While nearly every business on the planet is expected to be online these days, let’s face it. There is a big difference between the website needs of a high-volume SaaS or eCommerce venue compared to the website of a local brick-and-mortar business. Where they are expecting thousands of visitors every day logging in to shop or manage their services, your websites primary job is to provide information and communication opportunities for local customers, visitors passing through, and people planning a trip to your home city. Rather than looking to generate a massive amount of online traffic, you’re looking to get more foot traffic through the door even if they discovered your business by searching online.
This means that how you want to design your website is, in many ways, significantly different from how the online businesses are doing it today. Unfortunately, if you’ve been looking for tips on how to design a new website for your own brick-and-mortar business, the resources out there are primarily keyed to all-digital companies. Fortunately, here at Minmax, we understand small and medium local businesses and are here to give you the insight you need to start imagining and actively designing a website that will enhance your brick-and-mortar foundations rather than distracting from them.
1) Use the Standard Navigation Formula
The very first place you want to start is with the structure. Every website has a navigation structure which is how the pages flow from one to the next and you’ve no doubt seen the standard arrangement before. It usually goes a little something like “Home, Services, Products, About Us, Resources, Blog, Contact”. These are almost universally arranged along the top of your website page design or along the left-hand side in a convenient side-bar. While you can mix up the pages a little bit, make sure you have “home, About Us, and Contact” at the very least.
This arrangement has become the standard because it’s what customers and visitors expect. If you visit a website and don’t see a row of links at the top or left, this is a clear sign that the site is difficult to navigate and may not be worth your time. There will be other places to show your originality. When it comes to navigation, stick to the basics.
2) Select an Appealing Color Palette
This may sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many businesses miss the mark on this one, especially if this is your first website design. Many businesses make the mistake of simply using the exact same hues they use for branding in the venue and in your current marketing campaigns. However, what looks good on your sign, painted on a van, and in employee uniforms may not make an appealing and easy to look at web page. Don’t just choose colors, test them until you find a palette that both accurately represents your brand and create an enjoyable viewing experience for your online customers.
3) Pictures of Your Venue
There is nothing more important to a local business website than pictures of your venue, products, staff, and happy customers. Because your goal is to get people to walk through your door after visiting your website, you want to give your website visitors a real taste of what you have to offer. Consider using large pictures of your venue as centralized content, background images, or even part of a fun parallax design to make your online visitors feel like they have already stepped into your business and feel at home. Put pictures relevant to your content on every page of the website and consider alternating text with pictures both to visually break up the pages and enhance what you’re talking about. Finally, provide at least one gallery of images for people who want to really get a feel for your venue and what’s like to be inside before they arrive. Whether you’re a high-end restaurant or the local hardware store, you know what your customers want to see, so get snapping!
4) Answer Basic Questions Instantly
How you design your homepage matters even more for a brick-and-mortar local business than it does for online businesses because often, this is as far as your website visitors will need to go before they have all the information they need. In many cases, people will search for a local business like “camping supplies store in Boulder CO”. Then Google will direct them to your Google My Business listing which, hopefully, lists your website. Potential customers will then pop open the website to check your hours, double-check your street address, and make sure you are a real active business and not some closed legacy entry in Google. This means that for best fast results, you want that classic block of information at the top of your homepage, not hiding in the footer to answer basic online visitor questions instantly so they can close the browser and route their phone navigation apps to your door.
5) Incorporate a Live Chat Feature
Speaking of answering customer questions, if you don’t expect a massive amount of online traffic or questions, this actually gives you an interesting opportunity in terms of customer service features. Live chat has become incredibly popular in modern website design and as a small local business, you don’t need a floor of chat techs to answer. Instead, just keep a chat window open at the register counter or for whoever is in the back office so that one or two employees can quickly answer those rare special questions you might get like “Can you guys install a washer I already have or do I have to buy one?”
By streamlining your customer service through likely less than one live chat question a day, you can catch those rare opportunities to keep a customer who might have otherwise moved along to another local service who answered their questions in the FAQ.
For those of you counting along, you’ve no doubt noticed that this article is ending early. In fact, this is only the first half of our two-part article on web design for small local businesses so if you want to learn more, join us next time for part two where we’ll talk about building a customer-winning FAQ, sharing your story, preparing for mobile and more! If you’d like a consultation on the right website design techniques and content writing methods for your individual business, contact us today. Website design and content is what we do best!