Designing a website for your business

Looking to create a successful website that generates hits? Read on to find out about designing a website, and learn how to search engine optimise.

Design-intensive websites with loads of content are often seen by business owners as important elements of a successful website. But, according to Fred Schebesta, managing director of Freestyle Media online marketing agency, this really isn’t the case. Instead, search engine optimisation is key.

Easy navigation should be one of your top priorities, says Schebesta. Without it, your customers will have trouble contacting you and reaching your product. “The most important thing, in terms of navigation for any SME website, is you need to know where your money page is,” he says. “Your money page is either your contact point, or your inquiry form, or in some cases the checkout and online cart. You want to funnel people through your site to those pages.”

Navigation was an important website design element for Night Nannies, an agency which provides sleep guidance and other specialised services for families in their homes. Although based in New South Wales, Night Nannies is a national agency and uses their website as a main point of contact for expanding their reach and saving time. “It was more important for us to have the web as the main shopfront because we feel that is where the market is going,” says Annemarie Sansom, Night Nannies director. “People are time poor, so most of our clients are using the internet as a research tool as well as to quickly find services.”

For easy navigation, the Night Nannies website features an aspect search. “It’s not a search engine, but if people still struggle to find information on the site they can just put in the search information as well,” says Sansom.

Inquiry forms are also a major business drawing point. “People may not want to ring up, so this allows them to be anonymous,” Sansom explains. “It’s quick and easy, and it can go from their inbox to ours and back again. And there’s no obligation on their part.”

Dealing with Online Inquiries

However, having an online inquiry form and funnelling traffic to that page is useless if you don’t respond to visitors. “We always respond to every email and inquiry that’s done through our forms within 24 hours at the absolute latest,” says Sansom. “Every business needs to make sure they’re on top of that.”

Search engine friendliness is also high on Schebesta’s list. “That’s an absolutely critical element to any website,” he says. “Search engine friendliness can make or break a site. People used to look at the Yellow Pages; these days people search for information online and that’s how they find your website.”

Sansom agrees, but doesn’t think search engine optimisation is as simple as it’s thought to be. “There are a lot of cowboys out there doing site optimisation,” she says. “I would recommend any small business do their research because it’s a lot of money to spend.”

Your website should also be credible and clearly get your message across. “It’s important to ensure that your site is persuasive and converts visitors on your site to actual leads,” says Schebesta. He suggests some tips to create a persuasive website, including having fresh content on your site and take down that 1995 press release. Also make sure you have real pictures of real people. Finally, pop your address on the footer, show that you’re a bricks and mortar business and that you will be around tomorrow.

But there is more to web development, including converting visitors into actual customers. “Create a way to capture people, as opposed to just an inquiry form,” says Schebesta. “Engage with them. Getting your customers to interact with you in a conversation will build trust and confidence. For example, give away a simple information sheet or a simple white paper on your site to get their email details. Once you have their email details you can communicate with them and send valuable emails and offers and prospects.”

Blogging Online

Night Nannies site uses a blog to communicate with customers. “The blog is a great way to show that there’s a person behind the website. Also it’s a way of being able to keep the information up-to-date,” says Sansom. “But again it all comes back to another way for search engines to pick you up, because blogs are great for search engines. There’s no point in being on page 20 on a Google search; you need to be on page one or two.”

The Night Nannies website also provides free information to assist converting visitors into customers. “We want to be able to help people, and the reality is we’re not giving anything away,” she says. “We’re saying we’ll come to your home and help you implement those strategies. So having that information onsite is a bonus because information brings the customer to you.”

Night Nannies visitors will also find links to other sites, but Sansom explains that this is part of optimisation and she isn’t worried about driving away customers. “Links going out is just sharing that particular resource, and with the links coming in you’re seen as the authority on that particular topic,” she says. “I’m not afraid to be able to share that resource and show that we are part of the bigger picture.”

While an informative site that conveys your expertise is great, it’s not the easiest thing to manage. “You can have all the information in the world, but if customers get lost it’s pointless,” says Sansom. “Knowing what people want is really hard, so we had to nut it out with someone from IT. Obviously you don’t want to put everything in there—you don’t want to give away all your secrets—but you want to give away little bits.”