By Carmen Pietrau, Content Strategist at Dreamstime
Most small businesses operate on lean budgets. Money is spent on marketing, sales efforts, and the actual product, and often, there’s not much left. The realities of tight budgets also affect the company’s digital billboard – the website. Designing an engaging website on a limited budget is possible, but requires following several best practices.
Here are five expert tips for creating an eye-catching website that drives consumer actions without breaking the bank:
1. Keep it simple.
Condense content into the smallest possible number of pages. Currently there’s a trend to have a single page (cover page) that scrolls down and contains all the sections (instead of separate pages), which is very popular for product pages. Don’t just have multiple and possibly unneeded pages in order to look “professional.” Rather than having a dedicated contact page with an email address on it, put the contact email and phone information in the footer of all the pages.
2. Be consistent.
Use similar style images, graphics from stock (use illustrations or stock photos from a small selection of contributors) that match the look of the website. Dreamstime, for example, offers the option of performing a search based on the primary colors from an image. Tactics like this can be used as a starting point to have a matching palette for the website. Colors that work together put the viewer at ease and allow them to focus on content. Mixing illustrations with photos works great, you just need to have a good match between them (for example a minimalist photo works great with a complex illustration overlay).
3. Rely on social media for keeping in touch (as opposed to custom contact forms etc.) and for blogging.
If you are taking the “cover page” approach, then relying on social media for blogging (for example, using Tumblr) is not only a must, but it’s much easier to track likes and shares than by using a self-hosted solution. Same for keeping in touch with customers– using Facebook or Twitter is a more relatable point of contact for users than a stark email address, or worse, an impenetrable looking contact field. However, always have an email address available in case there are users who prefer to not use social media as contact points.
4. Maintain content freshness.
Many small business owners rarely update their websites, despite correlations between the updates and increases in traffic. Frequent updates do not come with large financial or human capital investments. Designers can strategically and frequently replace content with quality stock images or videos (purchased through an inexpensive stock image subscription) in order to liven up the web design and catch visitors’ attention.
5. Stay within copyright.
Images that are published online are not “fair game” for anyone to use. Web designers might be tempted to utilize images found on the web, but these images are very likely under copyright and require consent. If an image looks professional and really stands out, then it’s probably done by a professional and under copyright. Small businesses should only utilize licensed images so they can ensure they aren’t breaching copyright rules. Some bloggers and small businesses have found out about copyright adherence the hard way by using unauthorized images and then being subjected to expensive lawsuits.
Designers at small businesses should understand how to get the most out of every image or video, and the various ways they can introduce simplicity and ease-of-use to the company’s website design. For many small businesses, the ability of the website to convert customers is the single most important business consideration, one that must be managed on a limited budget. Following these five best practices for cost-effective website design will help small businesses attract and retain a quality customer base.
Carmen Pietrau is a Content Strategist for Dreamstime. She joined the team back in 2007 and specializes in usages, licenses, exclusivity issues, keywords, searches, and account management.