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We recently redesigned and relaunched our Swift Capital website with a new look and feel and improved user experience.

To get an inside look into designing an effective business website, we asked our web design team of Casey McDevitt and Sean Semidey for some practical, easy-to-implement, web design advice.

A solid website can go a long way in establishing credibility and legitimacy, even if your business doesn’t operate exclusively online. A website is a platform to tell your business’ story and connect to existing and future customers. And unlike a brochure, most people have a device in their hand where they can easily access that story.

Imagine you’re looking for a business, a contractor, to help with an upcoming project. You reach for your smart phone and do a simple search or maybe you ask your friends on social media for a recommendation. You come up with a couple of names and you plug them into Google.

Only one of the contractors has a website, where you’re quickly able to find their phone number, schedule a free consultation, and see pictures of their latest project. Chances are you’re drawn to the contractor that gives you more information upfront. They move to the top of your list, because they had a website while the other two did not. Maybe later, price and quality of work come into play, but in the beginning first impressions matter.

How can you design this website so that it meets the needs of your business and your customers? Here are seven questions to ask yourself whether you already have a website, are thinking of overhauling the one you have, or are starting the process from scratch:

1. Did you do your research?

It’s tempting to skip the research phase, but Casey and Sean insist that research is one of the most important phases of web design.

Start by taking a look at the websites of five businesses that you consider your competitors. Then look at another five sites in your industry or in a similar industry. Jot down design elements you like, common features, and notice what these sites have in common. Think about what makes your business the same, and what makes it different.

2. Who is going to be using your site?

The most obvious answer is customers. But getting a little more specific about exactly who your customers are and why they’re visiting your site will be incredibly helpful when you get to #3. Creating a customer persona (more on how to do that here) can be helpful in getting an accurate idea of what your customers are looking for.

And don’t forget to consider other audiences that might be accessing your site like news outlets, local press, and even your own employees.

3. What do you want a person to do when they get to your site?

You’ve got them on your site, now what? Do you want them to enter their email? Book an appointment? Call for a consultation? Order a product? Whatever it is you want your customer “to do” (also known as the call to action), make sure that it’s easy to find and clear. Casey and Sean recommend using a contrasting color to draw attention to your CTA (call to action).

Beyond the “call to action,” think about what other information is useful to your customers and in what order it should be presented. Creating a hierarchy of information will keep your site organized and easy to navigate.

4. Have you established trust?

To get your website visitors to trust your business, Casey and Sean suggest using testimonials, customer reviews, articles and press, and accreditations like a Better Business Bureau standing to establish credibility. Incorporating a blog and/or social media feeds that are updated regularly also show that you’re a healthy, operating business.

Clearly posting contact information, business hours, and what to do if you have a question or a customer service issue also builds trust with website visitors.

5. Is your site optimized?

Mobile traffic only continues to grow as more people use smart phones and tablets instead of a desktop computer to quickly research and find solutions. You can use Google Analytics to see how much of your web traffic is coming in via mobile, and don’t forget to view your site from various mobile devices to see how it’s working.

Speed is also important. To see how fast your website is loading, try a Google page test which will help you pinpoint exactly what’s slowing your site down so that you can make improvements to its speed. Often the culprit is extra-large images.

6. Have you kept it simple?

Don’t worry, a website doesn’t have to be an elaborate, custom endeavor that costs thousands of dollars. A website can be simple with basic contact information, a business description, and customer testimonials. In fact, Casey and Sean believe that simple can be a better user experience.

If the idea of “design” leaves you overwhelmed, use a neutral color palette and add an accent color for the most important elements. If you need color inspiration, there’s an entire site of royalty-free color palettes you can browse through.

7. Have you tested your site?

It’s unlikely that you have a huge budget for user testing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t gather some feedback about your website that will be useful.

Casey and Sean recommend asking a small group of loyal customers or even your family and friends to check out your site. Create a short survey to gather feedback about the design, how it works, and what other information would be helpful to them as potential customers.

With these seven must-ask questions, your website will be well on its way to bringing the story of your business to life. Just for fun we asked Casey and Sean, “What is your favorite part of the Swift Capital web redesign?”

Sean: The new color palette, and how simple and clean it is.

Casey: The code base.*

*They built the site from scratch so it has new, uncluttered code which is something web designers aspire to!

Our mission at Swift Capital is to unleash the potential of every small business by providing them with fair and convenient access to working capital. We harness data and technology alongside personalized human expertise to see the true potential in every business. Did you like this post? Tell us what you’d like to see on our blog. Email us at [email protected] or tell us here.

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