Redesigning Your Small Business Web Site

Out with the old - In with the new. There comes a time in the life span of every small business Web site when one must consider the pros and cons of a redesign – or at least a design update.

A lot of times, the nature of small business is to worry about getting the day-to-day tasks done without having time to track Web site trends ensuring your site has the most advanced features. However, the Internet and consequently any technology related to it is constantly evolving, and if you don’t update your site to address dynamic trends and usability issues – your competitors will out-convert your outdated site.

Knowing When to Redesign

How do I know when I need a new design? Consider how long it has been since anyone worked extensively on your site. I always recommend my clients have regular updates along with the introduction of new trends – and a complete overhaul about every three to four years if possible.

What state is your Web site in right now? Are you using graphical or JavaScript navigation? Are the photo styles and resolutions outdated and grainy? What sort of SEO benefit does your current site lack? Consider any "wish list" items you have for your site and understand a redesign can make those wishes become reality.

CSS Navigation

With the increasing popularity and Search Engine support for CSS navigation, using anything less could hinder your chances of maintaining market share. CSS enables the search engine spiders to access and crawl your Web site with greater ease and thoroughness. I've actually seen this change alone make some positive ranking improvements.

Professional Photography

Consider adding updated and sharp professional photographs to your Web site. Good photography is worth the money, as this can sometimes be the only sales "voice" you have. People are converting based on what they "see" on your site, and text can be limited in convincing them, whereas professional photography can succeed with a glance.

Strong Call to Action

Web site shoppers are fickle and have short attention spans – it's important to tell them exactly what you sell and how to buy it. "Book online today!" and "Buy Music Online!" are great calls to action that can double as links leading to your shopping cart or booking engine. Be sure you are putting this information near the top of the page, above the fold.

If you rely on phone calls to convert your potential clients – put that phone number at the top of your page – in large type. Don’t make the visitor hunt to find out how to buy from you, make it easy and crystal clear.

Location and Maps

Consider dedicating an entire page to finding your location, providing directions from various points in the area. A great interactive map such as those found at Google Maps or CommunityWalk could help your online shoppers find your location easily and without hassle. Text directions written with bullet points can help direct visitors unfamiliar with your area to your doorstep – increasing visitor/user satisfaction.

Headers, Logos and Colors

Your Web site logo and color scheme should reflect the ambience and intended experience you have for your guests/shoppers/clients. Professional Web sites with great color schemes and appealing headers and logos will sell more products than sites with "cartoon-like" logos and outdated and clashing color schemes.

For example – the hot trends in colors these days are pink and tan or turquoise and brown, but in a year, the next hot colors could be black and yellow. Conveying a current and trendy Web site can tell your visitors you are up to date and conscious of their current online experience.

Formatted Information

It’s important to keep formatted information consistent. Consider the shopper's point of view when designing pages that feature your products. As users move from page to page, can they find the color, size, price, and other important information consistently in the same place?

The human eye is trained to look at a particular point on a Web page quite quickly – if online guests have to hunt around from page to page to find pricing – they're going to get frustrated quickly and search for a Web site that delivers a better user experience.

Finding a Designer to Fit Your Needs

Let's face it, there are a lot of designers out there – and honestly, there are a lot of bad ones. Make a list of the most important requirements you have for your Web site design and then ask for proposals from a variety of sources. Talk to a competitor you might be friendly with; ask the Chamber of Commerce who they recommend; find some local businesses with Web sites you like and ask them who did the design.

Once you've compiled a list of prospects, it's time to convey to them what you'd like to achieve. It's important to remember - these people know design – so let them help you down the best path to a Web site that makes you happy.

The list above provides a framework for what you should look for in a site redesign, but it isn’t the "be all, end all" of redesign checklists. Be flexible, consider what you'd like, and listen to the designer's suggestions – the end product will be something you'll be proud of, that your customers will enjoy using, and best of all – profitable!