Small Business Web Design that Works
By: Anita Campbell, co-author of Visual Marketing (Wiley, 2011)
Designing your website to be all things to all people can be difficult. But the best website designs successfully target the big three -- customers, job seekers and employees -- and create a small business web design that connects to each of these groups in its own way.
Website Design Tips that Appeal to Customers
While a good website conveys helpful information, is easy to use and meets your business goals, many business websites look and sound alike. They lack personality.
Stand out! Differentiate your business and brand. Images can play a huge role. Two Leaves and a Bud Tea Company, one of the case studies in our book Visual Marketing, does this by using stunning images of tea farms in exotic places. Lush landscapes and colorfully dressed tea farmers are splashed across the background of the site.
The site’s images help you instantly recognize that this company prides itself on bringing customers tea so fresh it tastes like "it's been plucked and steeped directly from the gardens." The site makes you want to buy tea.
Gearing your website design to your customers will enable you to sell more. It also keeps site visitors engaged, rather than turning them away with too many graphic elements or text that tires the eyes.
My book co-author, David Langton, shares these website design tips:
“Simplify, simplify, simplify! Keep your website offers as direct and minimal as possible and let your users go deeper as they self select the information that they want to learn more about. We call this progressive disclosure.”
Best Website Designs to Attract Qualified Job Seekers
As you set your business apart as one that’s attractive and memorable to customers, it will likely stand out in the candidate's mind, too.
Your site is the representation of your company brand to potential new hires. You have an opportunity through your website to "sell" these visitors, who may someday be your customer, on your company.
Your site is also a way to communicate your hiring needs. Many sites simply say “We’re hiring. Contact us.” For most job seekers, this sounds like a waste of time. The more information you can provide about the specific job skills you’re looking to fill, the more you’ll attract the right candidates.
Alert job seekers that you are hiring, what positions you are hiring for, and how to apply. A good way to do this is to create a hiring page on your site with an enticing message and some basic information for job seekers. In turn, this page can link to job listings you have open on job sites.
David says it’s important to know what your audience is looking for. Don’t bury the link to job listings under three layers of pages; people simply won’t find it.
To direct visitors to the hiring page, add a link in your site footer or in a box on your homepage or include it as a tab in your “About” section -- something like "We're hiring!" or "Work for Us" or even "Jobs." Job hunters quickly figure out where to look for such pages.
The website Klout.com is an interesting example of these practices. There's a link to "Careers" in its site footer, which takes you to a page with a team photo that says "Get a Job!" and a short paragraph suggesting that working for Klout is so much fun it's like, well, not having a job. The image and the copy give the impression that it's a rewarding and fun place, where important game-changing work is happening.
Don't forget to write about hiring on your company blog. Amplify your hiring needs on social media, too. For example you can tweet out the link to your "Careers" page or share it on your company’s Facebook page from time to time. Your next employee could be a social media follower.
Web Design and Employee Engagement
Many businesses forget to include their employees as an audience of their website. By connecting to your employees on your site, you can make them feel more valued. If you have a small company, you can include team members' photos and short bios on your website. This will increase employee engagement by showing that they’re " part of the team" in a visible way.
The Karcher Group, a Web design firm, does this well by including a link to "Meet the Group" on its website. It includes employee photos; you can click over to a dedicated profile page for each employee. Employees can have a little fun by personalizing their information with hobbies, little known facts about themselves and their favorite websites.
I-Site, another website example from our book, also takes a fun approach to employee engagement. Each team member is dressed as a soccer player (the company is in England). Clicking on the images animates them.
Focus on What’s Important
Your company website will never fully appeal to everyone who visits it. The best you can do is hit the high points and focus on good design and appealing images. I agree with David:
“Websites that try to be everything to everyone lose out. Successful websites designers and website owners spend a lot of time discerning the most direct route for organizing and digesting their content in accessible ways.”
Look at other websites to get a sense of what works well design-wise and for ideas to use on your own site’s design.
Anita Campbell and David Langton are the authors of the book, Visual Marketing (Wiley, 2011.)
Anita Campbell (Cleveland, Ohio) is CEO and founder of Small Business Trends, an award-winning website reaching over 3 million small-business owners annually. She also is the CEO of BizSugar, a small-business social media site.
David Langton (New York, NY) is a visual communication designer, blogger, and author on visual design. He has more than 20 years’ experience providing conceptual direction for Fortune 500 companies and small businesses. He is cofounder of Langton Cherubino Group, a communications design firm, based in NYC, dedicated to improving the way that businesses and their audiences interact.