Build a Better Website

Your site is your front door for many of your customers. If old-school web design is holding you back, follow these tips to make it inviting again.

Joey Rubin, a business partner in the Los Angeles restaurant Neighbor, had a website.  But he realized it wasn’t enough.  He wanted something unique, something that better mimicked his carefully though-out brick-and-mortar operation and offered more freedom to showcase images.  So he hired a web developer to come up with a new one.  “We built the brand, the restaurant, the interior, the kitchen, the staff,” Rubin says.  “We had to build an original site, too.”

His experience is familiar to many founders.  By now, if you have a business, you have a website.  But as your company grows, you may find that the do-it-yourself site that you built for little or no cost  on a platform like Wix or Squarespace no longer meets your needs.  January be you’re in the market for a signature look that stands out from your competitors’, or maybe you need more than you once did – a more sophisticated system of cataloging products, or the ability to process simultaneous transactions or an inventory-tracking system that can scale.  If so, it may be time to hire a developer, a designer, or a combination of the two.

First, says Melanie Spring, founder of the marketing strategy firm Branded Confidence, decide what you’ll need from a new site.  Do you need a calendar that communicates with a back-office reservation system, or an online catalog of products, that’s tied to a back-office warehouse?  both require an API – an application protocol interface, which is how web-based systems talk to one another – and typically a developer who can enable that communication.

Be prepared to take a hard look at your budget.  Brent Lightner, founder of the digital agency Taoti Creative, has a simple rule: “If you have less than $10000 to invest in your website, figure out to make a freelance web developer work on a relatively basic site.  When your budget is closer to $25000, think about hiring a developer to build a more customized site.”  A consultant can help you sort out the options if you have complex needs.  Mukesh Vidyasagar, a founder of Cappsure It, which sells software that allows landscaper to track field crews’ activities in real time, hired a marketing consultant with online design experience to map out an upgraded version of his company’s site, which had been built with Wix.  “He laid it all out using Elementor,” says Vidyasagar, referring to a website building tool that works with the popular WordPress platform.  The new version “is way more sophisticated” than his original site, which had limitations with load speeds and integrating other kinds of marketing software.

You should also be aware that more users now access websites from mobile devices than from computers.  That means your new site should be designed to shine on smartphones.  “Design with mobile in mind,” says Spring.  “Think about the mobile users and what they came to see.”

Originality is key, but avoid the temptation to layer on too many bells and whistles.  What can you do without?  Video with sound and “too many moving things,” Spring says, can put off potential customers an make websites take longer to load.  And remember that Flash, Adobe’s software for viewing multimedia, may have been all the rage in the aughts, but now it’s out.  “Kill it,” says Spring.  “Your phone doesn’t process Flash,” which, given current web-browsing trends, makes it all but irrelevant.  If no one sees your beautiful new site, does it exist at all?

References: Branded Confidence, Taoti Creative, Inc.

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