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Website Design 101 for Small to Medium Sized Businesses

In our opinion, in most cases, the best solution for a website design will involve simplicity. Many sites these days are designed with multiple platforms in mind, so they will look great on desktop, tablet and cell phone screens. This is called responsive design, and is becoming the norm for website developers. The look of websites has become more streamlined, and in our opinion, that’s usually to the benefit of the content whether it’s an artist’s portfolio, E-commerce site, or a carpet cleaning company’s listing of services.

Here are the basic visual website design principles we try to keep in mind:

• Easy to understand navigation
• Proper use of color
• Proper use of animation
• An easy to use layout
• Pleasing to the eye
• Appropriate to the topic
• Design elements don’t get in the way of the content
• Great content that’s easy to find, navigate, consume, and share

Clean design using a limited color palette has become popular, and allows key graphics to stand out. A well designed logo, or high resolution photo banner can then take center stage. Excellent, yet selective, high quality photography add life to well written copy. Content is key as they say.

Ease of font readability – just as in print design– is also important, and should not be over-looked. This means keeping background colors and text colors contrasting. Think black and white, or contrasting neutrals. (see graphic below for an example of what NOT to do)
Use color carefully - consult or other resources to harmonize use of color and help it support your design and communication goals for the site.

Keeping things simple, less navigation is best - come up with the usually 5-10 important pages of content for your site, and use drop-down menus to represent sub section categories as they may apply to each main topic. So for example your “Services” main navigation heading might then have a drop-down menu for your list of 5 services, each having its own page of content.

Links to your social media should be easy to find - usually in the top of the layout or bottom footer area. Also link sharing can be enabled, if you’ve written content - such as blog posts for example that you want visitors to be able to easily share on their own Facebook pages. This helps increase traffic back to your website, and is part of an overall good design strategy.

When programming your site, pertinent contact information for your business is important in search engine optimization. Using your complete physical address with phone number on your homepage in plain text is often placed in either or both the header and footer of the page layout.

Words that people most commonly would use to find your business should be part of the copy for the landing (home) page. The title tag within the HTML in the header is also important for the description for your business and will be indexed by Google to list your company.

Is Social Media the Way to Go for Small Business Online Ad Campaigns?

Having freshly researched the online advertising possibilities for several clients - small to medium sized local businesses - we’ve learned a few things. Primarily, we focused on Facebook and Google Adwords, making some interesting finds when comparing the two possibilities for Pay-Per-Click ads. We found that while Google AdWords may be a good choice for larger companies with bigger advertising budgets, FaceBook seems more flexible and less expensive overall to experiment with when thinking about targeting your online audience.

What you need to have before creating a Facebook ad campaign:
Step to Facebook Advertising
(graphic courtesy of Facebook)

Facebook ad strategies vary widely in complexity. While you can get pretty complicated with online ad campaigns, sending click throughs to funnels and/or specific content on landing pages within your website, you can also simply create offers, and make educated guesses to target your FB audience. Then you can track your results. It’s always important to understand clearly what your goals are from the outset, and really plot out and plan for your desired outcome, whether that be click-throughs to your website content, phone call inquiries on services, direct purchases, or sign-ups to your email list to name a few possibilities.

An important part of using social media is to create an audience - Facebook Likes, Instagram Followers - and you do that by providing content that has value to people - specifically - to your target audience. Those who are in the market now or may be a some point, ready to become a new customer. Audience engagement on these platforms, is part of what you’re goal should be. On Facebook this can be done by writing posts, and boosting those posts. From your website you will want to add social media icons linked to your pages, and add the share icons to relevant pages of content so anyone can easily share on their own Facebook page. Before setting up your campaign, businesses should make sure their websites are well-designed, have relevant content and are easy for your visitors to navigate.