Web Design Guide for Small Businesses

So you want to put your business or organization on the internet. Maybe you want to give your customers more information about your company. Perhaps you have valuable information that will help others, or maybe you want to expand and sell your product online.

These are all great reasons to put your business on the web. In this article, I will help you understand the web design process so that your website can be a successful part of your business.

A common mistake business owners make when deciding to put their business on the web is to rush into calling a web designer without first having a plan. The following steps should always be taken first, before ever picking up the phone:

  1. Define your project.
  2. Find a designer who fits your needs and your budget.
  3. Think about your target audience.
  4. Decide how you will keep your information fresh.

Define Your Project.

Defining your project is probably the single most important step in the process of creating your website. By asking yourself these important questions, you are increasing the chances that your website will do exactly what you want it to do… maybe even more!

  • What is the main purpose of your website? Is there anything else you want to accomplish with your site?
  • Who is your primary target audience?
  • What elements are a MUST HAVE for your website?
  • What do you NOT want to see on your site?
  • What content will you want on your site and how many pages will you need to accomplish that?
  • What will you put on each page?
  • What kind of feeling or mood do you want your site to show?
  • What will make your site different than other similar sites?
  • What do you expect your site to accomplish within a year?
  • How much are you willing to spend on the initial site as well as ongoing maintenance?

Knowing the answers to these questions to the best of your ability will put you ahead of the game when it comes time to contact a web designer. Knowing exactly what you want out of your site will help your designer better meet your expectations and help your site accomplish its goals.

Find a Designer Who Fits Your Needs and Your Budget.

Does the designer fit your tastes? Take a look at his or her portfolio. Don’t take the designer’s word for it that he can do what you ask. Make sure he can show you samples. If you like what you see, move forward. If not…. move on.

What about your budget? How much are you willing to spend? Even a simple site will require an initial investment and could cost hundreds or even thousands.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for within your budget, you may need to adjust your budget. Or perhaps adjust your site to better fit within your means.

Take the time to shop around. Designers will vary greatly in talent as well as price. That doesn’t mean cheaper designers are less talented or that the more expensive designers aren’t worth the money. It’s important to find the best person for what you are willing to pay.

There are many factors that could affect the price of a website:

  • The price scale of the designer.
  • The number of pages you want on your site.
  • The coding required to complete the project.
  • The types of elements you desire.
  • The time it takes to write or edit your content.

You can keep your costs down by finding a designer who fits your budget. Have your content complete and in its final form before submitting it to the designer. Eliminate unnecessary content/pages. Keep revisions to a minimum.

Think About Your Target Audience

What YOU want to see on your site is not necessarily what your USERS will want to see. Try to think about your project from their point of view.

  • What you take for granted about your business may be completely unknown to your user. For example, certain industry terminology may be like a foreign language to your readers. Avoid suc terminology where possible.
  • What are your users looking for when they visit your website? Can they find it easily? If they can’t find what they are looking for quickly, they’re more likely to look somewhere else.
  • Do you expect your users to find your site by looking for your company name or by the services you offer? Keep your keywords in mind when writing your content.

Never forget that the most successful sites were written with the USER in mind.

Keep the Information Fresh

A good website is constantly changing and adding new content. It’s important to keep updating your content because people tend to return to sites that always have something new to offer. Search engines also prefer sites that continually grow (as long as the content is relevant.)

Don’t be tempted to add boring filler content that does not add value to your site.

Some ideas for adding content:

  • FAQ Page
  • Newsletters
  • Blogs
  • New Articles
  • New links to helpful resources

Mariposa Web Design is committed to your success. I am constantly researching web design practices and tactics to learn what will get you the best return for your investment.

Design Your Own Websites

So you want to design your own websites.

With all of the programs available these days, it’s not something that is out of your reach. After all, even the Hosting Companies have jumped onto the bandwagon and are offering editing software along with their hosting packages. These website builders make it easy for anyone to put together a simple website.

What I want to talk about here is an amazing book that has helped me learn what it takes to take designing sites to the next level. Now, this is certainly not the only resource I’ve used, but it got me started in a way I never expected.

Head First HTML

Head First HTML is a MUST READ for anyone who wants to learn how to design websites. Even if you’re only designing for personal use, this book will give you the tools you need to take control of your designs.

I’ve tried several different design programs that allow me to edit a page as if I were editing a word document. The problem is they can only do so much and they seem to overcomplicate things, stacking code on top of code. To make it worse, I could never seem to get the site to do exactly what I wanted it to do. I knew it was possible. I just didn’t know how to do it.

I had received this book as a gift from my brother. He knew I was interested in web design.

I have to tell you, it was one of the best gifts I have ever received. I had tried other books, and they all bored me to tears. The technical jargon was hard to follow and I was expected to already know a lot of things that I simply did not know yet. Reading the material would become so frustrating that I would eventually put the book down.

With Head First HTML, that was not the case. It’s written in plain english. Any technical jargon is introduced simply and with a complete explanation of what it means.

This book walks you through step by step as you build websites from scratch. No editing program required. You learn the coded needed to make it all happen, and you can watch it happen right before your eyes!

Now, I’m not saying editing programs don’t have their place. I use Dreamweaver myself, which cuts a lot of the time out of the design process. But I use the knowledge of HTML and CSS that I have learned from this book and other sources to custom build my templates. I no longer have to rely on the ready made templates that Dreamweaver offers.

My advice to you is get creative! Learn HTML and CSS! I highly recommend this book to get you started. It’s an easy read as well as entertaining! It’s where I got my start!

Click here to order Head First HTML and CSS