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10 Tips on How to Design and Build Your Own Small Business Website

Below are 10 tips that we have found useful as guidelines in designing and building websites. If you are planning to make your own small business website, follow these tips and you should end up with a more professional looking web site that is more user friendly for your visitors.

  1. Keep your pages clean and crisp – Do not clutter your pages with too much text or too many graphic elements. A page with too much information or too many distracting elements will at best confuse, and at worst put off, your site visitors. If you have a lot of information to convey, organize your site into more pages containing logically discreet chunks of information. If it takes longer than a few minutes to read everything on a page, there’s probably too much information on it.
  2. Don’t hesitate to imitate – Look around at some other web sites to find things that you like about them – for example color schemes, site structure, copy style, page layout. Usually the good sites paid a graphic designer a lot of money to make them look good, so why not borrow a couple of ideas? (Disclaimer: Use the general ideas, do not copy another site outright, as this would not be legal or ethical.)
  3. One or two fonts only – Do not go crazy with a lot of different fonts (text styles). Usually one font for your headlines and another for your text should suffice. Using too many fonts is a sure fire way to make your site look amateurish.
  4. Use subtle colors and use them sparingly – For a business web site stay away from fire engine red and lime green. More subtle, earth tone or pastel colors lend a more professional appearance. If you have a color scheme already for your logo, this is the logical place to start. Again, look around at other web sites to find colors that you like and emulate them.
  5. Consider site structure carefully – It’s worth spending some time on designing your site structure – i.e. the hierarchy of pages flowing down from the home page. As already mentioned, organize your content into logically discreet sections and put each one on a page. Emulate the common structures found on other sites so it will be familiar to your site visitors. Drawing a site diagram on a piece of paper is a good way to organize your thoughts.
  6. Consider site navigation even more carefully – No matter how well your site structure is designed, it’s useless if a visitor can’t find the information they need or gets lost in a remote corner of your site and can’t get back. Organize the navigation system (menu bars and links) so that a new visitor can logically and intuitively navigate to the information they need from the home page – and then back again. Some tips: Have a link to the home page on every page; if you have a lot of pages, use a horizontal menu bar for your main pages at the top in your site header, and a vertical menu bar on the left side for sub-menus.
  7. Have a few paragraphs of copy on your home page – Give the high-level overview of your products and services in a few paragraphs on the home page so visitors will quickly know if they’ve found what they’re looking for. Then make it clear where they should go next for more information (e.g. “Click the Products button for more details.”). Well written copy on the home page that contains key words describing your products and services will also help your site get indexed by the search engines and improve your ranking in the results - which will bring more traffic.
  8. Put meta tags on your pages – Speaking of search engines, another key to getting better placement in search results is to put meta tags on your pages. Meta tags are invisible text in the HTML code of your web pages that search engines use to index your site. The most important meta tags are the title and description.
  9. Avoid Flash and sound – Although a graphic designer would love to be paid to build it, avoid using a multimedia introduction commonly built using a product called Flash. They generally annoy more than impress, especially if your site visitor is using a slow dial-up Internet connection and has to wait what seems like eons for it download before it plays. Also avoid using Flash or sound in the content of your site – for the same reasons.
  10. If you’re going to do it yourself, use the right tool – And lastly, a little message from our sponsor. If you are going to build your own web site, use a tool that makes it easy to accomplish and hard to mess up. Look for one that uses a “wizard” approach to get the basics of your site constructed and that offers a selection of design templates to choose from. Then you’ll want a simple point-and-click approach that allows you to modify your site using intuitive commands and plug-and-play modules. This will allow you to build a site with a professional appearance without having to use a graphic designer or learn HTML. And our sponsor, Decisive Web Sites, offers exactly this kind of approach.

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