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Getting the right website for your Norwich or Norfolk based business can be tough. Where do you even start? Do you try to build your own website, or do you use a web designer? What platform do you build on, and how do you decide which platform is the best choice for your business?
These questions are just the tip of the iceberg. Next you have to consider things like SEO, how your website looks, what content it should have and the design and development process.
Which is why I’ve written this website design Norwich guide, to help simplify the process for local startups and scaleups. This guide is aimed at business owners, marketers and entrepreneurs who are looking for a simple overview of how to build a successful small business website.
What is a website?
Let’s begin by defining what a website actually is. A website is, essentially, a collection of files stored on a server. Just as you store files locally on your computer, you store your website on a server that ‘serves’ your website to people visiting your domain name.
Your domain name can be thought of as your virtual address on the internet. Visitors type in your domain name, then their browser downloads the files from your server and renders them, displaying your website.
What does a website consist of?
Here’s a quick anatomy of a website for you:
- HTML, or hypertext markup language, is used to structure your website and can be viewed as the foundation of the website. T tells the browser how to structure your content and where to display it.
- CSS, which stands for cascading style sheets, is used to style your website. Like you might use bold text in a Word document to highlight something, CSS works the same way, except you can do a ton more with it. CSS is what allows us to develop modern, clean and sleek looking websites.
These three languages are used to build almost every website on the web. Your website will also utilize other server side languages like PHP and SQL.
How do websites work in 2019?
The majority of websites in 2019 are built using content management systems. A content management system allows you to manage your website without touching any code.
As far as content management systems go, WordPress is the market leader by far. Of all the websites using content management systems, 60% of them use WordPress. WordPress also powers 30% of all websites on the web. Data from w3Tech
If you are trying to decide which CMS to use for your business website, I would recommend you read Why WordPress Is The BEST Option For Your Small Business Or Startup Website which should lead you to the conclusion that WordPress is the best CMS for any startup or small business website currently.
How does the website design process work?
The modern website design can be broken down into four parts:
- Choosing a web design style
- Agreeing on functionality
- Picking a theme
I’m going to give you an easy to understand summary of each part of the process.
1. Choosing a web design style
Websites comes in all different shapes and sizes. There are lots of different styles and approaches you can take to website design in Norwich.
Choosing a web design style should be a collaborative process and agreed at the outset of the project with your web designer.
This typically involves completing some sort of questionnaire or consultation. The bigger the website, the more input you will need to provide as the business owner, or member of staff accountable for the project.
There are several key areas to address when choosing a design style.
- Colour scheme
The colour scheme your website uses will play a large part in first impressions and how your business is perceived. Your colour scheme needs to match your logo and brand colours. If you have a logo that is red and grey, those should be the colours that are used on your website to ensure your brand is consistent.
If you don’t have a logo, or your logo uses neutral colours like black or dark grey, you could use Paletton to generate a colour scheme for your website, or ask your website designer to do this. When it comes to colours, less is more. Stick to 2-3 colours maximum, unless you’re dealing with a large website.
You wouldn’t think it if you weren’t a web designer, but fonts and typography can make or break a website. Picking the right font is a very important decision and can make your website look professional, creative, luxury or neutral.
If you are a professional services provider, like an accountant or law firm for example, you will likely want to opt for a traditional typeface, or a neutral one, like Lato or Open Sans.
These fonts are not too ‘stiff’, but are clean, neutral and a good mix of professional and aesthetically pleasing, making them popular choices across the web. If you’re unsure what sort of typography you’d like to use, check out Google Fonts.
Deciding whether to use imagery, icons or a combination of the two across your website is another important consideration.
You will also want to consider what sort of imagery and icons you use. If you’re in a creative industry, or a competitive one, you may want to use striking well designed icons from somewhere like Flaticon.
If you are in a traditional industry that requires a conservative approach, like wealth management for example, you may wish to opt for high quality stock imagery from somewhere like Pexels, or Shutterstock.
The expression ‘less is more’ has never been more true than when it comes to website design Norwich, UK. Whitespace is the web’s answer to less is more.
Whitespace is the art of using the empty areas of a web page to accentuate the content on the page and make it easy for visitors to take in.
Cluttered web design is a sure way of turning people off your web design and losing potential leads. It can result in a high bounce rate and in people leaving your website before they find the info they need and submitting a contact form.
This is Neil Patel’s website, which uses white space effectively to highlight the key elements on the page.
Responsive web design
You’ve probably heard the term responsive web design by now, even in Norwich. Responsive website design means a website that responds to different screen sizes.
Specifically this is talking about mobile and tablet devices, because we’ve all been using laptops and desktop for years, right? Responsive web design has been standard practice for a good 6 or 7 years now and is absolutely essential for a successful website in 2019.
Your prospective customers are busy people and may discover your website via email or one of your marketing campaigns on their phone or tablet during a break, or at home in the evening.
The chances of them dropping everything during their busy day and loading your website up on their competitor get lower and lower by the day. To check if your website is mobile responsive, you can use this free tool from Google.
2. Functionality scoping
This is a fancy way of saying we need to agree what features the website will have. Functionality in WordPress is managed through plugins, which allow you to bolt on new functionality to your website. There are a huge number of free and paid plugins, offering any kind of functionality you could think of.
You should agree with your developer what features the website should have and your developer will then be able to match that functionality to plugins and clarify if there is any bespoke plugin customisation required.
3. Picking a theme
“A WordPress theme is a collection of code, functionality and styles that you can install onto your website in the form of a theme. Installing this Theme on your WordPress website allows you to access and use the functionality and styles of the Theme using the WordPress CMS interface, page builders and any plugins provided by your theme, without having to touch any of the code.”
Most small business websites are now built using responsive, multipurpose WordPress themes. Multipurpose WordPress themes contain design and development options that allow you to build your website however you’d like, hence the term ‘multipurpose’.
In specific instances, you could use an out of the box theme designed for a specific purpose, like building a property portal. Out of the box themes allow you to import demo data, which contains the premade website in its entirety which you can then customise to match your brand.
For example, Findeo WordPress Theme is a property portal WordPress theme that you can use to build a property portal website.
These out of the box themes, as I like to call them, generally have less customiser options available. The WordPress customiser is a giant options panel that lets you control your website layout, structure, design and performance.
Multipurpose WordPress themes come with a huge amounts of options available for you, so you can do most things without code.
Out of the box themes have a lot less options available, but are designed to do one thing really well and get you started quickly without doing much building or customising.
Web design used to be a long and expensive process. A designer would create designs in Photoshop that a developer would then bring to life. This makes it difficult to alter designs or implement revisions, as everything has to go back to the design stage.
Wireframing makes this process simpler and more cost effective. With WordPress it’s possible to quickly build prototypes of how your website will look and work. Using these prototypes you can provide feedback, alter the design, add on functionality or change the way things work relatively simply without spending a fortune each time you do so.
Check out this video using the Divi Builder to see how easy wireframing is with WordPress.
Plugins are one of the key reasons why WordPress is the largest CMS in the world and powers 60% of all websites. When it comes to plugins, the sky’s the limit. If you can think of a popular feature or piece of functionality, there’s a good chance there is a free or paid plugin that will allow you to add it to your website.
WordPress has a huge plugin marketplace where you can find plugins for just about anything. Here are some of the most popular WordPress plugins to give you an idea of what’s possible with WordPress:
A visual page builder that allows you to build anything visually, Elementor Pro is compatible with any WordPress theme and has over 1,000,000 customers.
The SEO Framework
Fire your SEO agency with this nifty little plugin, which allows you to set the meta data for every page and post on your website. It even gives you simple, easy to follow bullet point lists on how to SEO optimise each post.
Build beautiful sliders for your website with no code, using an easy to use visual builder. Slider Revolution allows you to create visually stunning sliders, carousels or hero images.
Contact forms have long been a pain point when it comes to web design. WP Forms allows you to create and activate simple, well designed contact forms in a matter of minutes.
Having a website great, but once it’s live you’ll need a reliable way of generating leads from your website. Say hello to OptinMonster, an all in one plugin that allows you to boost leads and grow revenue with the website traffic you already have.
Currently the most popular ecommerce platform by market share, WooCommerce turns your WordPress website into a fully featured, completely customisable online store.
Recommended WordPress themes
The WordPress themes we’d recommend for your website design project are:
Divi – comes with the easiest to use visual page builder on the market, perfect for solopreneurs or those who will want to to edits and tweaks themselves.
Avada – this is the best option for WordPress ecommerce websites.
Total – a great multipurpose theme with tons of customiser options and the hugely popular WPBakery Page Builder premium version.
Successful small business websites should adopt a structure that is proven to work and should include the following:
- Clean, simple design
- Prominent calls to action
- Mobile responsive
- Contact form
- SEO optimisation
- Simple copy explaining who you are and what your business does
- A blog
- Google Analytics integration
- Automated backup and restore system
- Wordfence security
But isn’t WordPress just a blogging platform?
Far from it. You can build just about anything on WordPress.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at some of these successful startup websites based on WordPress.
Pro tip – if you want to check if a website is using WordPress, right click with your mouse and click ‘view source’. Type shift + F then type in WordPress.
- Litmos Heroes. “Saving the world from boring education”. Litmos Heroes is a fast growing e-learning company with a super cool WordPress based website.
3. Candy Kittens. This ecommerce startup founded by Made In Chelsea celebrity Jamie Laing uses WordPress and WooCommerce to sell a gourmet range of sweets.
Not only can you build beautiful online stores and business websites using WordPress, you can build complicated, enterprise level websites using extensions.
Here’s a list of the cool things you can build on a small business budget using WooCommerce extensions:
- Membership Websites
- Online Marketplaces
- Hotel Booking Websites
- Create Your Own Product Websites
- Property Portals
- Digital Download Stores
Just to name a few!
WooCommerce Online Stores
WooCommerce is an ecommerce plugin for WordPress that allows you to build a professional online store using the WordPress CMS. High quality online stores are no longer just for those businesses with huge budgets and can now be designed and developed on a small business budget.
Created by Automattic, the company who made WordPress, WooCommerce is affordable, customisable and extendable. It is the perfect platform to build an online store on that is sophisticated enough to be effective but not too expensive to be unaffordable.
Here are some of the key reasons why you should use WooCommerce for your online store, instead of competing platforms like Shopify or Magento:
- WooCommerce is open source. This means it is highly customisable and you can control every aspect of how your store looks, feels and functions.
- It’s affordable. Unlike legacy platforms like Magento, WooCommerce is easy to work with and the barriers to entry for building, growing or customising a store are not unreasonably high.
- It’s effective. WooCommerce comes with a one page checkout page in the WooCommerce core, which is designed to generate the highest rate of conversions for your store. WooCommerce also has a huge extensions library that you can use to grow and optimise your store.
As I mentioned above WooCommerce is super customisable and they have a large extensions library which you can make use of to cut down development time and costs when it comes to growing your store.
The WooCommerce extension store has 5 main categories:
- Cart and Checkout Features
- Product Page
- Search and Navigation
Within each of these categories are extensions, which are like large plugins, for growing your WooCommerce store.
Here are some of the most popular WooCommerce extensions that might be useful for you.
WooCommerce Checkout Add-Ons
This extension allows you to customise your checkout page, specifically by adding or editing fields and by adding upsells to the checkout page which can be free or paid, for instance gift wrapping or an insurance policy.
Variation Swatches and Photos
Recently a popular trend has emerged in ecommerce that involves using visual thumbnails of products on the colour selection dropdown for variable products. This means instead of having to select a text option for ‘blue’ or ‘red’, you can click on the thumbnail for that particular colour and add this product to your basket.
Quickview is another feature that has become popular on top performing ecommerce websites. This functionality allows user to ‘preview’ your store products before deciding whether to click through. This is a useful tool for increasing conversions and driving more users through the product pages on your store.
Remember earlier in the guide I talked briefly about hosting being where you store your website?
Well, there’s a little bit more to it than that. Hosting can be broken down into 3 areas:
- Types of hosting
- Quality of the hosting provider
- Technical specifications of hosting platform
Types of hosting
There are three types of hosting available to you.
- Dedicated servers
- Virtual hosting
- Shared hosting
For your small business website, shared hosting is the best option.
It’s the most cost effective option and if you choose the right hosting provider, it ticks the three boxes – type of hosting, quality of provider and technical specifications of the platform.
Siteground is our recommended hosting provider. They provide excellent customer support manned by actual developers, their servers are very fast and their hosting platform is technically advanced, and based on CPANEL which is the industry standard hosting platform.
Quality of the hosting provider
Do not just go with the cheapest provider unless you want to deal with non stop headaches.
The quality of your managed hosting provider is extremely important and is one of the main reasons we recommend Siteground. Do your homework, what are their reviews like and how do they provide you with support?
Things you need to look out for:
- Are their support team developers, or sales people following scripts
- Do they provide 24/7 customer support
- Are there multiple support options available like live chat and support tickets
Technical specifications of the hosting platform
This is another important consideration that will directly impact the performance of your website, so the bigger your website and the more traffic it receives, the more important this consideration becomes.
Some things you need to consider:
- What PHP version does the hosting provider support? Make sure they offer the latest version 7.3 and aren’t stuck on 5.6, which will make your website very slow.
- Do they offer CPANEL? This is the industry standard hosting platform and will make your website a lot easier to manage
- Are their servers PCI compliant for ecommerce?
- Within CPANEL can you use tools like caching and version control?
Recommended hosting provider
We recommend you use Siteground, who are our hosting partner.
You can host your website with Siteground for only £70 per year for the first year. Siteground tick all of the boxes discussed above including quality of hosting provider, technical specifications of the hosting platform and type of hosting.
How quickly your website loads is becoming an important consideration in building a business website. Google have released updates prioritizing faster websites and websites that meet a certain speed threshold.
There’s also the question of bounce rate, which I mentioned briefly above. If your website is super slow, new customers are likely to leave it rather than hang around and wait.
Here’s a free tool you can use to test the speed of your website.
Your website doesn’t have to be lightning fast to be successful, but it has to be fast enough and this means considering a few things:
- Quality of your hosting (server performance and speed)
- Number of scripts your website uses and loads
- Size of images and website content
- Performance of your WordPress theme
- The plugins you use
These are all things to discuss with your web developer, who can suggest the best course of action based on the size of your website, your budget and the industry you are in.
Social media now plays a key role in many businesses marketing strategies. Using tools like the Facebook Pixel, small businesses can re-market to people who visit their business or specific website pages and posts.
This is a powerful tool in generating leads and improving marketing return on investment. There is also the social proof element attached to a thriving social media profile, and the fact that you can nurture leads and drive more business by interacting with your customers the right way on social media.
Most premium WordPress themes come with built in social media integration making it easy to link to your social media profiles.
There are even plugins you can use to embed an Instagram feed on your website.
HTTPS and SSL
If you haven’t heard of HTTPS and SSL yet, they refer to website security. Specifically, HTTPS is the secure protocol for interacting with a website.
HTTP is the protocol that has been used for years to access websites, for example, you used to type in www.yourwebsite.com and http://would magically appear before the URL.
In recent years, with the rise of ecommerce and threats to website security, it has become necessary to add an extra layer of security to the way we visit websites.
Google has released several updates prioritising websites that use HTTPS protocol as opposed to those using HTTP.
The simple solution to this is to install an SSL certificate on your website and ensure it uses HTTPS. This encrypts all communication between your websites and visitors, making it sure.
Here’s another one of those free tools you love that allows you to check if your website is using HTTPS
Establishing a reasonable budget is important when designing a website. If your expectations are high and your budget is low, you may end up with a low quality product that does everything you’ve asked for, but not very well.
Professionally built small business websites can range from £500 to £10,000, depending on the size and functionality of the website.
The average cost of a new small business website is between £1,000-2,000 and ecommerce stores are generally between £2,000-3,000.
Factors that can affect price and either increase or decrease it are:
- Quality of design
- Size of the website
- Amount of functionality required
- Condition of the existing website
- Custom coding and development requirements
Ecommerce stores are generally more expensive and larger, existing ecommerce stores will require a larger budget for things like website redesigns or rebuilds.
Search engine optimisation is an important consideration as far as website design is concerned. If you plan on being found online and generating leads from Google, it’s incredibly important.
There are two parts to search engine optimisation, on page optimisation and off page optimisation (link building).
It’s important to pick an SEO friendly CMS platform like WordPress, which allows you to gain full control of your site structure and metadata.
With WordPress there are numerous powerful SEO plugins like The SEO Framework that allow you to manage your SEO optimisation without any coding knowledge.
Tools like Drift have made live chat so effective that it deserves its own section in this guide.
Live chat allows you to talk to your customers in real time via your website, without having to pick up a phone or send an email.
This is ideal for customer service and lead generation. Many visitors are not ready to purchase or contact you when they land on your website.
Live chat is proven to significantly increase the amount of leads generated via a website by bridging the gap between ready to talk and just looking in a no friction manner.
Drift, the best live chat application on the market, integrates seamlessly with WordPress and can be setup and installed easily through their free plugin.
WordPress is user friendly and easy to pickup. It’s also the best option for your small business. We’re so confident that we’re offering a free 30 minute phone consultation to any businesses interested in learning what WordPress could do for their business. Simply click here to schedule one.