5 Ways to Improve Your Small Business Website

Posted November 07, 2014

By Owen Andrew

Many small business websites suffer from a multitude of flawed design and process elements that greatly limit the websites' effectiveness and usability. Worse, the business owners either added those elements—or paid a designer to add them—in the mistaken belief that they look good or improve the user experience.

Sadly that is not the case, and those good intentions typically make a website unattractive and harder to use. Those qualities combine to drive visitors away from your website and into the arms of your competition.

We've collected five of the biggest design and process offenders below. If you're in the process of creating a website for your small business, take heed and avoid them. If you already have a website, and it contains any of these offenders, make note to get rid of them ASAP.

small business website design

Avoid These 5 Small Business Website Design Flaws

1. Your Website is Too Big

Sorry to tell you, but bigger ain’t always better; especially when it comes to small business websites. An overgrown website suffers from several key problems, the first of which is it slows down. While it may not seem like much, even a few extra seconds of loading time could be enough to send visitors fleeing for the faster-loading hills of another website.

Another major issue: larger websites are harder to navigate. Short of boasting exemplary organization and design, that added bloat invariably leads to a website that requires more clicks before potential customers reach your products and the opportunity to buy them. And each extra click you force them to make is another opportunity for them to abandon your website.

2. Your Website is Over-caffeinated

Many Web designers try too hard to make their website stand out visually, and that usually leads to websites that are overly distracting and confusing (think flashing lights or animated gifs). You don’t need to re-invent the visual wheel for your website to stand out or be productive. Aim for pleasant simplicity and let visitors focus on the content and the products—not the flashy gimmicks surrounding them.

3. Your Website Lacks Accessibility

There’s no greater Web design failure than preventing certain devices, operating systems, or browsers from accessing your website. Test and configure your website for each of these many options: Windows, Linux, Mac, Opera, Safari, Firefox, Chrome, and mobile devices. Also, make sure that the website is accessible to the visually impaired. This should include, among other things, the ability to change text size within the browser without breaking the site’s layout.

4. Your Website Uses Auto-Play

In the world of Web design, it's hard to imagine anything more annoying than being bombarded by noise upon visiting a website. Autoplay videos slow website performance, and they irritate most visitors—especially if they can’t stop them. You want to welcome visitors, not drive them away. Unless there is a clear advantage to autoplaying content, avoid it at all costs.

5. Your Website Checkout is Too Complicated

The checkout process is the final and often largest hurdle that separates your website from its visitors’ money. Many potential purchasers "check out the checkout" before they decide to buy anything; and if they don’t like what they see, they’ll simply head somewhere else.

A confusing or overly complicated checkout process can drive away even the most determined-to-buy customer. It’s all about convenience. Customers just want to buy their products, and they don’t want to answer a million questions to do so. More than half of all customers will simply abandon their cart when confronted with payment issues—and likely never return.

Make implementing a simple, fast, and effective payment processing system a top priority. Examples include:

One with low transaction and interchange fees will prove cost-effective as well, so this step benefits both your customers and your budget, too.

Owen Andrew is a journalist and tech enthusiast who has written for numerous publications, both in print and on the Web. He enjoys researching and writing about ecommerce and entrepreneurship.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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