There are literally millions of sites on the web waiting to be explored. You have decided you want to join them with a business site of your own. Building a business site is different from building a personal site, hobby site or informational site. The multitude of businesses on the Internet make it an extremely competitive. In many cases you will compete directly with companies like Wal-Mart and Amazon. The good news is that most small business sites are not getting the basics correct, and there are ways a small business cannot only compete, but win against the megastores.
Planning. Unlike a personal site that is built to share a passion or hobby, which you might hope develops some sort of following or measure of popularity; a business site must have traffic. Attracting customers is usually the ultimate goal of any business site. Larger corporations such as McDonalds or Nike often build site geared more towards promoting brand and providing an enjoyable user experience, but as a small to medium business, your focus is developing more customers and increasing revenue. In order to maximize your chances of success you must do research. Building a business site without the proper keyword and market research is like heading out for a vacation without a map and no idea of where you are headed, just hoping you end up somewhere nice. Keywords and keyword phrases are the roads leading to high traffic and more customers. A web designer is that cannot provide you with keyword and market research results does not effective build business sites. They surely are talented designers that build beautiful, attractive websites; but your primary concern in having a business site is to find customers. Once you have a list of keywords and phrases, related to your market, that have the best potential you are ready to begin the design.
Design. Personal or informative sites can be an exercise in creative expression. Business Design should emphasize simplicity. Unless your business involves creative design, such as a photographer, fashion designer or floral arrangements you should avoid too many graphics, colors and complex designs. Keep in mind that your visitor is at your site because they are looking for something. The purpose of a business site should be to capture that need and produce a desired action. The action can be one of several things. Placing a phone call to your business for a consultation, placing an order or visiting your business (such as in a restaurant). Do not muddy your purpose by focusing on more than one of these. The only exception would be to capture their email in order to follow up with your visitors. An email capture can and should be used in conjunction with your primary action.
A beautiful creative design, is not necessary for a successful business site, in fact it can often distract visitors with too many options, colors and lack of an intuitive menu layout. A business site should have all its features, menus and navigation exactly where a visitor would expect them. Simplicity is the key to a effective business site. All key information should be easy to find. Avoid very long pages that require your visitor to scroll down the screen, the most important information should always appear at the top of the screen.
Customer Oriented. This is one of the biggest flaws I see in business sites. View your site as customer or visitor, not as the business owner. It is understandable that you are passionate about your business and want promote it and highlight your accomplishments. Your site visitor has a need or problem, how important are these accomplishments to them in comparison to their current need? Your website should reflect a customer focus, anticipate what a visitor is interested in and ensure this information is readily available. Answer questions they may have. Make sure you have some kind of analytics to track what pages your visitors look at the most, and how much time they spend on each. Once your site has been up and running for a while, you can use this information to make changes to your site based on real data.
Understanding your demographic. Ensure you tailor your site to your demographics. Are most of your visitors older? Make sure your font is not too small and make sure to display a phone number in large print. Many older customers feel more comfortable speaking to a real person. Do you deal with a younger demographic, then provide links to your Twitter and Facebook accounts. If you deal with a diverse group of customers, make sure your graphics reflect this. Visitors will create a perception of your business from your website, and whether they would be comfortable doing business with you.
Security. If you sell products or capture confidential customer information, security should be a top concern. Ensure you or your web designer is familiar with purchasing SSL certificate, generating the keys and installing it on your site. Costs for SSL Certificates vary widely; the main reason is not so much the strength of the encryption but the insurance and authencation. Different companies will protect you from losses due to any SSL issues, the greater the coverage, the higher the cost of the SSL. Authentication refers to the how the SSL issuer authenticates your identity, the lowest and easiest way is to confirm your email address, at the other end some SSLs require you to show up in person and present identification. Some SSL are only good for one domain, other will also protect sub-domains as well.