The Importance Of A Website For Business
The importance of a website for business cannot be overstated. Every business these days has to have a website. For a business centered on a visual product like cakes, an attractive, well designed and user friendly website is critical. Getting there, for those who prefer sugar flowers over software and piping over copywriting, can seem a daunting task. Fortunately, there are many do-it-yourself website building tools now available that simplify the process, even for those who are technologically challenged.
Do a little research, find the website builder software package that fits your needs and budget, and check out user reviews and expert recommendations. Then, once you’ve decided on which one is for you, get to work with the following guidelines in mind.
1. Images Are Everything When Considering the Importance of a Business Website
When it comes to cakes, you can tell people you can create “anything their imaginations can dream up,” but seeing is believing. Even if every single cake you design is completely custom made, you need to show examples of your work(and plenty of them!) to entice potential customers to contact you.
A prospective client’s buying decision starts with seeing what you create. Take well-lit, sharply focused photos of your work from various angles, and include close-ups. Make sure the software package you use offers a function that allows site visitors to automatically enlarge photos if they want a closer look. If visitors can’t see details, they’ll go elsewhere.
Also, be sure you have photo editing software to do any needed touching up, cropping, brightening or color correcting to your photos prior to uploading them to your site. Don’t go overboard with photo editing, though. Keep dimensions the same as your originals so as not to distort your images, and don’t incorporate things like “soft focus” filters that will downplay the details you work so hard to create.
When uploading images, save them at no higher than 100 dpi. Higher resolutions, while ideal for photo printing, are not conducive to web design, as they will cause your site’s pages to load slowly. If your pages load too slowly, visitors will lose interest quickly and leave your site, causing you to lose a potential sale.
Finally, it should go without saying, but never, ever use photos of work that’s not yours on your site, even if it’s meant only to be an example of what you can do. If you want to show a type of cake on your site and you don’t have any pictures of it, make it! Either make a display cake with decoration only or, if you’re feeling altruistic, find a cause to donate the cake to so your creation has a dual purpose – providing an image for your website and philanthropy.
2. Home Sweet Home
First impressions are always important, and the Web is no different. That’s why it’s critical that your website has a really great home page. Your home page is your chance to “grab” visitors with a traffic-stopping image, begin building your brand in their minds with your design identity, give them just enough info to entice them further into your website, and provide them with a quick and easy way to contact you if they want to do so right away.
Keeping a home page clean, concise and compelling is key. Don’t bombard visitors with too much at once. If they feel overwhelmed, they’ll go away. Give them a large, stunning image to look at (more if you use software that will scroll images across or rotate them for you), a quick description of your business that could include a brief welcome message or “mission statement,” and your website’s header and footer. Whenever possible, keep everything “above the fold,” so that all images and information can be seen immediately upon landing on the page, with no scrolling down necessary.
No page on your website is more important than your home page. Spend some time perfecting it, as you would an important cake, and the return on your investment will be worth it.
3. On Every Page
You wouldn’t create a flyer without including your business name and contact information, would you? Think of each page of your website as a single flyer. If a visitor is looking at any one page, they should know who you are and how to contact you immediately. Don’t make them hunt for this information – include your logo and a tagline for your business (if you have one) in the header for each site page, and your phone number and address either in the header or footer.
If you ship your cakes, include a brief statement like “We ship nationwide” in your header or footer. Don’t count on website visitors reading the body text of any of your site’s pages to learn this important information – put it big and bold in the header or footer to grab their attention before they leave your site to go looking for a local baker.
Your header also should contain the same navigation menu on every page for visual consistency and user friendliness. The home page should be accessible from the navigation menu, as well as linked from your logo in the header.
In your site’s footer, include icons for any social media accounts you have. Link these icons to your social media pages so that the social media pages open up in a new browser window, keeping your website open at the same time.
4. Getting to Know You – The Importance Of A Website For Business
Cakes are a personal affair. No one goes to the expense or effort to order a custom cake “just because.” Cakes are ordered for special occasions, and your potential customers want to trust that you have their best interests at heart to help make their special occasions everything they want them to be.
To entrust you to potential clients, including an “About Us” page on your site. Incorporate photos of you and your staff to personalize it, along with a brief bio about yourself and any designers working for you. Include your mission statement or business philosophy, along with information about any charitable work you do. Position yourself as a design expert with a passion for your work and for others.
5. Finders Keepers
Clear, easy navigation is essential to keeping visitors on your site for any length of time. If your site visitors are looking for samples or information they can’t find quickly, they’ll soon go elsewhere.
Think carefully and completely about your site’s navigation before you build it. Make a list of the pages to include on the site, and determine which ones should be main pages, and which are logical subpages of the main pages.
Create a site map on paper identifying all of these pages and subpages, and let it “marinate” for a day or two. Give yourself some time to make any adjustments you feel are needed, and consider getting a second and even third opinion on the map to ensure that things are categorized and organized in a manner others would find sensible too.
When picking your navigation menu options, choose words that are short yet clearly descriptive. Being creative is certainly an option in the creative world of cake design, but avoid being so creative that menu options become obscure. “Our Story” and “Let’s Talk!” could be less common options for “About Us” and “Contact Us,” yet when used in a navigation menu, they still would paint a fairly clear picture of the kinds of pages those options would link to.
6. Go Easy on the Eyes
Avoid patterned backgrounds on your web pages, and use fonts and type sizes that make copy easy to read. If you have great eyesight, ask someone who doesn’t to honestly critique the legibility of your site. If your text is difficult to read, visitors will give up and go away.
Typically, it’s best to stay away from dark backgrounds on web pages as well. Some exceptions can be made if photos are playing the starring role, while text is kept large and to a minimum, and fonts are fairly simple. On pages where more than just a few lines of copy are needed, stick with a plain, light-colored background.
Again, since your product is a visual one, use lots of photos throughout your site. If any pages call for a significant amount of text, break it up with images and, if possible, section headlines or subheads. This not only creates a more attractive page, it also enables your potential customers to find pertinent information more easily.
7. The Contact Sport
In addition to having your phone number and location in the header or footer of every page on your site, you should have a separate “Contact Us” page with this information, plus a form that site visitors can use to send you an inquiry. Be sure the “send” button directs these inquiries to an email address you check regularly.
While it might seem logical to publish your email address on your website, don’t . Doing so opens the spam floodgates, and you’ll spend precious time sifting through a sea of unwanted emails in search of legitimate ones.
8. Increase the Value, Build a Database
A great way to add value to your site while building a database of potential clients is to publish a newsletter, blog or both in conjunction with your site. Even if you don’t feel you have the writing chops or the time in the beginning to devote to creating this content, you can start building your reader database with a “Coming Soon” sign-up button on your site. Of course, if you commit to “coming soon,” you have to deliver, so make sure you can before you make the promise. If you’d rather not commit to a full newsletter or blog, simply ask site visitors to sign up if they’d like to receive news, sales announcements, class schedules, etc. from you.
One of the most popular and easy-to-use website platforms is WordPress. WordPress is an open-source platform meaning that it is free to use. Check them out at wordpress.com.
9. Keep it Fresh – The Importance Of A Website For Business
Change is good. Embrace the fact that your website is an ongoing project. In today’s rapidly changing world, people bore quickly of things that stagnate. Fortunately, the very nature of your business requires constant creation, so as you churn out new designs, photograph them and add the best ones to your site. Rotate photos on your home page to show that you’re prolific, current and continually creating. All of this activity also will send a subliminal message that your client roster is lengthy and your work is in high demand.
10. Talk About It
You can build it, but they won’t come unless they know about it. Talk up your new site on social media and message boards, and send a news release about it to bridal and parenting magazines. Make sure your web address is on everything you hand out, from business cards and brochures to client contracts and receipts. Anywhere you market your services, from conventions to county fairs, presents another opportunity for you to drive traffic to your site.
Look into SEO practices to rank your site higher in search engines and when in doubt, hire an expert. The money you invest could be returned tenfold when it delivers more potential customers to the website you spent time creating.
Brush up your baking skill with tips and techniques offered in our Baking Basics section.
Be sure to share your website pictures and experiences with us below! I look forward to seeing your creations.