Setting up a small business or retail store can be extremely daunting. Among the many tasks that you’ve got to tackle, making a website is perhaps one of the most important, but it’s hard to know where to start.
A website requirements checklist can be a great resource for small businesses, giving them an idea of where to start and what the most important elements are. Whether you’re hiring experts to help you or tackling the website as a DIY job, it’s important to know the essential steps to follow.
Take a look at our small business website checklist to make sure that you’ve got everything you need to create a professional and inviting website.
Your small business website checklist
1. Website builder
There was a time when building a website was a very complicated and expensive affair, but now it’s easier than ever. There’s no need to just rely on your social media pages, as creating your own website is very quick and affordable.
Having a bespoke website will help to build your brand and create a professional image. It also allows you to have control over exactly what you show to customers, instead of making do with the limited functionality of a Facebook business page.
There are many different website builders available, which require different levels of skill to use. They are often very user friendly, with pre-made templates and simple WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) or drag-and-drop editors that allow the less tech-savvy business owner to create a good-looking site.
Website builders like WordPress and Squarespace also offer great functionality and customizability with plug-ins, built-in website analytics, integrated blogs and online support.
2. Domain name
Registering a unique domain name is really important when it comes to how your business is perceived. This is your URL or web address, which is what people will enter in their browser to visit your site.
Domain names are often fairly inexpensive, depending on what the URL is and which top-level domain (TLD) you choose. For example, .com is often more expensive than .net because it it more universally recognised and looks more professional.
Your domain name should ideally be your business name (www.companyname.com), but you might find that certain URLs are already taken. You can try to get around this by adding your service or sector to the URL (www.companynamedigital.com), or breaking up words with hyphens (www.company-name.com). Whatever you do, your domain name should be something obvious, easy to remember, and easy to spell.
While many website builders offer free hosting, this will give you a domain name like www.yourbusiness.wordpress.com, which looks much less professional than using your own hosting service.
Web hosting companies store the files that make up your website on their server, where they are accessed by online visitors. Different hosting services offer varying amounts of data transfer limits, cloud storage, email accounts and other features, as well as different prices and commitment periods. You will have to take these options into account when choosing who to host your website with.
For example, shared hosting is popular as several sites are stored on the same server, meaning that they share the costs. However, a spike in one site’s traffic could affect the performance of other sites on the same server. If you are expecting heavy traffic or require a high-powered site that can handle a lot of data, a dedicated server might be for you. While this is more expensive, your website has exclusive use of the server.
4. Header and logo
A header and logo form the basis of your website’s branding and personality. They allow visitors to identify which site they are on and what to expect from it. Branding is incredibly important, especially on the internet, which is a highly visual medium.
If you look at a few different websites, you’ll see that they often have a similar design layout, with a bold header and the company logo, usually positioned in the top left of the header.
While it’s tempting to break the mould and try something radically different, there’s a lot to be said for providing certain elements where visitors expect to find them. You can, however, be quirky and creative with your header, but make sure that you aren’t overdoing it and that your branding is clear.
5. Simple navigation
Many websites also use a very similar style of navigation, which allows users to quickly and easily find what they’re looking for.
This often consists of a horizontal navigation bar with main headings that users can click on or hover over to see subheadings. Where necessary, these subheadings branch out even further. The main pages such as home, products or services are usually on the left side of the navigation, with blog, contact and about pages on the right.
Following this design convention will make your website intuitive, efficient and easy to use. This will provide a better user experience and should lead to increased conversions and more repeat custom.
Tempting as it is to try something unusual, nobody wants to visit a website where the navigation is so innovative that it’s impossible to figure out.
6. Prominent contact details
Visitors to your website and prospective customers need to be able to contact you easily. This could be to ask a question, to request a quote, or to be able to physically visit your business.
As well as having a contact page that provides the full details of how to get in touch with the business, many websites also include the address, phone number and contact email on every page of the website, usually in the footer. This makes it really easy for people to find the information, no matter what stage of the sales journey they are at.
Not having prominent contact details makes your website look kind of shady. If there’s no obvious way to contact you, it can put people off. A lack of contact information might make your business seem untrustworthy, and customers would have nowhere to go if something went wrong.
In addition to the trust element and improved user experience, having your address and phone number on your website will help any local SEO (search engine optimization) efforts, as it will give search engines a clear indication of where your business is based.
7. Store locator page
If your business has a number of brick-and-mortar stores or showrooms, it’s important to make it as easy as possible for website visitors to find their nearest branch.
A store locator page usually has a map showing where all the stores are situated, and a box for visitors to enter their post code to find the store closest to them. If you only have a handful of stores, a dropdown list of the individual options is a good way to allow people to select the store of their choice and view its information.
When listing your individual branches, you should include the store’s address, telephone number and dedicated email address, as well as useful visitor information such as opening times, parking information, and what facilities the store has.
Blogs have become a popular website feature for business in just about any sector.
They are great for bringing in additional traffic by delivering useful information or imparting knowledge. This could be answering common questions about your industry, presenting a new product or service, reporting on a recent event that you attended, or sharing company news.
Articles are also great for SEO. Search engine algorithms are able to understand related phrases and topics, so by writing around the subject, you can help search engines to understand what your website is about and who it is for. This also makes your website’s content richer and higher quality, which should help your rankings.
Brand awareness is another important area that can be helped by adding a company blog. Providing interesting or useful information gets your company name out there and into people’s heads. You can also show that you are an authority in your sector, helping to build trust, and share real-life stories and experiences, humanizing your brand and showing your customers that you care.
9. Social media integration
Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that social media is an important part of the digital age. When used well, it can be an incredibly powerful tool for businesses, allowing them to interact with their audience in a more meaningful way than a simple company-customer relationship.
At the very least, make sure that you link to your social media profiles from your website. It can often be tricky to track down the right social accounts for small businesses, so give people a helping hand so they can find you easily.
In addition to this, you might like to embed your social media feeds on your website, allowing people to view a snapshot of your posts without having to leave your site.
10. Engaging video
It’s no secret that videos dominate the internet. They offer a visual, engaging element to your website that allows you to speak to your visitors—quite literally.
Videos are perfect for small businesses where face-to-face interactions are important, such as therapists, or where a customer might feel more at ease seeing you in person before giving you certain information, such as a financial advisor.
By placing a video in a prominent location on your website, you can draw people in who may otherwise have left. Give them a taste of your personality, show them what your business is about, and start to build a connection before any actual interaction occurs.
11. Purpose and goals
In order to succeed, your website needs to have a purpose, and you should identify goals that you can use to track your progress.
For example, your website might be an ecommerce site designed to sell clothing online. Everything that you do on your website and in your marketing efforts should be targeted towards getting more sales.
Your overall goals might be to sell a certain number of products or to reach a certain profit, but there could be smaller goals within these to help you to focus your efforts. One goal might be to sell the entire stock of a certain line by the end of the month, or to get x number of email sign-ups each week.
12. Performance tracking
There are many different ways to track your website’s performance, some of which are fairly general, and some which will be specific to the goals that you have determined. These are known as KPIs, or key performance indicators.
Generic KPIs might include website traffic, email sign-ups, social media engagement, contact form enquiries or phone calls.
KPIs for commerce-based sites might include number of units sold, turnover, profit, email sign-ups, new customer registrations or coupon codes redeemed.
13. Continual improvement
No matter how your website is performing right now, it’s important not to get complacent.
Keep an eye on those KPIs and make sure that you take action if things start to slip. Use Google Analytics to find out more about how many people are visiting your site, when and where from, and use this information to influence your next steps.
Building a website isn’t a one-off job; you can continually add pages and features, tweak the copy, and redesign the appearance to create a site that works for you and your customers. Your business may change over the course of a period of months, meaning that new functionality such as a user portal is required, or that existing elements are no longer relevant.
Small Business Website Resources
Alongside this checklist, here are a few more (free) small business resources you can use:
- Useful business planning and finance templates by Score
- Store locator page design inspiration by Storemapper
- Landing page examples by Landingfolio
- Marketing spreadsheets to help with ongoing SEO work by Sheets for Marketers
- A simple to follow lead generation checklist by Mailparser
Get your retail store website online now
This website requirements checklist should help to ensure that you’ve covered all the bases covered to create a website for your small business.
While it’s a big job, there are many resources available online to help you, and both website builders and hosting services often provide 24/7 support to help you get to grips with your new website.