(from an actual small business)
Websites are essential. Full stop! What if you’re a super small business? Yep still essential. What if you’re a tiny business, like 1 person tiny? Uh-huh. You still need to have a website. What if you’re so small you’re not even really doing anything yet you are just thinking about doing something and you have the right plan but you just aren’t sure where or how or when to get started? YES! Yes, you need a website.
Websites are great so many things. Websites help you get found. Websites help you to gain trust. Websites help inform your current audience. Websites can help potential clients get the information they seek. Websites can save you time! And websites are fun. But websites are not fast.
I have been personally working on The Clever Catalyst’s site myself since before the launch of the LLC. I employ a web designer far more talented than myself but I still choose to do it myself. Why? Because I am a tiny business owner myself and to be honest with you I would rather not spend all of my profits on web development. So I get it!
The goal of this blog is not to sell our web design services, although I will happily sell you any of our web design services, but rather to help you out.
Tiny business owner to tiny business owner.
Here are 6 clever website hacks I’ve learned over the years by working on large client sites and my own tiny-part-time website, that really help you get the most bang for your buck!
Website Design Hack #1: Social Media Feeds
Most of us small businesses have some sort of social media marketing. You likely already work on clever content copy and beautiful graphic designs, you may as well use them! All website builders and plugins that I’ve ever seen include options for Facebook feeds, Instagram links, Twitter profiles, and even Pinterest boards.
Integrating a social media platform you’re already creating for is an instant and free way to help yourself stand out. It also allows for easy access to more information about you and your business. If you’ve recently created a series of posts about your employees, an event or show you’ve recently had or anything else relevant having those posts appear on your site will allow your website users to easily read that same information without requiring them to also look for you on Instagram. (spoiler alert: they often don’t!) Those types of posts are always gold and without the integration, you would have to duplicate that content over manually and nobody has time for all that.
It’s also a little fancy and can sometimes result in people thinking you’re a fancy and competent web designer - even if all you did was sign into your Instagram account from your website.
Web Design Hack #2: Get Visual
In case any of you haven’t checked your Google Calendar in a few it is not 2003 and black and white text-only websites are only still acceptable for rural school districts and web developers in training. Today websites need to be dynamic af and very visual.
Add sliders, galleries, pdf viewers, embedded video, color, and anything else interactive and visually interesting to your site. Obviously, you don’t want to make it overwhelming to look at, (See not 2003 comment) but your site should visually guide your visitors along a path with frequent breaks in text and visually interesting things to look at.
This is relevant no matter what industry you’re in. Of course, it looks bad for a web designer to have an awful website (because then they are not very competent at their jobs) but a pet shop with an awful website is still a pet shop with an awful website.
And nobody likes a pet shop with an awful website.
Web Design Hack #3: Keep it Chunky
As mentioned your website should guide your users on a journey, and it should be a comfortable journey. A big website no-no is chunking HUGE chunks of text together. You have to break it up.
People are busy. Like really busy and no one has time to read through your entire website or even an entire page. It does not matter how well planned out your content is or even how interesting it is. People just don’t have the time or patience to read it all (most of the time).
Breaking your content up into small bite-size paragraphs and sections with clearly defined headers is the best way to ensure they can get in - get what they need and get out - without losing interest and jumping back to their Amazon cart.
Web Design Hack #4: Google Analytics
This one is not so much a web design hack and it is a website optimization hack. Get and install Google Analytics on your website. If you are using Wix or Squarespace you can add the Google Tag directly into the specified place for it on the menu. (search in help and you will get the walkthrough) If you are using WordPress I recommend installing “Site Kite” by Google and connecting that way.
Creating a Google Analytics account is literally as easy as signing up. It is also free. They walk you through the process and you almost can’t mess it up. Once installed it allows you to see where your users are coming from, what pages they are spending their time on and so many other pieces of useful information.
Knowing what your users like and don’t like allows you to tailor your website to their needs and further drive web traffic. If you have a blog on your website this can also help you see what topics your readers are most interested in so you can create more content along those lines.
Google Analytics (not sponsored) is free data that allows you to optimize your website and requires no maintenance whatsoever. It’s a no-brainer!
Web Design Hack #5: Call to Actions
The biggest mistake we see on already built small business websites is the lack of clear call to actions. If you haven’t heard of the term before a “call to action” is just a fancy marketing way of saying “sell to them stupid”. It doesn’t necessarily need to say “buy this” but you should be directing your users to do something - otherwise why have a website.
Some common call to action include:
Sign up for our mailing list
Learn more about …….
Meet the Team
Read our Reviews
Follow us on Facebook
If you are lucky enough to get users to your site and they are interested enough to read your content do not let them walk away empty-handed. Put on your ideal customer cap and pretend to be on the other side of the laptop (or mobile or tablet) screen. What do they need to do next? Pop a button in there and tell them before they have a chance to think for themselves.
Web Design Hack #6: Include Loads of Examples
So here’s the thing about being a small business owner - you don’t often have a lot of extra time on your hands. Speaking as a full-time mompreneur and a full-time homeschooling mom (that’s two full times in one short day!). So anything that can save you time and get you more work is a WIN-WIN in my book!
Including loads of work examples on your website is the perfect example (sorry) of this "little effort big payoff" approach. On our copywriting page, we share several examples of copy. On our web design page, we share websites we’ve recently designed. And on our branding page, guess what? That’s right branding examples.
I do this for two reasons. First, it makes me look fancy. Here is what I do and here is the proof. Second because it saves me so much time. Week over week I put bids for websites, or blogs or logos or whatever. And week over week I get back “Do you have any examples of recent work?”.
A logical question. I respect it, but definitely one I can delegate - to my unpaid and always working website.
Including examples of, links to, or photos of your past jobs in relevant service areas will help to answer your potential client’s questions, save you a ton of time and impress a few people along the way.
Websites are a lot of work but they are super necessary - especially in this post-mid-restarting-covid environment. If you don’t have the time or desire to build or maintain yours - we can help! If you do stick around. There are plenty more tips where that came from!