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Small Business Website Design: Crafting a Strong Online Presence

By Anne Shaw, The Hartford

Want help reaching your business goals? Take a look at your website design. If you don’t have a business website yet, now is your golden opportunity to design it right. The most successful website designs are easy for users to navigate and encourage customer behaviors that help businesses meet their objectives.

Great websites load quickly, function well, include essential information, and display a clean, consistent design with good use of color and imagery. Business website design includes strategically planning your website’s content and its look—the colors, layouts and fonts. Small business owners build websites for many reasons, including:

  • Websites help legitimize your business.

  • Customers look for businesses online and may not discover yours without one.

  • Customers research before they buy, and your website can answer common questions such as your business hours, location, prices, products, etc.

  • Websites give you a voice in what’s being said about your business online.

  • They act as a home base for your digital advertising and a hub for your other online properties, such as social media. 

  • They can be easily updated as your business grows and evolves.

  • Depending on your business model, websites can help drive revenue. 

What is the average cost of website design for small businesses?

Website design for small businesses range in cost. The average cost of a business website falls between $4,000 and $10,000, including one-time design costs and annual site maintenance. You could pay anywhere between $0 to more than $20,000, depending on your site’s size and functionality.

Some small business owners have simple website needs and choose to design their sites themselves with a free template on a website builder. In those cases, they only pay for domain registration and hosting fees.

Others have more complex needs and hire professional web designers. When you plan a budget for website design, include the following costs:

  • Domain registration 

  • Web hosting

  • SSL certificate for e-commerce sites 

  • An upgraded theme or template from a website builder, if desired 

  • A professional website designer or firm, if needed 

Additional costs may include a point of sale (POS) e-commerce plug-in, search engine optimization (SEO) plug-in, a freelance or in-house webmaster or content manager, and images (either stock, royalty-free or paid photographer for original images).

Planning your business website: A step-by-step guide

In many cases, your website shapes your customer’s first impression of your business. You want to keep them interested and engaged while also making them feel secure doing business with you. You can achieve this through thoughtful website design. 

Reflect on your small business’s goals and consider how they inform your goals for your website. This will help you identify your site’s main purpose. Is it to drive online sales, to create and foster a community or simply to inform customers of basic business information?

Once you’ve determined your site’s primary use, you can use that as a starting point for your website design. Follow these steps to get started:

  1. Choose and register a unique domain name. 

  2. Select a hosting provider.

  3. Plan your website content and organize the information into distinct webpages.

  4. Choose an online website builder or hire a web design firm. 

  5. Select a template with the right look and feel to align with your brand, or work with your website designer to land on the right aesthetic. 

  6. Review your new site before publishing. Make sure that it loads quickly across devices and browsers and that it reflects your brand. 

Essentials of Successful Business Websites

Success comes down to intuitive navigation, quick load times, well-written copy and a visually pleasing design. Below are the key elements your business website design should include.

A simple URL (or domain name) that’s easy to remember. Most businesses use their company name for branding consistency and to ensure their customers can find them online. If your exact name isn’t available, think of ways to work in your business name or your main product or service offering. No matter what, keep it short so it’s easy to recall. Shorter URLs are also better for marketing and advertising efforts: They fit better on printed items and are easier to keep top of mind. 

Consistent branding. Your site’s color palette, font style, images, and copywriting voice should all align with your brand. This applies across every digital and physical business property. When you upload image files, make sure they not only align with your brand’s look, but are also optimized to reduce loading time. Visitors are more likely to leave or “bounce” when they have to wait too long for a website to load, so compress all your images to less than 1 MB and save them in one of these file formats: WebP, JPG (for photos) and PNG (for logos).

SEO-friendly. Include important keywords that are relevant to your business in your titles and headers. Take the time to write meta titles and meta descriptions for each page. 

Clear site navigation. Include a navigation menu at the top header and bottom footer of each page on your website. You may choose to use expanding navigation menus. Make sure each page displays a clear call-to-action button to direct visitors’ next steps and avoid dead ends. Consider including a search bar to help visitors find information.

A site map in the footer that includes the following pages: 

  • Homepage. Write captivating, concise copy and include eye-catching calls to action to help visitors find what they need.

  • About us. Share your business’s core values, mission and origin story. You might also include short bios of key team members and display awards your business has won. 

  • A page to “close the deal.” This is the page where visitors become customers. Depending on your business, this could be a page for booking appointments, making reservations, purchasing products or scheduling demos. A simple “contact us” form may suffice for your purposes, or you may need a third-party digital platform (like Picktime or Square for booking appointments, and Shopify or BigCommerce for web sales) that plugs into your website. Many website builders come with these options.

  • Contact us. Include links to every social media profile for your business. You should also include your business’s physical address, email address and phone number. Add your operating hours, if applicable.

  • Other common web pages to consider. These might include a news room, testimonials, FAQ and a blog.

Should you use website builders?

Website builders provide many benefits for small businesses. They offer:

  • Professionally-designed templates that publish your website quickly

  • Responsive designs that work across devices

  • Quick load times

  • Built-in tools for SEO and website security 

  • Plug-in options for e-commerce, booking and scheduling

Common builders include Wix, Weebly, Bluehost, Web.com and Squarespace, each with their own pros and cons depending on your business and website needs. Retail businesses may choose website builders like Shopify that are made specifically for online shops.

If you want a website that truly stands out—or if your business requires complex web functionality—it may make more sense to hire a professional web designer or agency. 

E-Commerce Best Practices for Small Businesses 

If you’re going to sell products on your website, use the following best practices for e-commerce website design.

Make your site secure.

Include a physical address, a contact phone number and valid SSL certificate to show visitors that your site is secure. Consider sharing your return policy and warranty information within each product listing or on an FAQ page.

Use a simple, uncluttered interface.

Do you prefer shopping in a busy, crowded store or a clean one with lots of space to walk around? Chances are the second option wins. The same goes for e-commerce websites. Simple sites with fewer visual distractions and clear purchase buttons convert better.

Create quality product listings.

Show multiple images from different angles and make sure your product descriptions include important details like dimensions and materials. Videos of the product in action or user-generated reviews can also be helpful to online shoppers. If your POS system connects to your inventory management software, create scarcity by showing the stock count (e.g. “Only four left in stock. Order soon”).

Streamline your checkout process

Don’t send customers on a long journey to pay for their orders. Get them to the check out page with as few clicks as possible. Always offer the option to check out as a guest so you don’t lose sales by requiring customers to create an account.  

Offer surprise promotions at check out.

Increase your line items per sale and average sale amount by offering discounted products that customers can easily add to their cart right as they’re checking out. 

How Emerging Technologies Are Shaping Business Websites

Don’t forget to consider how technology trends may affect your website design. After more people started accessing websites on their smartphones, for instance, business owners needed to update their sites with responsive design for a better, mobile-friendly user experience. 

As new browsers and devices enter the scene and as SEO best practices evolve, continue updating your website and testing its performance. As emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality and augmented reality grow more common, they may change customers’ expectations for business websites. For instance, some retailers like Warby Parker already offer virtual try-on options.

Measuring the Success of Your Business Website

Once your website is up and running, don’t neglect it. Pay attention to how it performs against your goals. Analytics tools may be included in your website builder, but you can also use other tools like Google Analytics. These make it possible to see how many visitors come to your site—and what they do when they get there. 

As you measure your site’s performance, track metrics like average session duration, average pages per visit and bounce rates. Understanding how visitors navigate your site—and which pages and activities are most popular—can help you uncover customer interests, guide your digital strategy and pinpoint which pages need improvement. 


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