Business websites are now a key component of almost every marketing strategy. But many Irish companies still struggle to get online. What’s more, those businesses that are online aren’t necessarily drawing value from their websites.
According to The Irish Times, 91 percent of Irish SMEs were incapable of processing online sales through a website in 2016. Clearly, not every business sells products online, but the sheer volume of Irish companies without an online sales component means they aren’t building the most optimal websites for their strategies.
Even if you aren’t a web developer, you can still build a great website for your business. Keep reading to find out how to do that the smart way.
Before you start building, you need to establish what you want to do with your website. Several potential factors will affect this, including:
For example, if you’re a UK-based e-commerce website that sells to consumers throughout Ireland, your website will look markedly different from an Irish SME offering consulting services to businesses in the Dublin area.
Before you begin designing your website, document what you intend to use it for. Do you need to generate leads or enable online purchasing?
These choices will influence how you design your website from end to end.
If you’ve never built a website before, it can be difficult to know where to start. A good first step is to consult an experienced web developer if you don’t have the right skills in-house. Your website hosting provider may be able to help as well.
In the meantime, here are 13 tips you should keep in mind when designing your website:
Millions of businesses have been where you are right now. There’s no reason to reinvent this process.
You can draw inspiration from other successful websites and still create a unique website of your own. By analyzing some of the top business websites in Ireland, you can gain insights into what might work best for your company.
Look at your competitors and what other businesses in your industry have done online.
When building a wireframe for your website, you can use top websites as a template. You can even mimic their page designs. Just be sure to always use your own images, icons, fonts, and content.
Building a business website is a long process. There are some tools that let you set up one in a matter of hours. But to truly be successful, you’ll need to do more than what these tools can offer.
A basic website plan includes your goals and lays out the process of how your website will come to be. Typically, you’ll take the following steps:
Within these steps are multiple others. For example, businesses take different approaches to structuring their website. In many cases, a whiteboard or a series of note cards are all you need to map out a structure.
Business websites with clunky navigation menus cause frustration. If it’s too hard for visitors to find what they need, they may go elsewhere.
Try to understand why visitors come to your website. What are they trying to accomplish? This should tell you what to put in your navigation tab.
Typically, your navigation should only include the essentials. If you’ve browsed any business websites, you already know these. Tabs like “About Us,” “Services,” “Pricing,” and “Contact Us” are commonplace.
Make sure your navigation fits on a single line. If necessary, you can create drop-down menus for some of your tabs. However, keep in mind that your navigation will need to translate well onto mobile.
Finally, make your navigation universal. If you switch between menus based on where visitors are on the website, they will become confused.
Business websites that aren’t mobile-friendly risk alienating a high percentage of visitors. For example, in the UK, 76 percent of adults owned a smartphone in 2017.
More importantly, 62 percent of the time spent on the internet in 2017 was on mobile devices.
When it comes to mobile-friendly websites, simpler is better. To optimize your website for mobile, you’ll need to take a few steps:
Many of these steps may require the skills of a web developer. However, most website building tools include plugins that make this process easier.
For example, you may automatically create a dynamic site configuration depending on your content management system. This saves you the trouble of creating two separate configurations of your website.
If you’ve ever tried to connect to a website from another country, you may have noticed it can take longer to load.
The best running websites in Ireland aren’t sending data across the ocean from the U.S. They’re hosted close to the businesses that run them and right where customers are getting online: in Ireland.
Search engines will use your domain name to determine who your website is relevant to. If you use a “.ie” domain name, you’ll show up more frequently in Irish search results.
It should go without saying, but you shouldn’t plagiarize. It can be tempting for some businesses to “repurpose” other people’s content when they’re trying to build a website quickly. But this can hurt you dramatically.
Search engines are designed to recognize duplicate content. If your website’s content matches that of another, you could be penalized for it. That means you won’t show up in search results.
Create your own unique, original content. It’s better for your SEO strategy and it’s the right thing to do when serving your customers.
Your homepage is the most important page on your website. Not only is it your root domain, but it’s also where both humans and search engines will go to start learning what your business is all about.
Your homepage should do more than tell a story and offer a pretty picture. It should convert visitors. Many businesses place a simple button at the top of their homepage to encourage visitors to act.
Depending on your business, this call-to-action may be a “Shop Now” button or a “Request a Free Demo” button. Of course, you could also use a different conversion opportunity. Ask visitors to subscribe to your blog or download a free template, if that’s what your customers need.
The rest of your homepage should provide resources your visitors will expect. This may include a brief description of your business, links to relevant pages, images of your best-selling products, or other information.
There are so many SEO attributes that many businesses neglect to fill them all in. But you don’t want to leave any page un-optimized. Each page should be optimized for a specific keyword and that keyword should find its way into all relevant SEO attributes, if possible.
Here is a list of on-page SEO attributes to include in every page of your business website:
There are other attributes that may require your attention. For example, you may need to tell search engines not to crawl certain pages on your website by updating your robots.txt file.
Building consistency in your website design is crucial to keeping visitors engaged. If your website looks different on every page, customers may think they’ve landed on another site.
Pick two to four fonts to use exclusively on your site. At the very least, you should have one for headers and another for your body text. Keep these consistent across your entire site.
If you don’t have brand colours, now is the time to choose them. These should be present in your logo and across all your web pages. Don’t select too many colours – or you risk losing any brand recognition.
Finally, don’t be afraid of whitespace. Whitespace helps break up all the elements on your website. You can use it to draw attention to important features, like calls-to-action.
There are a few web pages that all business websites need. You may prioritize all or just a few of them. It all depends on what you do and what you want visitors to accomplish on your site.
Here’s a list of website pages you should consider:
Bad images make business websites unbearable. You should always use high-quality images on all your pages. Of course, determining the difference between high and low quality can be difficult.
If possible, consider purchasing stock images from an image hosting company. There are also free stock images available from some websites, but these are used across the web by thousands of businesses.
Do not download images from other companies’ websites. This could be an infringement of copyright. There’s also no way to guarantee the quality of those images.
Once you’ve downloaded images, don’t forget to compress them. Try to keep your images below 300 KB. This will increase page loading time.
There are lots of reasons visitors might be on your website. They may be there to read your blog. They could even be competitors spying on you.
But it should always be clear what you want visitors to do. Calls-to-action are typically buttons or links that entice visitors to convert and move further toward a buying decision. They can be low stakes (“sign up for our newsletter”) or high-stakes (“contact us for a free demo”) CTAs.
The calls-to-action you choose will depend on the page and where you expect visitors to it to be in their buying journey.
Regardless, include your business address, phone number, and contact information on every page. Many businesses use the footer for this purpose.
Finally, you should test your website often. Many businesses do this quarterly. Testing will give you insight into what you’re doing right and what you need to do better.
There are a few different ways to test your website. You can use SEO tools to check that your pages are optimized. You can test page load times or analyze marketing metrics to see which pages convert the most.
One popular way to test business websites is to use a heat map. Heat maps show you where visitors are clicking and how far they browse on each page. This provides you with intelligence about how people want to use your website.
For example, you may find that some of your visitors are clicking on one of your icons. If that icon isn’t a button, why not make it one?
But one of the best ways to test your website is to ask users. You can set up a trial with impartial third-parties and survey them to determine what you need to fix.
Over one-third of Irish businesses planned to increase their marketing spend in 2018. Increasingly more are using those funds to build comprehensive business websites. But many of them still need help generating value from their sites.
Once you’ve built your website, don’t let it be static. Web development is an ongoing process.
You should update your site with fresh content regularly. Test it and make improvements based on its performance. You can use metrics to measure this, then break up optimization tasks into small sprints to make the overarching task easier.
And if you’re doing business in Ireland, don’t forget to host your website in Ireland. Browse our hosting packages online or call us at 021 202 8058 to get started!