Web Design a Bradford Hub Guide for Small Local Businesses

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Web Design

I wrote this is web design guide for small businesses in Bradford but the information is useful for any small local business in any town. Whether you choose to build your own website, or to employ a web designer, you’ll find something useful here. The first thing you need is a domain name.

Choosing a domain name.

Try to get the domain name to match your business name or if you’re a freelancer, use your own name. This is what your customers expect you to have. If you can’t get the exact name you want, you’ll have to be creative. If your customers are in the UK, get a .co.uk domain name. You can buy as many domain names as you like, so if you’re a larger business you may choose to get the .com domain too. This can help protect your brand. But remember, there are hundreds of domain name extensions. So think of the cost before you buy.

To put your web design online you'll need a domain name.
Google sell domain names.

Unusual domain name extensions.

Some domain names are less popular and more likely to be available. Such as .uk .biz .info. From my experience, this will confuse your customers. Unless you have an audience that is very tech savvy, in which case you might get away with it. But using a .uk domain name instead of .co.uk will still confuse some customers.

Tips for choosing a domain name, your domain name should …

  • use your business name and be a .co.uk domain if possible
  • be easy to say over the phone
  • easy to spell
  • easy to remember
  • short is better than long
  • but not so short it’s confusing
  • avoid digits (123) and hy-phens

Web hosting.

As well as a domain name your web design needs web hosting. Good hosting makes sure your site loads quickly, a slow site will kill your sales. I use SiteGround hosting and I’m very pleased with them.

Hosting for your web design.

Most small business websites use WordPress.

Using WordPress to build your website is a bit like using Microsoft Word, with a readymade template, to write a document. You choose a template you like, and then type in your own words, and insert your own images.

WordPress web designs are called themes. There are many thousands of WordPress web design themes to choose from, but don’t stress over the design. A small business website needs to look clean and professional, no more.

WordPress content management system and web design software.

Choosing a web design or WordPress theme.

To build a small business website, you don’t need to pay for a bespoke web design; you need an adaptable theme.

I said earlier that there are thousands of WordPress themes available. If you’re not sure which one to use I recommend you use GeneratePress. It’s a very customizable design, and it’s an excellent choice for most small local businesses. There’s a free version and a premium version. So, you can start with the free version, even if you’re on a tight budget. Then if you need to, you can upgrade to the premium version later. The premium version of GeneratePress gives you more control over the way your website looks.

What if your web designer wants to use a different theme? This shouldn’t be a deal breaker. Ask what theme they want to use and research on Google to get a better idea of that theme’s quality. Then decide if it’s suitable for your website.

Other popular themes include StudioPress, Divi, Astra and Ocean WP.

GeneratePress has free and premium web design themes.

Page builder software

If you want to build a very fancy homepage, you could use page builder software. Some page builder software can slow your website down. They can also make it difficult to change your web design theme later. My advice is don’t use page builder software on more than five pages of your website. The fewer pages of your website that use a page builder, the easier it is to change the design of your website in the future. This only really matters if you build a lot of pages or blog posts using page builder software.

Beaver Builder is web design software.

Custom code or page builder.

What if your web designer doesn’t want to use a page builder and says you should use custom code instead? Big businesses such as WP Engine use Beaver builder page builder, I’m sure it’s OK for a small local business too.

What have we got so far?

You’ve got a domain name and hosting. You need those before you can build a website.

If you use WordPress, you need to choose a web design theme. I recommend GeneratePress but it’s your money and your choice.

Please note, you do not have to use WordPress. There are many other options, but WordPress is by far the most popular choice for building small business websites.

If you do decide to build your website using WordPress, I tell you about some excellent free WordPress training on another page of my website.

Now you can write the content for the pages of your website.

Good content is the best investment you can make in your website and you are the best person to write that content. Because you know your business and customers better than anyone else.

Many small business owners do not understand what content their website needs. The best way to find out what content you need is to read Gill Andrews website or buy her book. You can get all the information you need for free by reading Gill’s website. Gill’s book is £10 plus P&P and worth every penny.

Formatting your content.

Format your content, text, and images for easy scanning and easy reading. Include all the information your customer needs, but no more. Don’t waffle, get to the point quickly.

Place a descriptive headline above each chunk of content.

First divide the content on each page into logical chunks of related information. Then place a headline above each chunk of content. Word your headlines so a reader scanning your page will understand what the page is about by scanning headlines. Assume the reader of your page is “an idiot in a hurry” (but don’t tell them I said that). Your main goal is to enable your customers to get all the information they need quickly and easily.

Photos and images.

Images should be relevant to your product or service; images should also be clear and crisp. If you can afford it, hire a photographer with experience in your field. If not, take the photos yourself. The photos you’ll need include your business premises and vans, staff photos, portfolio photos showing before and after images of jobs you’ve done. And if you can get them, photos of happy customers to display in testimonials and case studies, etc.

Never use photos unless you have the legal right to do so. Take your own photos if possible. And always get permission to use any photos that show people or identifiable places, such as customers’ homes.

Stock images are a second-best option. Unsplash is a great source. Always read the terms and conditions before using any images.

Get free images from unsplash.

Navigation.

Make it as easy as possible for your customer to jump in, navigate around, find the information they need and then contact you.

Every customer who arrives on your website is saying “don’t make me think!” So clearly state the work you do and provide the information they’re looking for. Or they might click the back button to see what your competitors offer.

Mobile first design.

Make your site look good on mobile, you might have few site visitors that use desktop computers. So make sure your site looks its best on smart phones and tablet computers, because that’s what most of your customers will use.

Google and SEO

Do keyword research, then use Yoast SEO to guide you through writing your content in a Google friendly way. Yoast SEO is a WordPress plugin that tells you how and where to add Google friendly keywords and search terms to your page. Following Yoast SEO’s advice will boost the chances that your web page will rank highly in Google.

Yoast Local SEO Strategy.

Tools to make you a better writer.

There are many tools and writing aids that help you clean up your writing and make it easier for your customers to read.

Hemingway App is a free online editor. You paste your text into Hemingway and the computer scans it looking for improvements. For instance, you might have used a complicated word when a simpler word would be better. Or maybe some of your sentences are too long, making them difficult to read.

Hemingway uses color coded highlights to show you the problems it finds. You can then make edits if you see fit.

Pro Writing Aid is more powerful than Hemingway App. You must sign up for a free account to use Pro Writing Aid, but that only takes a few minutes and is worthwhile. You need not buy the premium version of Hemingway App or Pro Writing Aid the free versions are more than good enough.

Should you use a web designer, or should you build your own website?

Many freelancers and independent contractors build their own websites. If you’re computer savvy and willing to learn some new web design skills, a DIY website is definitely possible. There will be some aspects of the site building process that you find challenging. But if you keep it simple, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to build a good enough website.

Your customers understand you are a small business, not a big business like IBM, Apple or Nike. Make sure your website is clean and professional, provide the information your customers need and they’ll be happy.

If you’re a larger business, you’ll probably want to use a freelance web designer, or if you can afford it, an agency.

The actual issue is return on investment. How much will it cost you to build and maintain your website? And how much profit will it help you make?

Just make sure you look professional while delivering the information your customers need.

You do not need a fancy website …

  • be clean and professional
  • provide all the information your customers need
  • the text needs to be easy to scan and read so use headlines and lists
  • you need to display photos and images on your site but make sure they’re relevant
  • navigation links should be easy to understand: home | about | contact
  • your contact details need to be accurate and easy to follow

If you don’t want to build your own website, get in touch. I may be able to help.

Read more useful articles like this in my blog...