A dynamite Web site tells customers everything they need to know about your business, without bogging them down. Before you begin designing your Web site and writing copy, plan what elements you want and need.
A basic business Web site consists of one or more Web pages that contain information about your business that helps them understand what you offer, and sells them on choosing you. You could think of it in terms of a Yellow Pages display ad. In fact, if you already run such ads, they can be the basis of your site content.
For a discussion of different types of business sites, read What Type of Web Site Do You Need?
List the most helpful things this Web site could do for you and your customers, and then winnow that list down to focus on one to three important benefits. Your goal is to plan a simple site around those benefits.
All business Web sites should provide the following on the home page:
- Business name
- Business address
- Main business phone number
- An e-mail address
- Your slogan or tag line, if you have one
Beyond those basics, the kind of content you include depends to some extent on your sort of business. Let’s say you offer consulting services. Your site content should clearly state your areas of expertise, location, and contact info, along with work samples or photos or links to things you’ve written or articles written about you.
For a product site, you might add a list of your products, along with descriptions, photos, and technical information or specs. Explain how to order or how to contact a sales rep, via phone or e-mail. If your products are technical, you might add tech support information, such as a (list of frequently asked questions, known as an FAQ, and your dedicated tech-support phone number. If you plan to sell over the Internet, read Set Up Your E-commerce Site to Sell.
If you run a restaurant, add a menu, a map of your locations, your hours of operation, and a reservation phone number. For a service such as a plumber, towing service, or electrician, you might list services and perhaps prices.
If you have a lot to say about your business, break the copy up into several Web pages. For example, if you operate a hair salon, your main page might include the must-haves listed previously and then separate pages covering hair coloring, cuts, styling, extensions, and hair products.
You might consider using content from someone else’s site. Note that it’s not OK to simply copy from another site. To learn how to legally and ethically use someone else’s material, read Can You Put Content from Other Web Sites on Your Site?
The following are some other features and functions to consider:
- Maps: This is a highly desirable feature for any walk-in locations. Most map services make it relatively easy to include a local map showing your address on your site. Usually they provide code that you can incorporate into your own HTML code.
- Photos: Snapshots of you, your building, and your staff personalize your business and can attract customers. Make sure digital photos are well-lit and attractive, or they’ll turn people off.
- Video: Now more common on the Web, video can help people understand your product or service. You can publish your video on a video-sharing site, such as YouTube or Yahoo Video, and then either link to it or embed the code they provide into your own HTML.
Once you have your list of content and features, begin to plan how they’ll go together. Remember that Web pages aren’t like a book; visitors can hop around in any order they like. Do your planning with paper and pencil; use a single, separate sheet for each page. List the content and features to appear on that page, keeping in mind those three benefits you identified.
Once you have your site plan, you can begin to write copy and design the site. For tips on designing an attractive site that draws attention and business, read Foolproof Web Design.
Finally, a few don’ts:
- Avoid adding features that mean you have to input a lot of info before the site is useful, such as a complete list of everything you sell, because this will slow you down a lot.
- Eliminate elements that need to be updated frequently or on a strict schedule because the site will then become a burden and a distraction.
- At least at first, don’t include any feature that requires you to learn new technology or hire someone else to set it up.
Your goal is to get up and running with something simple but effective; otherwise, you may never get around to launching your site. After you find out what works, and you get comfortable with Web design, you can begin to add some bells and whistles.