There was a time, not all that long ago, when new and small businesses didn’t need to think about their company’s web presence. Until the technology/dotcom boom of the mid-90’s, the web was in its infancy and either wasn’t on the radar of small businesses or was thought geared only toward the high-tech industry. Back then, there were only 16 million Internet users worldwide. Today, there are nearly 250 million in the US alone. Such a jump in numbers speaks to how ubiquitous the Internet has become and to its importance in everything from commerce to classroom to your own business.
If you have a new or small business and you are looking to expand your brand, your first order of business should be establishing a top-notch web presence. How exactly? Well hire a professional of course.
Enter the web designer. As much as you think you know about what should go on your web page and how the page should perform, chances are a professional web manager will know more and that’s something to take advantage of. We sat down with Melissa Tresca, Web Manager extraordinaire for Little Busy Bodies, LLC to talk about the process of finding a good web designer and the ins and outs of making a web site work for your company.
BBB: How should a new business owner go about finding someone to design/build their company web site?
MT: Most business owners ask other business owners who they’ve used in the past and would recommend. Often, freelance designers will find work through word of mouth and a positive reputation.
It’s important for designers and business owners to network and build relationships, especially if the designer is very familiar with a particular type of business. For example, a financial site will be designed differently than a fashion site. Designers with industry experience and a good rep will always attract work.
BBB: What are the essential elements you think about when designing a site (layout, navigation, etc.)?
MT: I always consider functionality first, does the site meet the goal of the client and how user-friendly is it? This is where navigation and calls-to-action play a big role. We start with a general layout and then the creativity comes into play with color, fonts, and images. When the site is ready for launch we run it through the checklist. Is it easy to navigate? Will it engage the visitor by prompting them to click further into the site? Is the visitor going to accomplish what you intended before they leave the site?
When designing for Boogie Wipes, we needed our coupons and promotions to be easily accessed. If they weren’t, we would get feedback from our visitors on Facebook or through email asking where they could sign up for the coupon or enter our contest. This is why it’s been essential for us to offer a customer support email contact. While it’s important to set up Google Analytics, these are the things that Google can’t tell you.
BBB: How do you know when what you’ve created “works” both from a technical and creative standpoint? For instance with the latter, do you receive feedback, track hits/visits, or is it something you just instinctively know?
MT: We use Google Analytics and set our goals. We always want a low bounce rate and new visitors. If we’re not achieving the goals we set, then we know it’s time to make a change.
Sometimes it’s not clear whether creative is the reason your site is failing or if it’s the layout. This is where A/B testing can help determine the problem. A/B testing means two different versions of a website are tested over a period of time by the public. The ‘A’ site may have an improved creative approach, where the ‘B’ site would have improved functionality. When the test results come in you might have a very clear winner, which will tell you exactly where your problem lies.
BBB: How do you like to stay on top of design trends?
MT: www.thefwa.com is a site I reference when I’m looking for something fresh and exciting. I check out the site of the day, site of the month, and sites that have won awards.
BBM: When should a new business owner think about redesigning/freshening up their site?
MT: A business that sells a product would want to if they’ve updated their logo or changed their packaging. If a site is not attracting new visitors or engaging visitors once they arrive, it’s time for a redesign.
BBB: Where do you go to feel creative and how does that translate into your work?
MT: Getting away from the laptop is always the first step, staring at a blank page has never helped me. If I want to get the creative juices going, I keep the thought in my head all day and ask myself how to approach the problem often (there’s no substitute for a little fresh air and exercise.) My approach at 9 am is different than at noon and 5pm, and often at 4am I wake up with the best solution and can’t fall back asleep. That’s when I go back to my laptop and get to work.
BBB: What is your favorite part about your job?
MT: I love that our kid brands don’t take themselves so seriously. I get to design with a sense of humor and have fun with the site content. Working from home has also been a gift. My son is turning one soon and I’ve had the privilege of watching him closely through every new phase of development this year.