Building a website for your small business is a crucial part of running a business, but it is not always an easy walk in the park.These days, if you don’t have a business website you’re pretty much off the map and are losing out on potential customers. People nowadays want to search your business online before they even step foot into your store, office or restaurant and often creates the first impression of your business. Your website works as a validation to them confirming you are a legitimate company and they should become a customer. Technology is advancing fast and we all must keep up with it.
At BriteCap we always continue to enhance our website and business process to better the customer experience. When we first launched our website, we were a small company, just like you, and over the years, we made changes that allowed us to keep up with new technology trends and made advancements that benefit our customers so they get exactly what they need when they visit our website. We learned from our changes and of course challenges. Just recently, we re-launched our website with a new look and feel, along with a faster more streamlined online application experience we named MILO (Multiplex Innovative Loan Originations). A lot of work went into our re-launch and we want to share it with you because we want you to share in our experience and launch or re-launch a successful website for your business too.
Before you start to think about all the things you want to do or have on your website you need to think through what your goals are. When we first started to implement our re-launch, we knew our goal was to better our customer experience through enhanced technology. How did we come with this? We understood that our customers; you the small business owner, are very busy and when you need financing for your growing business, you need it fast. We understood that we had to make your experience better, faster and more efficient. With the help of our Senior Vice President of Systems and Technology, Saravanan Gurumurthy, who just recently won an award as one of the top 100 premier technology leaders, we realized that keeping up with technology trends needs to play a prominent role. We understood that bettering our customer experience through our website was the key factor of our re-launch, and luckily we had someone on our team who knew what types of new technology we needed to implement. “It is important to understand that a business website needs the right technology behind it and that it evolves with technology advancements,” Gurumurthy says. One of our mottos for this re-launch is Time is Money and We Save You Both.
So, think about what your goals and maybe a motto you want to go by is and see how best you can achieve them for your business’ website. It doesn’t have to be as complex as ours, a small goal can go a long way.
Two Part Process
Once you know your goal(s) there are two overall parts you need to think about, the design and of course the technology. Let’s start with the design and then we will get to the technology.
The design of your website is all about the look and feel; how do elements on your pages look? How do your pages scroll? What elements are above the fold and below the fold? What is included in the navigation bar? What is included in the footer? What kind of images will you use? From each page what kind of journey do you want your customers to take? What is the overall experience you want your customers to have?
When we thought about the look and feel of our re-launched site we concluded that if our goal is to make a better customer experience by making things simpler, then we need to illustrate that through the design. We knew that our design had to be sleek, clean and straight to the point, after all, we are a transparent company. We understand your busy entrepreneurs, so just like how our online application is fast and efficient we made our website easy to understand so you can browse and find answers about us and your financing needs faster.
A couple of important things to remember
when designing your website:
Keep it simple. Consumers these days have very short attention spans, so if they can’t find what they’re looking for fast, they will leave your site. You don’t need to entice them with crazy professional graphics (unless you are a graphic designer). Just keep it interesting, relevant and to the point.
Be Unique. To make your site attractive to your customers, it’s a good idea to come up with one or two unique design elements that attract people’s eyes and sets you apart from your competition. You could position images and icons a certain way and even have pop-in images, where when you scroll down each page, images and icons pop on to the page allowing the visitor’s eyes to move down and feel more engaged with your business.
Stay Consistent. Make sure each page has the same look and feel. If you use icons for illustration, make sure each icon has the same look. If your company has specific brand standards, you will need to make sure you comply with them on your website, for instance, fonts and colors.
The Back-End Technology
As we mentioned above launching or re-launching a website comes with some technology and making sure that you are staying on top of trends. The technology behind our new site went a step further and included a new faster and more user-friendly online application. We completely revamped our customer journey for a better experience. MILO comes with a shorter application, quicker response and money in your account the next business day. “The goal for MILO was to find the moments of interactions that matter most to our customers and serve those moments flawlessly. We wanted to provide an individualized customer journey experience where customers can connect with us on a personal and non-personal level to get what they need for their business. So, the journey is not just about a technology platform, it’s about transforming a service model for our customers,” Gurumurthy says.
Every business is different in deciding what technology trends fit their business process and needs, and you don’t need to take it as far as we did, but you do need to do a couple of things that all businesses must do for their website.
Back – End Technology Must Haves
Google Analytics. Make sure that you use Google Tag Manager on your site so that you can track your traffic effectively. It’s a free tool designed to make it easier for marketers to add and update website tags – including conversion tracking, site analytics, remarketing, and much more with just a few clicks and no need to edit your site’s code.
SEO Best Practices. Research and understand what SEO is and how to best use it for your website. Remember to do an SEO check on your test site/development site to ensure the structure, URLs, Page Titles, Meta Descriptions and more, all match up correctly. It also serves as an SEO checklist to touch on things that are often forgotten when a website goes through a complete overhaul. Don’t forget to do an audit of your current site. It will let you know what search engines like and don’t like about your site and this can help you post any problem areas and enable you to see which areas you must retain.
Redirects. It is super important that if you are re-launching your site from one platform to another like we did, that you redirect all your pages correctly from your old site to your new site. If you don’t do this right, then it could be catastrophic to all the work you put into building your site the first time. You could lose traffic to your site, and if Google and other search engines can’t see that your pages are redirects, they will look at them as new pages and put them at the bottom of the list.
If you are launching a new website, then you don’t need to worry about this just make sure you purchase your domain name and SSL Certificate.
Website Speed and Security. Remember when we mentioned above that consumers’ attention spans are decreasing day by day, well the speed of your website goes hand in hand with that. Make sure you test your website’s load time and that it doesn’t exceed more than 2 seconds.
Hosting and Backup. There are many options when it comes to hosting your website. Make sure you understand all of the in and outs of each one before choosing the best one for yours.
Test Test Test. We can’t stress enough how important it is to test your website before you launch or re-launch. If your website goes live with errors, it is not certain how many people will come across it before you fix it. That could mean lost customers and bad reputation. So, before you launch test EVERYTHING.Make sure all links go to the correct places, all forms work correctly, all phone numbers are correct, test each page across all different devices (mobile phone, tablet, desktop). Make sure your responsive design comes across correctly, and test across all different browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.) to ensure that all elements look and work the same.
For a busy small business owner, we understand that all of this can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Whether you want to launch a new site or re-launch your current site, just take a step back look at the big picture, come up with your goals and ideas and take it one day at a time. You will get there, and once you are done, you will reap the benefits. However, remember just because you launched doesn’t mean you’re done, you will need to regularly update your pages by making tweaks and adjustments where you see fit to keep it fresh because it increases your visibility and search engines LOVE dynamic content. By keeping your visitors entertained with fresh and engaging content keeps them coming back. Also, content that is always updated means the spiders will come back to crawl your site to see if anything changes and report their findings back to Google. You can never have enough spiders crawling your site.