As the old saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. And according to this statistic, you have approximately 50 milliseconds to make a first impression with your website. For a small business young entrepreneur like you, those 50 precious milliseconds can make the difference between gaining new customers or turning them away.
Websites aren’t like your personal social media profiles. When it comes to your business, your website will quite often be the first thing prospective customers see. And while the other old saying tells us not to judge a book by its cover, that’s exactly what people will do.
Go beyond downloading stock images and slapping together the first template you find. Learn tips and tricks used by web design pros to build a website that will help your business look polished, professional, and inviting.
> YOUR DOMAIN NAME
The first thing you need is a good domain name. Some of the qualities of a solid domain name include:
- It’s short. Customers should be able to remember it. Also, the shorter it is, the easier it is to type.
- It’s easy. This isn’t the password to your super-secret Reddit profile. Don’t use special characters or numbers. Keep it simple.
- It’s unique. Google your domain name and make sure there’s nothing similar to yours, such as a domain name that’s one letter off.
Utilize sites like this one to research and register your domain name.
> CHOOSE YOUR SERVER
Finding the right server for your website can be a whirlwind of options. Google a few comparison sites to maintain your sanity. They’ve done most of the work for you and will offer a solid overview of the existing options and what they do.
When looking for your website’s home, consider what your primary purpose will be. Will you be selling directly from your website? If so, how will customers navigate through the shop pages? If not, what do you want customers to take away from their visit?
Make a list of your needs and ideas so that you can compare server options as a well-informed entrepreneur.
> BUILD YOUR HOME PAGE
This is the landing page that most customers will see first. Make it count.
- Include your brand logo and social media links
- Make the navigation bar or menu easy to find and intuitive to use
- Use colors and fonts wisely
- Keep it simple and clean
- Reflect your brand
- Your contact info should be easy to find
When selecting graphics and photos, remember to avoid anything copyrighted (especially other company’s logos!). Young entrepreneurs with an artist’s eye might take some gorgeous photos to use on their websites. Or hire a graphic design-obsessed friend to help. Try not to use too many stock photos.
Compress your graphics so they load quickly and easily, especially on phones. And, of course, avoid graphics and photos that are violent, inappropriate, or offensive.
> OPTIMIZE FOR BOTH BIG SCREENS AND SMALL SCREENS
As you are probably aware because you do this yourself, more and more e-commerce happens via phones. When designing your website, make sure your homepage looks good when it’s just inches tall. That means readable and scrollable with easy-to-tap links.
Even if you build a mobile app for your business, not everyone will know about that app before they’ve heard of you.
> INCLUDE THE STANDARD PAGES
Most of your customers will expect the following pages they can visit:
- Home page
- About us/me
- Contact us/me
- Customer reviews
- Shopping cart (if you are selling directly from your site)
Beyond these, think about whether you want to include a blog (which you update regularly), a list of links to the charities or other local businesses you support, or other creative/helpful things you think your customers will enjoy.
SEO means Search Engine Optimization, and it’s young entrepreneurs must know how to leverage it on their websites. For many SEO newbies, it’s tempting to simply insert certain keywords into your content as much as possible to grab the attention of algorithm bots. Don’t fall for it! Good SEO means appealing to your very human customers once they reach your website. And humans generally don’t want to read the same word or phrase shoved awkwardly into every other sentence.
There are engines out there devoted to helping you get the most out of your website’s SEO for free. Also, try reading your content out loud. If it doesn’t sound right to your ears, it definitely won’t read well for your customers.
> KEEP THE CONTENT FRESH
No one is saying you need to do an entire overhaul of your website every single week! But as time goes by, give your website a little check-in. Is there stale content that’s no longer relevant to your business you can remove? Has your contact info changed? Does your shop page need an inventory refresh?
When customers see an online shop with nothing but sold-out items, or Christmas products in February, they’re likely to feel turned off. Keeping your website updated, relevant, and fresh shows that you are a professional. It shows that you take your business and customers seriously.
If you keep a blog on your site but you’ll be unable to update it for a longer than average period, make the last post say so. If you’ve sold out of a product but will have more to sell soon, say that on the product page. Just don’t let potential customers think you’ve ghosted your own business.
Your website will often be the first way people learn about you and your business. As you write your business plan and build a marketing strategy, don’t neglect your website. Details matter here – remember that 50-millisecond chance you have to make a good first impression? Check out websites you already love to get inspired. Look at a few of these and note what qualities they have in common and what you like about them.
A well-built and well-maintained website will be one of your most valuable tools in entrepreneurship. It’s out there gaining you customers and followers even when you’re in school, asleep, or out with friends. Make sure it gets the love it deserves!
Florida’s young entrepreneurs are encouraged to apply for a Kantner Foundation college scholarship. Learn more by clicking here!