Is your website not performance not crash hot? Here are our top website design tips for small business owners, with some examples of what works and what doesn’t!

Web design tips for small business: 1. Less is more!

When your website is cluttered, it is hard on the eyes, and even harder for your visitors to work out what you want them to do. And having a busy, overwhelming page, is likely to drive them away. The number one mistake businesses make in their website, is trying to do ‘all the things’.

Ten things to remove/change on a cluttered website right now:

  1. Plan your website so each page has one single Call To Action (tell the visitor what they should do next). This might be a form, like the example below, a button, a download link, an email subscribe or Facebook share. Highlight this CTA a couple of times on longer pages and make it clearly stand out from any other content.
  2. Make sure your site is mobile responsive. Even the nicest desktop website will appear cluttered on a mobile device, making users scroll left to right to view content. Mobile optimisation means the content adjusts to fit the screen they are using, stacking it vertically to improve usability.
  3. Only have ONE main menu, ideally across the top of the page, or stacked for small mobile devices. Keep the menu simple, breaking larger sections into sub-menus if required.
  4. It used to be trendy to have loud background patterns behind your website content. Thankfully, I’ve been around long enough to see that trend fade! Why is it so bad? Well, loud patterns look messy and often make it hard to read content. You wouldn’t wear clashing prints, so don’t do it to your website either.
  5. Ditch the flash banners, PRONTO! They are distracting, often don’t work well, take longer to load and look trashy.
  6. Avoid using any more than 2 columns for text, unless displaying content as a grid (eg, your blog posts or store products).
  7. Avoid using tables, unless they are simple and absolutely necessary. When you do use a table, ensure the borders are a muted colour (eg, grey not black) and try to keep the number of rows to a minimum.
  8. When it comes to blogs, it might be tempting to fill the sidebar with loads of links, flashing ads/banners etc. But doing so distracts from the post itself and may drive visitors away from the article. Use 3 or less widgets in your sidebars, and make sure they look clean and uncluttered.
  9. Avoid using borders on all your div tags/sections. This one is something that old-school websites used to love. You’d see a border around every section, between menu items and headings. Over-using borders adds to the ‘noise’ on a website page, and again, can make it harder for visitors to identify the purpose of your page/what they should do next. The example below shows lots of borders, vs nearly none!
  10. Use animations sparingly. Ok so with advancing technology, there are ways you can animate text and pictures throughout your website pages. Which is great! However, if you try and add these animations/highlights to everything, it quickly gets overwhelming and again, may distract your user from the actual point of your page.

Slide the bar below to see examples of cluttered and uncluttered website design.

Website design tips for small business: 2. Format text the right way!

Writing for the web is nothing like writing your year 12 essays. You need to write with your customer in mind and this extends to ensure that the design and format of your text appeals to them as well.

  1. Do not use overly fancy/curly fonts – Ever! Your website font choices must be easy to read and browser friendly. I recommend using Google Fonts as a place to start, but make sure that your font type does not make it hard for visitors to read.
  2. You can get a little creative with your HEADINGS, but the main BODY of your text must be in a plain font like Georgia or Arial.
  3. Ensure the contrast is high between your text and its background. What I mean by this, is don’t put white text over a light yellow background – because no one will be able to read it. Black or very dark grey text over white, or the reverse is usually a good place to start.
  4. Use H1-H6 tags appropriately. These are the headings and sub-headings you place throughout your articles. These should be included to highlight new sections, as you see in this post.
  5. Text should be no more than 90 characters across each line, to improve readability. Even if that means you have a lot of whitespace either side of the text, it’s easier on the eyes and looks more professional. So use the page margin or section padding to bump in the text to a narrower section (again, as you see on this page here!)
  6. Written reviews are GOLD! Make sure they stand out, with a photo of the reviewer, a star rating or other visual aid.

Web design tips for small business: 3. Consistency! In colours, fonts and imagery

Consistency is the key to making your brand stand out. If your website is pink and flowery, but your Facebook profile black and grunge… there is a synchronisation problem. Every part of your business should stem from a single cohesive theme, and your website is no different! So, get the help of a good designer, or look up colour schemes online and stick to it.

  1. Use original photos wherever possible. Nothing makes a website look less professional and more ‘scrapbook’ than random mis-matched images copied from Google Image search. If you do use illustrations, make sure the art style is all the same, if not by the same artist. Photos should also be taken in similar lighting/style for maximum consistency.
  2. Set your fonts in your website settings for the entire site and forget them. If possible, use the same fonts on your business cards, store signage and social media profiles.
  3. Ditto for colours; choose 3-5 colours to use across your branding and define HOW they should be used. Eg, heading text, background colours/buttons etc. Too many different colours can be too confusing (unless you’re building a mardi gras website and going for the rainbow). Keep elements all the same colour; eg, all buttons are red.

Highlight the important bits

I’ve already mentioned that each page needs a Call-To-Action (CTA). Good design will highlight this CTA, and gently guide visitors to take that action. All images, text & other content should be visually directing them down the page to the CTA.

All of the website design tips for small business should help. But if you’re not sure what your website needs to improve, contact us for a free site audit!

Or check out our free good web design checklist for small business owners here.