Every business, no matter how big or small, can benefit from having a robust online presence and a great site. Depending on the size of the company and the type of industry, the formula for local website design will vary. But in this seemingly endless world wide web, it can be hard to figure out how to move forward. And that’s precisely Bright Vessel’s specialty!
There’s one thing that should always be on your mind before tackling local website design: Search Engine Optimization (SEO). You probably know a little about this one! The key to being relevant online, SEO focuses on increasing relevant traffic to the website. Through a series of SEO practices, your brand can reach the top search engine results of a relevant keyword. In turn, this practice will bring the right traffic to the site.
Once you’re aware of SEO as a basis for building a website, there are three concepts you need to understand:
- Website Design. Website design comprises visual keys from the layout to the logo, and it's the way a site presents itself to users. It can include a myriad of details, and should always focus on reflecting the brand in the most useful way possible.
- Website Architecture. Much like with brick-and-mortar architecture, this concept relates to its construction. Websites with great architecture are intuitive in link-building, so users can navigate smoothly and without getting lost.
- User Experience. This concept relates to the level of ease and comfort a visitor has when visiting a website. Good user experience should be fast, pleasant, easy-to-use and functional.
These three factors can make or break a website, working together to ensure visitors stay and engage, leading to revenue for the business.
7 Fundamental Rules to Local Website Design
Here’s the thing about local website design: there’s no all-encompassing formula. While the ultimate goal in any business is revenue, the strategy to achieve that should be different in each case. A mom-and-pop store can’t have the SEO approach of a large regional brand, and you can't market a restaurant in the same way as a factory.
The first thing you need to figure out is how to tackle an online presence. Once that’s done, here are some rules local website design should always follow:
- The website should run smoothly on desktop and mobile. People are browsing from smartphones and tablets more and more each year. Any website that doesn’t work well on mobile could be losing customers. Besides, since 2016, Google has indexed mobile sites first, so it’s also an excellent SEO practice. Make sure to use the Google Mobile-Friendly Test Tool to smooth anything out.
- A site shouldn’t have any technical issues. While keeping a site error-free might seem obvious, but it’s easy to let errors pass without notice. Good design should be easy to navigate for users and search engines, allowing indexing and ranking.
- Local website design should guide visitors towards taking action. If you’re running an eCommerce site, your layout should make it easier for visitors to make a purchase.
- Great design should be simple and distraction-free. Don’t clutter a website with too much information. Don’t overstimulate users with videos and popups that serve no actual purpose and can only confuse them.
- A website should look up-to-date. When browsing, few things generate more distrust than a site that seems to be out of date. An outmoded design can be a deterrent for visitors to stay too long, as they may fear it’s unsafe.
- The website layout should be in tune with the branding. It’s essential to maintain an all-encompassing image online and off. That goes from using the same color palette as the logo and other signage to keeping the same type of language on the copy.
- The website’s design should be in tune with its industry and location. You should know what customers are like and what they crave for, and present yourself in a way that speaks to them. As previously noted, each industry and location will have its nuisances, and it’s critical to be aware of them. We recommend creating customer personas to get to know customers better.
The specifics of branding should depend on each specific business, but the principles above are universal.
Now that you have an idea of what local website design should entail, it’s time to make it. There are three ways you can go about this:
- In-house website design. Whether you’re a big or small business, you may choose to hire a team of designers and developers to build a website.
- Outsourced website design. You can hire a third-party design agency with an excellent reputation to build a website, taking your cues and input.
- Combined design. You may choose a mixed approach, perhaps connecting in-house design team with an agency’s.
Make sure that whoever’s building the website has the necessary skills to do so. While it might seem like crafting the site is the cheapest way to go, it’ll ultimately cost your business in visits and conversions - or lack of them. In the same manner, some agencies aren’t as good as they say they are, and it’s essential to do some research. Also, ensure that you can still maintain some control over the site, allowing you to grow.
A local business website isn’t an unmovable place, but one that’s always in movement. It’s crucial to set sites up in a way that they can continue to grow and update. Here are a few ways to know you’ve chosen the right web designer or agency:
- They know about SEO-friendly website design.
- They’re aware of local website design SEO principles. The chosen website designer should understand Google’s Guidelines for Representing Your Business.
- They build websites with user usability in mind. You need a web designer that keeps updated with the latest trends and needs, and that includes creating sites for humans and not for machines.
- They’re straight with you. Instead of making false claims or promising impossibles, a great agency will be honest and tell you they can’t guarantee first-page rankings on Google.
- They’ll be clear about past work and offer references. You should be able to contact past or present clients to know whether they get results, meet deadlines, etcetera.
- They’ll give you the rights to your website. Many agencies will try to keep the copyright of the design or content, and that’s certainly something to be avoided. You should have all the necessary files and passwords to access the site. The designer should offer a thorough contract denoting your rights.
- They’ll be a reference on web design. Whether the designers keep a blog or have an education platform, you want the designer agency to be generous with their knowledge. It’s an excellent way to know what kind of company they are!
Once you’ve settled on how you want your site built, it’s time to figure out how you want it handled. You can have an in-house website managing team or hand the job over to an agency. In any case, you’ll need someone to be on top of:
- Adding content and pages
- Fixing errors
- Updating the design
- Performing SEO research and analytics
- Crafting campaigns
Planning the Architecture of a Website
Now that you’ve made some decisions regarding the site’s design, it’s time for step two: architecture. It’s important to note that a website should target two audiences: visitors and search engine bots. While the top priority should be to have a site that’s easy to navigate for human beings, it should also cater to search engines.
In any case, there are three methods of navigation that are key for a seamless experience for both visitors and search engines:
- Main menus. A site menu is a list of internal links present on the same location across the site’s different pages. The main menu can be either horizontally at the top of each page, vertically and to one side, or on the footer.
- Submenus. While only necessary on larger websites, these are subcategories of main menus. They can make it easier for users and search engines to locate specific bits about a local business. For example, a catering company could find it useful to have a submenu for each type of service. Compartmentalizing will make it easier for visitors to navigate the site.
- Miscellaneous internal links. Besides the links from menus and submenus, it’s crucial to have some in the copy whenever relevant. Adding internal links in the content eases the way for your visitors to navigate the site and find out more about you. From an SEO perspective, it can also help you strengthen the hierarchy of pages and spreading ranking equity.
Here’s what you want out of website architecture: an easy way for humans and bots to land into valuable content. The complexity of the site’s architecture will depend on the type of business and its size.
How It All Translates Into Website Usability
Once you’ve settled on your local website design and architecture, you can soft launch a working version. The best way to proceed from there is simple enough: invite users to test it! Whether you ask family and friends, well-established customers, or even outsource testing to an agency, it’s time to see how it’s working.
These are some things to notice during the test run:
- How unbiased visitors respond to the site. Is it easy to navigate?
- Noticing if there are any hiccups on the customer journey throughout the site, keeping them from conversion.
- Noticing which paths work well, as to copy them whenever possible in future updates.
- Seeing how the website fares when compared to competitors’.
Ask testers to be honest with you. Are the menus clear enough or do they need name changes? Did they find what they were looking for when browsing the site? Were there confusing areas? What would they change? It’s hard for you to see your site objectively since you’re so close to it, so it’s essential to have others take a look at it.
Critical in building a brand in the 21st century, local website design takes a lot of work. You need to be on the lookout for a lot of things and find a trustworthy agency.
That’s where Bright Vessel comes in: our years of experience working with different Florida brands support us. Contact us to have a look at our portfolio and find out more about our services.