Everyone knows that any modern business needs a website, but not everyone understands just how much work goes into building a good website. Of course, small businesses and solo entrepreneurs often lack the resources that larger companies have. As a result, they struggle to perfect their web presence.

However, things don’t have to be that way. There are several ways to make your website stand out from the competition, from using digital tools and applications to hiring external experts to help you. These can fit any budget, from the cash-strapped budding business to the fast-growing startup.

But first, you need to know where to focus your efforts. In this article, we will cover four of the most crucial components of a well-crafted website, and the different types of help and support you can engage to take yours to the next level.

Customer Convenience

How smooth and easy is it to use your website? If your customers find it challenging to navigate, they will quickly pass you by for a simpler solution. A convenient, functional website helps build customer loyalty, and it can also directly influence sales.

This will look different for different types of websites. If you have an online store, you need to make sure your checkout process is fully optimized. This includes making checkout quick and easy, removing unnecessary distractions from the page, displaying trust seals, and offering different payment options.

If your business is appointment-based, you should incorporate an appointment scheduling system into your website. Companies with a convenient, simple, and effective system in place have significantly higher reservations, especially compared to those which only have a phone number or built-in contact form.

No matter what kind of website you have, one thing you absolutely cannot ignore is mobile compatibility. Most web builders are designed to work well with mobile devices, but you should still always test how your website looks on different devices. If needed, don’t hesitate to reach out to a well-versed web developer.

Broaden Accessibility

Web accessibility is, unfortunately, something that few small businesses think about when setting up their website. However, it is extremely important, and not just because you’re interested in a broader customer base. According to Search Engine Journal, while there are no federal laws enforcing web accessibility, you can be sued for it, so it is important that all businesses strive to follow the accessibility guidelines known as WCAG.

This can sound complicated, but making your website more accessible can be very simple. A few easy things to do include are:

  • Video and Audio Transcripts – If you have any video or audio on your website, you should provide written transcripts for people with hearing impairments. These can either be as captioning on the video itself or as a separate document. A digital transcription service can complete this process within minutes and with high accuracy, which is especially important if you have a lot of content to transcribe.
  • Legible Fonts – Before you use that fancy-looking font for your website, think again. According to the Bureau of Internet Accessibility, the best fonts to use online are simple, sans serif, and popular enough to show up on any device, like Arial, Helvetica, or Tahoma. You should also be considerate of people with color blindness by avoiding reds and greens.
  • Navigation – Certain people cannot use a mouse or trackpad, so your website should be easy to navigate using a keyboard. A simple way to do this is to avoid complex menu navigation systems and page layouts.

In order to boost your accessibility, look for a web developer with particular experience in this kind of work, who will be able to provide input and guidance on any necessary changes.

Eye Appeal

The importance of website aesthetics cannot be underestimated. Some research shows that 48 percent of users cite design as the number one factor when determining the credibility of a business, and 38 percent of people will stop engaging with a website if the layout is unattractive. Bad or outdated design is, quite simply, no longer an option for businesses.

To a certain extent, you can improve your website’s design by yourself. Make sure you only use high-resolution, well-lit photos, and use a web builder that has easy-to-use templates that do most of the work for you. The downside of doing things this way is that even a tasteful site with quality images can look cookie-cutterish.

If you want to stand out, you will need to hire a web designer. If you have the money, it’s worth considering connecting with a designer to build your website from scratch, tailored to your specifications. A qualified web designer should be able to collaborate effectively with developers and graphic designers and fully understand UI design and web fundamentals (e.g., HTML, CSS). 

Hiring a web designer tends to be a pricey option for some small businesses. A cheaper alternative is to hire a developer to tweak a website you have built yourself, so you can get a truly beautiful and personalized website for less.

Cyber Security

Small businesses make up 58 percent of the victims of cyber crime. This is because hackers know that they lack the resources to protect themselves in the same way as larger companies do, and they target those vulnerabilities. What’s worse, a small business is much more likely to fail following a cyber attack, since recovering from one can be expensive.

There are a few ways to boost your security without external help. Make sure you only use secure passwords, and use a password manager to keep track of these. Train your staff to recognize phishing emails, which often feature poor writing, suspicious attachments, and calls to action designed to make you panic. And in case you do fall victim, back up all your data regularly and keep the backups in a safe place.

That said, if you can find room in your budget, it is a good idea to take this further. Useful tools for small businesses include a reliable firewall, antivirus protection, endpoint disk encryption, and application patch management. If you feel like this is outside your comfort zone, it might be a good idea to bring in a professional cybersecurity specialist, or hire an IT service that can help you secure your system.

There was a time in which simply having a website was enough to stand out, but that time is long gone. Users now expect websites to look great, be quick and convenient to use, protect their data, and be accessible to everyone. Even on a limited budget, it is possible to achieve this. However, as your company grows, consider bringing in external experts and investing in specialized web tools that will help you continually improve and bring in more sales.

Written by: Chelsea Lamb of businesspop.net