Most customers go online to choose what they’ll buy. Why can’t they find many businesses there, asks Gill South

A large number of small businesses in New Zealand still do not have their own websites, which is remarkable considering the vast majority of consumers research their purchases online before making a decision.

And even those businesses that do have websites may not have them as well designed as they might think. Websites are not something that you create and leave; they should be constantly amended to keep browsers engaged and coming back for more. They should also be linked with the rest of your social media.

Companies looking at creating a website or redesigning their website should always keep it very simple, says Linda Coles, social media consultant and the author of Learn Marketing with Social Media in 7 Days.

"For instance, when someone lands on your home page, can they easily see what it is that your business does in easy-to-understand words?" she says. "Is the top navigation easy to navigate to what you want?"


Are you making your company easy to reach, she asks. "I always wonder why people put the "Contact Us" button right at the very end of the navigation. Is making contact the last thing you want people to do? Surely not!"

Some companies surprisingly don't make it terribly easy for interested parties to make contact.

"How easy is it for prospects to do so? Do you have a telephone number and an email address clearly visible?" she asks. "Or do you make your prospects fill in boxes as if they are applying to get into Parliament?"

Another bugbear of Coles is the less than inspiring "About You" page some company websites have. "Your 'About ? ' page is about you, the team and the company. Have you got photos of who you are? People buy from people, not companies," she points out.

For Nicky Perry, creative director at Creative Current, a boutique design company, taking time to present your website in the best way possible is well worth it.

"Looks are everything. First impressions do count," she says.

A business also has to have a strong sense of what their brand is to do a website well, she says. "I believe the key to any website's success is a clear brand identity. You need to be able to communicate your message well and in a way that is situationally relevant," she says.

And there is room for being yourself, showing the type of business you really are, she adds.

"Don't be too serious but provide honest and clear information about your business," she says. "And make sure you provide a call to action on the home page. Too many clicks turn people off."

Once you have your website the way you want it, it's important to know that you can easily change what is on there, says Richard Conway, director of search engine optimisation specialist, Pure SEO.

"The first thing we tell new clients is that they should get a website with a content management system (CMS)," says Conway. This way they can manage and update the website themselves without having to pay a developer.

"We tell people to go for an open-source CMS, which means the CMS is developed in a platform like Wordpress, Drupal, Joomela or Magento. The website owner can take the website on a DVD and move it to another website developer."

Never develop a website in Flash, he adds. "While they can look great they are terrible for search engine optimisation and do not work on mobile apple devices."

Lastly, it is important to focus on 'responsive web design', says Conway. This relates to making sure the user experience works well, no matter what device or screen size they are looking at the website from.

"More and more people browse from smart devices such as iPhones and iPads so websites must look great on all the platforms," says Conway.

Top tips for creating your company website:
• Make it clear what your company does on your home page, in a glance.

• Make your contact details easy to find and uncomplicated. A phone number and email address is ideal.

• Include photos of you and your team so people can relate to you.

• Keep updating your website with interesting news about your sector. Make your website engaging.

• Have a special section for awards or testimonials your company has won.

• Make sure your website is developed on a content management system (CMS) so you can manage and update the website yourselves.

• When designing your website make sure that it can be browsed from any device, computer, android phone or iPad.

• Use of video