Confused about Web Design Services For Small Businesses?
Web design services aren’t hard to find, but actually understanding what web design services you specifically need for your small business goals can be oh-so-confusing!
If you fire up Google and type “web design services [your location]” you’re sure to find a huge list of agencies and freelancers all professing to be the best at offering web design services to small businesses like yours.
Btw, If you need help selecting the right web design services company, we’ve got you covered.
But what web design services do you actually need right now, at this stage, for your business to enjoy success? Do you just need a new website, or do you actually need a more well rounded package including add-on services to help you achieve your small business goals?
The aim of this “Complete Web Design Services For Small Businesses Checklist” is to cover absolutely everything that could be included in your new web design project, so you can understand every aspect and every service and ultimately get clear on what aspects you need and what aspects you may be able to discount.
Let’s get started…
At Authentic Style it all starts with a discovery session held with every new client I’m about to work with.
This session doesn’t have to be massively long, but it allows me to get a clear understanding of your small business, your goals and what your objectives are for your web design project.
During the meeting we’ll touch on your competitors and what they might be doing well or poorly and most importantly, we talk about your customers needs and why they should choose your small business over any others.
Towards the end we also look at visual styles and compare a few different examples of directions that I feel the business could go with their new website.
A discovery session is a great way to kick-off your project and ensures that everyone is on the same page.
Who needs a discovery session?
Everyone. Sure someone can design and build you a website without going through this discovery phase, but it’s likely to not match your tastes and needs. Even if it does and you like the look of your new website visually, it’s not going to address your objectives or speak the language of your customers, so it’ll be a miracle if it becomes an effective tool for your small business! The discovery phase is a critical first step.
Marketplace & Competitor Research
Research is important and it can take place on two levels;
- researching your overall marketplace
- and researching your competition
Marketplace research looks at overall trends in your industry. So if you were a small business selling fire safety reports for example, it would be important to look at what’s working and trending in the fire safety industry as a whole.
Whereas competitor research picks out two or three fire safety companies in your local area and asks;
- What are they doing well?
- What are they doing badly?
- Why would your potential customer pick them over you?
- Do you like how they present themselves?
Research at a geographical level is really important for a web design project as you’ll want your small business to first compete locally and then potentially on a national level too.
Geographical research also helps when it comes to SEO (search engine optimisation), which we’ll touch on later in the article.
What small businesses need marketplace and competitor research?
Everyone on at least some level. The depths you go to with your research can vary. If your budget is limited, then at the most basic level, a few hours of research condensed into a short summary report will make sure everyone is approaching your project armed with as much intel as possible.
Now this is a really important one that many small businesses don’t think about.
What’s your marketing strategy? How will you market your small business website once it’s complete?
It doesn’t have to be complicated and I’d argue a simpler marketing strategy with just two or three prongs is best.
Your marketing strategy could be a mixture of:
- Social Media Marketing – posting consistently on 2 or 3 channels and engaging with other people to build a following.
- Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – actively working on your website’s Google rankings with the aim of ranking in the top three spots on page one for various keywords and phrases.
- Pay Per Click (PPC) – paying for your website to appear at the top of Google’s results for certain keywords and phrases.
Some strategies take time (like the first two mentioned above), whereas running a PPC campaign will drive traffic to your website straight away and get instant results (provided the math works out).
Top Tip: Even if you think you don’t need a fancy marketing strategy it’s important to think about how you’ll market your website once it’s up and running. The mantra “if we build it, they will come” does NOT work on the web. Secondary activities need to happen to drive traffic to your site and make it a success.
Brand Identity Evaluation
I’ve left this curveball till last, but if your small business has been established for a while and is experiencing struggles, now could be the right time to refresh your brand identity along with your new website.
Your small business brand is ESSENTIAL to your success, so a discussion around branding services at this point (whether internally with your team, or with branding service providers) is definitely worthwhile, even if you end up discounting it.
Your brand is how potential customers connect with your business and getting it right can have a HUGE impact on your success.
I won’t go into all the reasons why having a great brand is important – we’ll leave that for another post – but suffice to say, now could be the right time to invest in a brand identity overhaul and guess what? Branding services don’t have to cost as much as you might think.
Top Tip: If things have been stagnant for a while and you notice in your competitor research that there are small businesses out there shaking things up, coming at things from a different angle, then refreshing your small business branding can 100% be worthwhile and allow you to launch your new website with a totally new look that really resonates and connects with your potential customers and clients.
Web Design Project Deliverables
Okay, so now we’ve covered all that, let’s look at the web design deliverables for your small business website.
The deliverables are the “outputs” that your web designer will produce during your project and there are also several important “add-on” services that come later, when your website has launched, which we’ll discuss in the next section.
So for now, let’s dive in and discuss the deliverables that should be involved in every web design project.
These are all prerequisites really, so don’t skimp on any of these!
Wireframing is usually the first step a reputable small business web designer will take, as it allows your web designer (and importantly you too, the client), to explore possible layouts for your new website to ensure that it is going to be user-friendly (on both Desktop and Mobile devices).
Wireframes are essentially like blueprints – just quick line drawings to depict how each major page of your new website will be laid out and what content will live where.
Top Tip: I love wireframes! They are so useful as they are quick to create and very easy to modify. This stage is important to go through, as if you can see that something doesn’t work now, making the changes at this stage will be much easier than later on during the lifecycle of your project, where it may potentially cost money to go backwards in order to move forwards.
Once you’ve signalled you’re happy with the wireframes, now comes the exciting part where your wireframes start to look like the smart new website you envisioned for your small business!
It’s where I use Imagery, typography, colour and stylisation to bring your new small business website to life, so you can see how the finished product will look and also how all your content will fit into each page.
Top Tip: Having a “bespoke” website will mean that your small business website can look exactly as you want it to look, without limitations. Importantly it means that all of your business objectives can be addressed, without the need to compromise.
Make sure you check that your web designer is producing a bespoke website and not just recycling an off-the-shelf theme. I’ve seen it before where small businesses have been totally mis-sold and it’s come back to bite them further down the line.
At this point in your project’s lifecycle, it’s time to work on producing the content for each page of your small business website.
Now this can absolutely be done by yourself – after all, no one knows your small business like you do – but it can also be done by your web designer, depending on their experience and preference for handling content.
Getting your content right is really critical as it needs to appeal to your audience, address their struggles and clearly explain how your business will provide the solution they’re looking for.
Can I save money and write my website content myself?
Yes you can. If you’ve gone through a proper discovery phase with your web designer you should be well placed to produce content in a style suited to the web that appeals to the wants and needs of your customers.
Having said that, I am a bit different in that I like to make recommendations for the content and guide my clients regarding what they need to include. Writing for the web is an art form and people have limited attention with increasing distractions, so I use a framework to make sure this is addressed and try to guide my clients with their content.
As the designs for your new website have now been signed off, the ‘development’ or ‘build’ phase can safely take place.
This is where the designs that have been produced are transposed to code, made fully functional and are oftentimes integrated with a CMS (Content Management System) like WordPress, so you can edit all the content on your finished website.
This stage is the longest in your project and is critical for obvious reasons – without it you wouldn’t have a functioning, interactive website.
The time it takes to build (or develop) a bespoke small business website varies depending on a number of factors, so this phase could take anywhere from 2-4 weeks.
Don’t worry though – you’ll get to see progress at various stages along the way.
Can’t someone build the website quicker?
If anyone says they can develop a bespoke website in less than 2 weeks, be wary. Hand-coding a website properly so it’s fast to load, optimised for Google and also future-proof takes time, so be patient.
QA & Testing
Once your small business website has been built on a test server, you’ll be able to view it and test it to make sure you’re happy with everything.
This stage is really important and can’t be skipped if you want to launch your new website without issues.
Prior to this your web designer should have tested your new website thoroughly, optimising it for speed to ensure it ranks well on Google when its launched and also making sure it renders correctly in different web browsers (Edge, Firefox, Safari, Chrome) and on different devices (iPhone, Android Phone, iPad).
Can we skip testing and save time and money?
No. Skip this at your peril! Every website needs to be fully checked and tested once it has been coded up. Thoroughly checking all aspects of your website will give you confidence that it’s ready to launch into the wild and prevent embarrassment later on.
Launch & Analytics
Once your website has been fully tested and checked on a test server, it’s happy days! Time to agree upon a date to launch it into the wild.
Going live with a website is usually fairly straightforward, but even so, the process usually takes a couple of hours, as after launch the website should be thoroughly checked again.
Once your website is up and running, make sure Google Analytics has been installed on your site so that you can monitor your website’s use over time. The information stored here will become invaluable in the future!
Top Tip: Don’t forget the Analytics. If you want to go a step further, ask your web designer to install HotJar on your site too and set up a test on 3 of your “key” pages. You’ll be able to track where people click (or where they don’t click) so you can make informed changes to your site after it’s been live for a little while.
As your small business website will likely be built upon a content management system (probably WordPress), it’s important for you to know how to manage it moving forward.
Adding, editing and adjusting content and imagery is really important so make sure you get a training session in person, or over Zoom with your web designer so they can take you through how to manage your new website and post new content.
Top Tip: Ask your web designer to send you video guides for common tasks. This is something I do and my client’s love it, as they’ve got a collection of video recordings to refer back to if they forget how to do something.
Web Design Add-Ons
Congratulations! Now that your small business website is live you can check that off your list and relax.
Well, yes and no really.
It all depends on how proactive you want your small business to be with your website.
You see, you’ll DEFINITELY get the best out of your new website if you’re implementing that market strategy I mentioned earlier in the post.
So let’s look at the main add-on services that you may require to help you squeeze every last ounce of effectiveness out of your new website.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
If you’ve had your new website built by an experienced web designer who builds SEO into their process, then you can expect your website to generally rank well once it’s launched.
BUT, if you want to go after those top spots on Google, SEO is something you need to consistently invest in as your competitors will likely be doing just that in order to rank where they are ranking and to maintain their positions.
SEO packages tend to be monthly programs ranging in cost depending on the amount of time you need to retain your web designer or SEO expert for.
Each month they’ll look at monitoring your website’s rankings and actively making changes and additions to your site to help it rank for the keyphrases that matter to you. They’ll also be able to fix any errors or warnings that Google notices when it crawls your website.
Do i need to shell out on SEO?
It depends. Ideally yes, but if you haven’t got the budget, don’t worry too much, there are things you can do initially that are free to help market your business website once it’s launched.
When funds do allow though, I would recommend investing in a minimum of 3 months of SEO work on your website as it’ll help give it a nice little boost.
Social Media Visuals
Showing up consistently in every place online is really important to reinforce your brand and your message with your customers, so a popular add-on service is the creation of “on-brand” social media visuals.
These are on-brand graphics, created especially for each social post you make.
On the most basic level it could just be your logo positioned at the bottom right of the image you’re posting. Or it could be a totally bespoke graphic (or infographic) designed especially for the update you’re making.
Do I need to invest in on-brand social media visuals?
For most small businesses, probably not. But if social media is a key part of your strategy it might be worth working with your web or graphic designer to create some bespoke images to accompany those social media updates you want to stand out more. This is something I offer my clients who ask for it.
Strategic Content Creation
Strategic content creation is an off-shoot of search engine optimisation and involves publishing long-form content on your new small business website.
“Long-form” simply means longer, more in-depth articles, typically over 1000 words.
The beauty of this kind of content is that it allows your website to rank on Google for keyphrases that are above and beyond anything that the main standard pages on your website can rank for.
This can actually mean that you end up with some of your articles bringing in more traffic than the homepage of your website because people are finding all those different articles you’ve created from Google.
Examples of long-form content for a small business who provide garden maintenance services might be:
- 10 tips to improve the quality of your lawn
- How to make your garden the envy of your neighbours
- What does regular garden maintenance include?
Top Tip: Strategic content creation is something I’m a big believer in. It’s a long-term tactic in that it takes time to come into fruition, but if you have a bunch of articles on your website all bringing in consistent levels of traffic, it can really open the floodgates to more enquiries, leads and product sales on your website. Just think about what a steady stream of enquiries could be worth to your business over the course of the next 5+ years?
Next, let’s look at your small businesses marketing material.
Now that your small business website has had an overhaul with a shiny new design, there’s a fair chance that this updated look and feel could be rolled out across all of your marketing material.
That could mean updating all of the following to match your website:
- Business cards
- Email signatures
- Sales brochures
- …the list goes on
Do I need to update my marketing material right away?
Not right away, but I would certainly recommend budgeting to do it over a longer period of time. This way every aspect of how your brand appears in front of your customers is consistent.
If your new website has been built on the WordPress content management system then its going to need maintaining.
The WordPress platform now powers over 33% of all sites on the web and the team are always releasing improvements to it. There is also a thriving plugin community and chances are your website will utilise plugins to some extend.
Keeping WordPress itself up to date, AND the plugins running on your website means your website isn’t vulnerable to any kind of attack, it will also be running quickly too and finally it means it’ll last for many many years.
Is website maintenance worth the money?
Wholeheartedly yes. Ensuring that your new WordPress website is always running an up-to-date version of WordPress with all the plugins up-to-date too will mean it’s super secure. And having off-site backups in place will mean that if your website were to go down, it can be recovered quickly and easily.
Secure Website Hosting
I’d always recommend having your web design company host your new small business website.
With website hosting you get what you pay for and the cheap packages tend to be what we call “Shared Hosting”. This means your website shares space with a whole load of other websites. If one of those websites does something naughty or gets attacked, then your website can get penalised too.
Also because you’re sharing resources with potentially 100 other websites, it means your website is likely to suffer from a speed point of view too.
“Cloud Hosting” is your best bet as your website will have its own space and the server resources can easily be scaled up or down as you need it.
Can’t I just buy cheap £4/month web hosting?
Yes, you can, but you’ll pay the price. The “hosting” for your website does have an impact when it comes to the speed with which your website loads, so it’s worth paying a little more to get solid, quick hosting for your new website.
Common Web Design Services Packages
Phew! You’re near the end.
I hope that this overview of web design services has been useful and helped clear some things up relating to what aspects you absolutely need to ensure a successful web design project, and what areas you could possibly leave out or wait until further down the line to carry out.
To make things even simpler for you, here are my recommendations on what a small business web design project would like like at a bare minimum and also what it would look like having absolutely all bases covered:
Option 1 – The bare minimum
If you’ve only got the budget to overhaul your website then that’s absolutely fine and kudos to you for recognising the need to do it! If this is the case, then your project might include:
- Bespoke website design and development
- Built on WordPress so you can manage all the content
- Foundation for solid search engine optimisation baked into the project
- Website optimised for speed
Option 2 – The middle ground
If your small businesses has a slightly larger budget which can cover the creation of a new website and also some proactive marketing efforts afterwards, then your project might include:
- Everything mentioned in Option 1 above, plus:
- x3 months of search engine optimisation work post website launch
- x2 pieces of strategic content written and published on your website every quarter
- Website maintenance to ensure your website’s health moving forward
Option 3 – Covering all bases
And finally if your small businesses has a larger budget and wants to cover all bases, then your project might include;
- Everything mentioned in the Options 1 and 2 above, plus:
- 1 year of search engine optimisation
- 1 year of strategic content creation
- x4 hours per month to create visuals to accompany your social media updates
- All of your marketing material updated to match the look and feel of your new website
- Pay per click Google Ads campaign to drive traffic to your website upon launch
Conclusion: The Complete Web Design Services For Small Business Checklist
Your website can make or break your small business so it’s important to get it right and I’d highly recommend working with an experienced web designer or agency to tackle it.
The relationship you build with them can give you access to a wide range of services to propel your small business.
If your budget allows, certainly look at taking advantage of all the services I’ve mentioned in this post. But if not, think logically about what you can cut back on.
My recommendation would be not to skimp on the website – go all in on that – and then build up the marketing strategy and efforts once funds allow.
A well researched, beautifully designed website that functions flawlessly and brings in consistent traffic will be your number one asset when it comes to growing your business. It will literally become the centerpiece of all your small businesses marketing efforts.
Looking for small business web design services?
If you’re keen to speak to us about your own small business web design project, then please give Will a call on 01747 852298 or get in touch via our contact form.
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