Person using small business web design best practices on a laptop

Small Business Web Design: Your Complete Guide

Many businesses have websites, but few sites, especially those of small businesses, are well-designed enough to reach full potential. Often outdated, they lack the proper formatting and visual appeal to merit attention.

Fortunately, businesses can achieve much to improve the look and functionality of their sites. If you’re a small business owner with a lackluster website, don’t despair. As you’ll see, web design is much less daunting than it sounds. 

This post will take you on a comprehensive journey through the world of web development. You‘ll learn reasons to invest in web design, primary principles of good design and tips for how to take your business’s site to the next frontier!

In this article, we’ll address the following topics:

  • Why Is Web Design Important?
  • What Is Web Design and Development?
  • How Does Web Design Work?
  • How Do I Redesign a Website?
  • What Are Some Small Business Web Design Tips?
  • Why Is Responsive Web Design Important?
  • What Makes Good Web Design for Mobile?
  • What Types of Businesses Need Web Design?
  • Where Can I Find Web Design Services for Small Businesses?

Are you ready to start your journey to website superstardom? Good. Let’s begin!

Why Is Web Design Important?

Before discussing small business web design, let’s examine why a business website is necessary. After all, we realize most businesses don’t want to waste time on learning topics that won’t improve the bottom line. Well, we want to clarify that a quality website will substantially improve your bottom line!

Amazing web design can enhance your business in many ways. More than ever before, consumers are running into small businesses online. Whenever you’re looking for a product, chances are that you use Google or another search engine to find what you need. The vast majority of Americans don’t behave any differently. Putting your best foot forward online, where new customers are most likely to find you, is nothing less than critical.

Second, if you have a site whose design prioritizes Search Engine Optimization (SEO), search engines will look favorably enough on your site to rank it highly among search results. After all, the only goal of search engines is to answer queries with the best-looking and most relevant sites that fit users’ needs. With great web design, you can achieve beautiful sitewide organization and deliver the most value to potential customers.

A great site also builds trust with customers. People favor a business with an up-to-date online presence. How do you think customers will react if you tell them you don’t have a site? Chances are this won’t leave a favorable impression.

As with any other facet of maintaining a company, a well-designed website communicates to your customers that you care about them and are worthy of their business.

Now that you understand why you need a website, let’s look at how to go about small business web design.

A woman sits in front of a computer with her plan for web design on desktop and tablet.

What Is Web Design and Development?

Web design is the construction of your site’s architecture. Typically, a site consists of a front end and a back end.

The front end dictates a website’s appearance. Web developers write HTML, CSS and JavaScript files to create an appealing structure, layout and appearance for a site.

Meanwhile, the back end regards all interactive elements of a website, including content management, contact forms and e-commerce functions. Using JavaScript or PHP, web developers can update elements of the back end to keep a site fresh and current.

But any web designer can use code to design a website. Beyond that, there are best practices to keep sites running well. Let’s talk about a few.

How Does Web Design Work?

From general structure and links to web content and keywords, there are many guiding principles for making a good website. The best web developers depend on the following practices to make their websites:

Make the Site Responsive on All Devices

The best websites read well on both desktop and mobile devices. Web designers can accomplish this through coding. We will discuss website responsiveness in more detail below.

Feature Target Keywords in Content and Tags

To optimize a website for search engines is to imbue sitewide content with keywords and phrases that match a target audience’s queries. After expert web designers use keyword research tools to determine which words to use, they sprinkle those keywords throughout the site’s content and metadata. As a result, when search engines crawl the site, they’ll see that it’s relevant for searchers using those terms and phrases.

Create an Organized Site Structure

Sloppy websites are difficult for search engines to parse, so disorganized sites don’t rank highly in search results. Seasoned web developers take special care to structure a site so that search engines will have no trouble reading it. This also improves sitewide user experience.

Use Plenty of Empty Space and Images

Creating a good website is all about leaving a good first impression, which means appearances are everything. Expert web designers create sites with plenty of empty space and images, employing few large blocks of text. This aesthetically pleasing, minimalist approach leaves a favorable impression on visitors.

Keep Page Speeds Fast

The Internet is all about speed. In fact, many search engines designate page speed as a primary ranking factor. Web developers satisfy this requirement by reducing file sizes and eliminating page redirects among other hindrances.

Keep Pages Updated

In terms of updates, no piece of content calls for a specific timeframe, but your content will let you know when changes are necessary. For example, through no fault of an initial writer, changes in the digital landscape may require new information to include in an old article. Maybe certain pages still don’t work on mobile devices, or maybe your brand’s voice has matured into something more clickable.

These are just some of the many best practices for great web design. We could list more, but for brevity’s sake, let’s move onto some of the most important web design tips for small businesses.

A desktop, laptop, tablet and smartphone all display responsive web design.
Responsive website design makes your site look good no matter where it’s viewed!

How Do I Redesign a Website?

No matter how well you’ve designed a site, nothing on the internet can afford to stay the same forever. Experts recommend a comprehensive update of a website’s verbal and visual content once every three years. Technology constantly improves, and Google’s ranking algorithm constantly changes. No three-year-old site necessarily exhibits poor design, but best practices eventually reach a point where they stop working.

Organizing Visuals and Verbiage Attracts Customers

A site’s most immediate adjustments must work in the interests of attracting customers and meeting customers’ needs. Knowing how web design affects SEO is key. Take time to search for the most popular keywords with the lowest competition. Optimize sitewide navigation for desktop and mobile devices. Organization enhances visual appeal and allows potential customers to feel like they can get all the information they need from your site.

Writing for Customers Keeps Them Coming Back

While SEO can shove a website in front of as many people as possible, only users themselves can decide if a site addresses their needs. Revise verbal content in pages and blogs to make it easier to skim. Apart from general proofreading, include details in headings, bold important sentences and break up long sections with bullet points. If you have new testimonials or entries in your portfolio to share, remember to add those during a complete rehaul as well.

Simplifying Graphics Prepares Sites for the Future

The primary objective of a site redesign is to make your new site versatile enough to stand the test of time. In terms of visuals, leaning toward simplicity is the best way for you to get the most years out of logos and fonts. The trendier your site’s visuals are, the less likely they are to make sense several months down the line. Instead of striving toward a complex logo, play with different color palettes, fonts and logo variants.

A redesign is a substantial investment. There’s much more to the process than rewording and proofreading articles. However, not only will a redesign give your site a necessary makeover, but you may come up with something that endures for more than three years, giving yourself a lot less work the next time you need to make major changes.

What Are Some Small Business Web Design Tips?

Designing a website for a small business presents its own set of unique requirements. While large companies enjoy a preexisting substantial following, smaller companies need to center their design strategy around attracting new customers and clearly communicating the unique value they offer.

When building a website for your small business, you’ll need to determine the objective of your site upfront. Do you want customers to buy products on your site, or are you trying to entice them to visit your store? What impression do you want your business to make on customers, and what benefits do you want to bring to potential customers’ attention?

Answering these questions will help you determine what elements of web design you want to include in your site. For example, an antiques shop looking to attract customers to a brick-and-mortar will want to prominently display the address at the top of the homepage, but the rest of the site probably won’t need any e-commerce functions. A company selling its products online, on the other hand, will need e-commerce capability and a shopping cart function to simplify the purchasing process.

To have an immediate positive impact on your site’s design, consider the following:

  • Chat Boxes: AI chatbots are a great way to handle customer service efficiently.
  • Sitewide Intelligence: Use keywords to address users’ needs and interests.
  • User-Centered Design: Customize your site to display the personality and voice of your brand.
  • Inclusion: Prioritize accessibility features and offer content in different languages.
  • Few Animations: The more animations your site features, the longer it takes to load.

By designing your site with your business’s main goals in mind, you will set yourself up for success.

Graphic featuring a fact about mobile-friendly websites
72% of people want mobile-friendly websites.

Why Is Responsive Web Design Important?

People don’t only search the web on desktop computers anymore. Modern options include smartphones, tablets, Smart TVs, and even smartwatches. The better your site works across all devices, the more effective it’ll be at reeling in potential customers.

Among other technologies, modern content management systems (CMS) give sites the dynamic ability to appear in the best format on different devices. Web developers can use code to set a site’s dimensions to fit any device and display in an optimal format. Making a site responsive may take time, but the favorable impression your site will leave on visitors is worth the investment.

After all, many problems can occur when you don’t make your website responsive. Mobile searches have overtaken desktop searches in terms of popularity, so the inevitably large number of mobile users who will have trouble navigating your site will pose a huge disadvantage.

Furthermore, Google has made mobile-responsiveness one of the most important factors in search results. Sites that lack responsive designs aren’t showing up nearly as high in search rankings as mobile-optimized competitors. Thus, sites that prioritize desktops don’t attract customers. Even if people do find these sites, they leave upon realizing that no one has bothered to optimize the site for mobile devices.

A website needs to look at least as good on mobile as it does on a desktop to stand a fighting chance online. Of course, this begs the question, “What makes a good mobile site?” Let’s take a look.

What Makes Good Web Design for Mobile?

Mobile searching is only going to become more popular, which is why most web developers commit themselves to mobile app development for optimal experiences among users. Many design principles that work for desktop simply don’t work on mobile because of the smaller and narrower screen. Plus, most mobile searches take place when someone is on-the-go. As we’ll show below, mobile web design thrives on brevity and simplicity.

Here are some design principles that Google recommends for crafting mobile sites:

  • Keep the site’s most important tasks at the top of the page
  • Make sure menu options are brief and easy to navigate
  • Prominently display the search bar for quick searches
  • Make filtering search results easy for users
  • Make calls to action clear and purchases as simple as possible

Ultimately, mobile search is about convenience. People don’t have patience for sites that get in the way of their objectives and waste their time. To assist all the no-nonsense searchers out there, keep your site as user-friendly as possible across all devices.

A woman views a restaurant site with mobile-optimized website design on her smartphone.
Restaurants can especially benefit from mobile optimized website design.

What Types of Businesses Need Web Design?

At the end of the day, every business needs professional website design. However, web development needs vary slightly from business to business. Below, we’ll discuss the unique needs of two primary business types: restaurants and e-commerce companies.

Website Design for Restaurants

Of all the small businesses out there, restaurants may have the most to gain from effective web design. Visuals play a major role in attracting people to restaurants. Restaurant owners need their websites to feature enticing visuals and descriptions that render staying away impossible for potential customers.

Here are some best practices to follow when crafting a visually appealing website for your eatery:

  • A beautiful theme that captures the atmosphere of your restaurant
  • Large, high-quality photos of the food and space
  • Clear descriptions of your food (keep text to a minimum)
  • An easy-to-navigate menu
  • Hours and location front-and-center on all devices
  • An “About Us” page that tells the story of your business

Above all, make sure your site looks appetizing. You’re a restaurant after all!

Web Design for E-Commerce

Businesses looking to sell their products online should prioritize security when designing websites. People will want to know they can trust you with their credit card information, so take the time to make your site secure, and make sure you’re following basic security practices.

Beyond security, there are also many web design best practices that will help your e-commerce site thrive. First, keep the site’s design simple and responsive on all devices. Furthermore, make navigation from the shopping page to checkout easy and quick for customers. Finally, make sure you have high-quality photos that display your products in the most appealing way.

Remember that people value speed and convenience when purchasing items online. Be sure to design your e-commerce site accordingly.

Where Can I Find Web Design Services for Small Businesses?

We’ve gone over much about web design so far, and we’re going to be honest with you: This is only the tip of the iceberg. Quality web design features many components and takes a lot of time to do right. Unfortunately, if you’re like most small business owners, you don’t have the time or resources to dedicate to it.

Fortunately, there are many marketing services that specialize in web development for small businesses. You need only complete a simple web search to see that, but not all digital marketing companies are created equal, so how do you find the best web designer for your business?

What Is the Best Small Business Website Builder?

If your needs are simple enough and you’re looking to save money, you may want to tackle web design with nothing more than a robot’s help. Technologies like Wix and Squarespace allow for immediate e-commerce capability, but you might need some practice before you’re able to prioritize form as well as function.

As immediately cheaper as using these technologies might seem, they may cost more in the long run. Placing simple drag-and-drop site development in the hands of business owners without charging too much is a noble goal, but these sites don’t last. They’re usually short-term solutions to long-term problems that call for genuine strategy. There’s no doubt that using a website builder can save you money, but you shouldn’t move forward with one unless you know what you’re doing.

For what it’s worth, of all CMSs, Frontier Marketing has been proud to use WordPress to please over 30 happy clients. Among the most powerful web tools, WordPress is flexible enough for users to slowly branch out into widgets that allow for visual advancements and more complex SEO strategies.

How to Find the Right Web Designer

When considering a digital marketing company for your web design needs, a good litmus test is to ask them about their knowledge and their process.

Gauge their web design aptitude by asking them what they see as the most important aspects of web design. If their answer doesn’t include anything about mobile responsiveness, SEO or intuitive navigation, they’re probably not right for you.

You should also ask them what their process looks like. They should describe a collaboration in which they learn about your company and shape their design to highlight what makes your company uniquely valuable. Generic websites aren’t likely to draw searchers, so make sure your design team makes a site that’s unique to your personality and voice.

The right web designers know what they’re doing and maintain a firm commitment to bringing your company’s vision to life. Anything less is not worth your time.

How Much Does a Small Business Website Cost?

Depending on the scope of services different digital marketing agencies offer, cost may vary by thousands of dollars. Options range in complexity from using a CMS yourself to outsourcing all of your needs to a full-service digital marketing agency.

As we’ve discussed, making a site by yourself with a CMS is the cheapest option, but it’s far from optimal. A step up from this would be to hire a freelancer to build a site for you. Freelance web designers’ expertise will allow for better form and function across your entire site, but prices can be fickle. There are times when freelancers charge beyond their worth because they don’t receive benefits or direction through a contract with an agency.

To make a great website, the most cost-effective option is to partner with a digital marketing agency. There are two important differences between a digital marketing agency’s web designer and a freelance web designer. A web designer from a digital marketing agency has more credibility, as the agency has endorsed the designer by virtue of hiring him or her. Also, a digital marketing agency’s web designer will actually optimize your site’s content through keyword research instead of solely churning out pages that look nice.

Agencies that specialize in web design can charge as low as $500 per month, while full-service agencies with which to achieve much more charge about $5,000 per month. The importance of maintaining a competitive website makes it a substantial investment.

Are You Interested in Affordable Web Design for Your Small Business?

We hope this comprehensive guide has answered your questions about web design. If you have further questions or need help creating your site, feel free to contact our team at Frontier Marketing. We’re a digital marketing company that offers affordable web design in Fox Lake, IL and the surrounding Northern Illinois region.

Our in-house team can save you time and connect with your customers through optimal web design. We also offer many other digital marketing services, including email marketing, reputation management and social media.

Give us a call today at 847-254-0837 to find out more about our pricing and services!