Congratulations; you’ve put a lot of thought into it, and you’re finally ready to put your company online. You’re not alone; plenty of small businesses in the United States and elsewhere realize the lucrative potential of e-commerce. However, a lot of companies still haven’t committed to representing their brand with a website. In fact, in 2015 only 28% of small businesses in the US were selling their products over the internet. The takeaway here should be obvious: put your business online now, and you’ll have something most SMEs in America don’t.
Before you jump the gun though, it’s worth thinking ahead a little. Representing yourself and your brand with a website requires a lot of decisions, and each one of them has the power to help you—by creating leads, maximizing engagement, and driving sales. If you want to use your website to the fullest extent of its potential, you’ll have to pay attention to each little detail. Fortunately, there are plenty of examples to look at for inspiration. Or you could just read this guide since we’ve distilled quite a bit of that information for you. Read on to discover some of the essentials for making your website stand out from the competition.
What’s in a Name? Quite a Bit, Actually
You’ll want to start with the simplest aspects of your website—such as your hosting company and what the website’s name. Usually, you will purchase your domain name from a hosting service. Hosting services will often provide you with a couple of options, such as shared hosting or managed hosting. We’ll get into some of the key differences in more detail later, but the most important thing, for now, is that you choose a relevant phrase to use as your domain name.
In many cases, it’s a good idea for your domain name to be the same as your company name. Of course, there are cases where this isn’t possible. Especially if your business name is a common word or phrase already used as a domain name by someone else. In those cases, you may want your domain name to reflect your services, or address the needs of your customers (like “get-eggs.com” if your company sells eggs). The phrase you choose should communicate essential information about your brand to visitors while being easy to remember and type.
Keep It Simple
A common mistake among young e-commerce businesses is to try and out-dazzle the competition with snazzy websites full of elaborate graphics and Easter eggs. While this strategy obviously carries a certain amount of novelty appeal, it’s not necessarily the best way to make your website work for you. Your customers might be interested in your website’s “fun” features for a few minutes. But that’s not why they came to visit. In almost every case, they’ll care more about how clearly the information about your company, products, and services are displayed, and how easy your website is to use.
Another factor to consider is that more elaborate websites typically come with longer loading times. You might not think that most people would notice a few extra seconds while waiting for a site to load—but you’d be wrong. In fact, for every extra second, a page spends loading, you’re looking at a conversion rate loss of roughly 7%. The lesson? Functionality is more important than form. Simplicity almost always beats style.
In addition to good domain names, successful websites are fast, easy to use, and display important information clearly. What does that mean in technical terms? It means using CSS instead of high-resolution images. It means compressing high-quality content to lower the bandwidth of your large pages and minimize the resultant HTTP response. Also, it means enabling browser caching, so that repeat visitors don’t have to send a new request to the server every time they want to load your page. If any (or all) of this seems confusing to you, consider opting for managed hosting instead of basic shared hosting. Using a hosting service that offers managed hosting will take care of a lot of these details for you, leaving you with a faster and more accessible page.
Bringing your business online might sound daunting, but the most important things are also some of the easiest. Choose the right hosting service, pick a reliable domain name, and keep your website quick and clear—even if it means getting professional help. The advantages to doing so far outweigh the drawbacks. Now go out there and rep your brand with confidence!