard to know where to start.

In this blog, Danielle Holmes from Wiltshire website firm Black Nova Designs has all the answers you need based on her experience helping hundreds of business owners get their dream website.

She sets out what you do need to have when you’re getting a website, what you don’t need to worry about and why! Let’s dive in:

Do – identify your audience.

Your website needs to speak your audience’s language in terms of the layout, branding, images and copy you use to entice someone to click links, explore the site and hopefully get in touch or buy from you. If your business is already established then you should have a good idea of who your ideal customer is and can spend a little bit of time thinking about what’s likely to turn them on, and what will make them hurry off elsewhere. If you’re new to the market then you may need to take a deeper dive into your customer personas, but the information you will uncover will inform your wider marketing and sales strategy so it’s well worth spending some time on it.

Don’t… spend hours and hours studying customer personas and researching every aspect of their behaviour. Just the basic information is enough to get started, remember you should have a website that can be added to at any time. You want the website to appeal to your target customers but by spending so much time and energy on it that you never actually get around to gathering the other elements needed!

Do – invest in branding.

A website without branding is like having a shop front with no signage and nothing in the window! You can make the rest of your website amazing (great structure, compelling content) but if you don’t have a professional logo and consistent use of font then it will look downright basic and not very professional. Branding is at the very least a logo, two fonts that complement each other and a basic colour scheme. That will help ensure the website, and therefore your business, looks trustworthy to anyone visiting it. I always make sure our clients know how important branding is to the look and feel of the website and encourage them to have that in place before they get us to start the project.

Don’t… take a very deep dive into branding if you’re a new or small business or have a limited budget. Large and well-known brands have chunky documents detailing everything from their tone of voice, mission and values to detailed guidelines on image and logo use and so on. This is a great investment for brands who are growing and might outsource marketing to an agency or PR company, but it’s overkill when you’re starting out, just keep it basic and consistent initially.

Do – plan the website structure.

The next step is to think about the structure of the website. Aside from your homepage, what other pages do you want and how do you want them laid out? Lots of people choose to have an ‘about’ page, where they reinforce their business credentials and trustworthiness by sharing their story and background. A blog or news page can be great for SEO (provided you update it regularly!) and can help boost brand trust. The core pages are those which share your products or services, and these should be easily accessible from your homepage and menu – ideally you don’t want to make people click more than twice – e.g., one click to take them from Google’s results page or a social media link, and then again (if needed) from your homepage to a contact form or product page.

Don’t – be tempted to have too many web pages. Keep it simple and ensure that the website is easy to navigate. People only spend a few moments on a homepage before deciding whether to read on or go elsewhere and you need to make it clear what you do and how to learn more!

 

Do – have professional images taken.

Stock images. Love them or hate them, lots of relatively large businesses choose them for their website and I think that is a mistake. If you want your website to really stand out from the crowd and sing about your brand from the rooftops, why would you choose stock images? A photo shoot is always worth the investment. You can get some professional shots of your business and your team which not only ensure your website is truly unique, but they can help your brand in other ways. Being able to see the real people who work at a business helps with brand trust, you can use them on social media too AND if you ever choose to do some PR – Fiona can tell you all about the benefits of that – you’ll need professional images. Don’t hesitate, just do it!

Don’t – use stock images. Just don’t!

 

Do – take time to write and check website content.

As well as the branding, images and page structure, you will need to have written your website copy. These are the words that appear on each page of your website and include any taglines, headers (those are titles), subheadings, paragraphs and call-to-action buttons (e.g., click here to visit our blog). When you’re writing copy for your website remember to bear in mind your target audience and speak in their language, avoiding using very technical language or acronyms unless they would readily use them. It’s worth asking someone else to read your website copy to ensure it makes sense to them (you might be too ‘close’ to the business to spot when you’re getting too technical) and that it’s free from typos and grammar or punctuation errors.

Your copy can also influence where your website will rank in Google’s results pages, so think about the keywords people will type into Google when they want to find a business like yours. For example, if you’re a mobile hairdresser in the Swindon area, you can include keywords such as ‘mobile hairdressing Swindon’, ‘mobile hair stylist Swindon’ and ‘mobile hairdresser north Wiltshire area’, as well as variations on these keywords using the names of villages and towns nearby that you cover.

Don’t – have the same copy on multiple pages or copy content over from another website. This is called duplicate content and it can cause you to be blacklisted by google – the exact opposite of what you want from an SEO perspective.