6 Website Design Tips for SMBs

6 Website Design Tips for SMBs

6 Website Design Tips for SMBs

Small to mid-sized businesses have unique needs and constraints when it comes to designing a website. More so than with larger businesses, who can hire their own in-house web design teams, SMBs have the challenge of finding a great web designer or firm, keeping on top of the process, and, of course, finding money in the budget for the project. Here are 5 website design tips for SMBs to help guide you through the process.

#1 Remember That it’s Always a Work in Progress

A website is never really “done.” Which is exactly the opposite of what you want to hear, but it’s true. The internet is constantly and rapidly changing, as is the way people interact with it. This means that your website needs to roll with the punches and be adaptable to change.

Unlike the standard, static marketing assets of the past, like billboards or pamphlets, your website is dynamic. Visitors aren’t just looking at an image or reading text—they’re looking at your images, reading your text, submitting forms, clicking on menus and links, and hitting the call button. This means that all of those things need to be working, all the time and that those things can break or become outdated, and they’ll need to be updated.

Plus, the internet loves things that are new. Regularly adding and refreshing your website design and content are critical to providing website visitors with the best experience and to achieve your desired ranking in search results.  

#2 Hire a Professional to Design your Site

We cannot stress this enough: Hire a professional to design your site. There are a lot of reasons why you should do this, but the most compelling are that your site is too important to DIY and that when it comes to website design, you’re usually getting what you pay for.

Yes, there are a lot of programs out there that claim to allow you to design beautiful custom sites for free, and some of them are great—for bloggers or personal websites. 

If you have a niche Etsy business knitting Game of Thrones costumes for cats, and you think it’s time for a website, one of those free website builders is probably a good tool for you. 

You don’t have the budget or the need for anything truly custom on your site, and you’re not going to lose potential customers with a less than perfect user experience on your site—if someone really wants a GoT cat costume, you’re probably the only place they can get it.

But if you’re running a small to mid-sized business that operates more in the professional realm, those free website builders don’t have what you need. 

While they claim to offer custom sites, you’re provided with a limited range of templates to choose from, most of which are fairly basic in their appearance and functionality. You might be able to customize those templates, to an extent, if you’re skilled with CSS (and often, embark on a paid subscription with the solution). And, quite frankly, there are a lot of things those free website building platforms just can’t support, things like external landing pages, employee or client portals, and complicated site maps with extensive menus and pathways.

#3 No Really, Hire a Professional

Okay, so you might see this and think, “that’s fine, I won’t use a free website building platform. But I still don’t have to hire a pro. The IT team/person can code a website for us for free.” Please, we beseech you, do not do this. 

While we’re sure that your IT team is full of skilled professionals with great levels of talent, this isn’t a great idea for a couple of reasons:

The first being that a custom hard-coded website will be inaccessible to non-coders. If your IT team builds it, there won’t be a user interface that say, HR can log into to update the job postings. All changes will have to go through someone who knows how to code.

Additionally, if the person or people who built your site ever leave your company, you could be left with a website on your hands that no one can update, and in the worst-case scenario, a PR nightmare when a disgruntled employee who built the site has complete control over it.

Especially since you run an SMB, you don’t have the bandwidth or the payroll to have all your website design handled in-house. But hiring a website designer can provide you a high-quality, attractive, functional website that you can access and update. 

#4 Choose a Good Platform to Build it in

We already touched on this a little in the previous section, but don’t use a free website builder. It’s not going to be a robust solution or give you all the functionality that you need. Instead, choose a platform that is going to give you all the functionality you need, and be something that you can use. So stay away from Wix.com and opt for something a little more heavy-duty, like Drupal, Joomla, or WordPress.

There are a lot of internal stakeholders in a company website, even in an SMB. After all, a website isn’t just a marketing or sales tool, it’s also an asset for customer service, HR, employees, and other people and departments internally. 

This can mean that there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen; HR needs to update job postings, customer service needs to live chat with site visitors who have questions, the marketing manager needs to log in to approve and post blog posts, etc. 

All of these people (and more) need login credentials, so your site’s backend needs to accommodate that. But not only do these people need to log in to the back end, they need to have clearly defined permissions, and they also need to be able to find and do what they need to do, without having to become coders themselves. The back end UX needs to be almost as good as the front end UX to ensure that all of the moving parts keep moving in sync.

#5 Make Sure That You Can Make Changes

This goes back to what we said before about hiring a professional and not hard-coding a site, as well as choosing a good platform to build your website in. It even hearkens back to point #1: remember that it’s always a work in progress. You’re going to need to make changes to your website—all the time. You need to make sure it’s easy to do that.

For the things you can change internally (updating some text, etc.), you need to make sure the platform you build your site with and the content management system (CMS) has multiple logins and permission levels, and that it’s user-friendly.

For the bigger things, you need to make sure that you can easily get those changed when you need to. Part of that is having a good relationship with your website designer. Are they transparent and communicative? Do they follow through and stick to the schedule? 

Another aspect is using a CMS like WordPress that’s somewhat universal. If your web designer goes on vacation or the firm you were using shutters its doors, you’ll need a site that another designer can access and update as the need arises.

#6 Work With Your Website Designer

Designing a website is not something your website designer can do in a vacuum. You’re going to have to provide your designer with information to go on—more than just your company name, your logos, and the pages that you want. Your website designer is going to need to have a sense of not only what your company does but how you do it, and what your brand is. This includes your logos and colors, but encompasses so much more, like the tone of your content and the kind of language you use, as well as the most intuitive ways to structure the information on your site.

Your website designer is going to need to get a sense of your company’s identity, so that your site can adequately communicate your brand identity to website visitors and your future customers. The designer is creating the site, but it needs to look and read and navigate in a way that is authentic to your brand, relevant to your industry, and inviting to your potential clients. The designer is going to need your collaboration and cooperation to do this.

So, share as much information as you can about your company, your processes, and your needs and vision for your new website design. They’re also going to need access to things like originals of your logos, brand style guides, and other image assets. Any marketing materials or other public-facing company documents can also be useful to your website designer, too.

Thinking about building a website for your SMB? We’d love to help. We’ve got serious experience building sites for SMBs in a variety of industries, from manufacturing to home building to construction. We’d love to help build yours too

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What to Know About the Website Design Process

What to Know About the Website Design Process

What to Know About the Website Design Process

Designing a new website is an exciting—and anxious—time! It can open your business up to a whole new set of prospects and leads and modernize your marketing and sales strategy. But if you’ve never done it before, or it’s been a good long while since your site was last updated, the web design process can seem opaque and confusing. 

Here’s what to know about the website design process to ensure it goes smoothly:

Share All the Information You Can at Your Initial Sessions

The web design process begins with a discovery phase or a brainstorming session, where you share information about your business. This covers the gamut, from what you do and how you do it to your products to your logo to your design preferences to your ideal customers. 

Everything and anything you can share with your website design team will be valuable. 

Why? 

Because your site not only needs to be beautiful and functional, it needs to convey important information to website visitors, convert those visitors into leads, and do it in your brand’s voice. In order to do this, the team designing your website will need to know your audience—who is going to be visiting your website—so your site can communicate with them effectively.

Give Your Designer Somewhere to Start 

Sharing all you can with your website designer or design team doesn’t only apply to information—it also applies to documents, images, and other useful resources and assets.

Any existing marketing materials like brochures, photos, logos, flyers, and customer-facing informational documents can be extremely helpful to your designer in:

(a) understanding what your company does

(b) understanding your brand voice

(c ) including those assets (like logos) on your site

Share All Logo Files

When it comes to sharing assets, particularly logos, make sure you share everything. This helps ensure a smooth web design process.

The .jpg of your logo that you use in your email signature isn’t going to be enough: your website designer will need access to the originals in any and every format you have them in order to format them correctly to display on your website and provide visitors with a consistent brand experience. We’re talking .psd, .png, .tif, .jpg, all of them.

If you don’t have these assets, and you’ve just been using a 20 KB .jpg image in all of your brand communications, talk to your website designer about your options. They may be able to create a web-ready version of your logo, or direct you to someone who can.

Hand Over the Reins

For a website design process to be successful, you have to relinquish some control to the designer. If you want total control over the design of your website, you’d have to design it yourself. And with your existing responsibilities, you just don’t have time to do it. Plus, even though you’re an expert in your field, you’re probably not also a web design or graphic design expert. 

This is true of your employees as well. Even if your technical writer is amazing and you think she could write your website content and you have an IT guy who knows a bunch of coding languages, it’s still best to hire pros. 

Website designers have the expertise and the time that your employees with other specialties and duties simply don’t have. Your IT guy needs to be troubleshooting computer issues, not tied up hard-coding your site. 

Plus, hiring professionals to design your site ensures that your site is up-to-date with the latest web design best practices, future-proofed for upcoming changes, and that a disgruntled employee with admin access to your site doesn’t cause unprecedented damage to your brand and reputation on their way out the door.

Let the Designer Do Their Job

This goes along with the last point. You have to trust the designer to do the job you hired them to do, and you have to let them do it. This means that while you’re allowed to share your vision for the appearance and function of the site, you can’t dictate every last thing down to the placement of every button.

Web designers are skilled and credentialed professionals with years of experience designing websites, and they know the best practices for how your site navigation show work and where buttons should be placed. 

If they say you shouldn’t only have one page for all of your services, but to break them out into multiple pages, there’s a good reason for that. If you choose to go against your website designer’s recommendations, the designer might give you what you ask for, but you’ll be hamstringing your site in terms of user experience and SEO performance. 

The Web Design Process Doesn’t Happen Overnight

Website design is not as easy as just plugging your information into an already created shell and just changing the colors. It takes time to lay out the sitemap, write the page content, create visual assets and design elements, research keywords, gather information about your company and offerings and put all of that together to create a website. 

Plus, there are many factors that will influence how long your site design takes. How quickly do you get back to the designer with information? How quickly do you approve concepts or content? How many pages will your site need to be? What special features or design elements does your site require? Adding on to any of these factors will add to the length of the design process.

Some designers will tell you that they can create a custom website for you super quickly and super cheaply—this is usually too good to be true. In these cases, you’ll likely get what you paid for: a “custom” design that looks mysteriously like a bunch of other sites you’ve seen on the web, stretched out and pixelated graphics, broken links, and typos. While a good solution today might be better than a perfect solution tomorrow, a bad solution is never the right option, even if it could have been implemented yesterday.

Interested in building your own company’s website? We’d love to help. As an inbound marketing and growth agency, we develop websites that are both beautiful and functional. Get in touch to see what we can build for you.

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5 Common Website Design Misconceptions

5 Common Website Design Misconceptions

5 Common Website Design Misconceptions

There are a lot of bad ideas out there about how websites are designed and the entirety of the web design process: about the difficulty, about the cost, and about what goes into the process.

There are a lot of factors to blame here, like our ideas about the internet being “free” along with DIY website tools trying to get user and media representations of people setting up websites in seconds. (Which just doesn’t happen, sorry.) Website design is infinitely more nuanced than that.

So to clear that up, here are 5 common website design misconceptions and the reality behind them.

Misconception #1: Web Design is Easy

No. Just no. 

Web design is a complex process, requiring a lot of knowledge and experience. Web designers need to know various programming languages like JavaScript and C++; various CMS like WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla; understand marketing best practices, like where to place calls-to-action (CTAs); understand internet user behavior, what they’ll respond to, what they click on; and have a strong understanding of visual design. 

Does that seem like a lot? It is. And it’s not something that just anyone can do well on the first try. Most web designers have all kinds of professional training, and the best ones have years of experience designing websites that not only look great but also work to pull in qualified leads. 

In addition, there is a lot of research that does into the design of a website in order to accurately reflect your company’s brand and voice and to do so in a way that appeals to your ideal customers.

Misconception #2: Web Design Shouldn’t Cost So Much

Web design shouldn’t cost so much. We hear it a lot. 

By that logic, nothing should cost as much as it does, and gas should still be a $0.36 per gallon like it was in 1970. Sounds nice, but it’s just not realistic. Good web design isn’t cheap, but the price isn’t unfair.

With web design, which is a difficult and complex process requiring advanced knowledge of programming languages, various CMS, and visual design, you get what you pay for. If you want beautiful and functional design, you have to be willing to pay the going rate.

If you skimp on design, you’re going to end up with a site that isn’t user-friendly, mobile-responsive, or attractive, and it’s not going to do much for you. Visitors won’t convert to leads on a poorly designed site, and what little money you put into the design won’t even be worth it.

A well-designed site, on the other hand, will delight visitors, provide them with a comfortable and seamless experience, and lead them to convert. Your website isn’t just a billboard for your company, and it needs to be doing more to drive sales, through conversions. A cheaply designed site won’t do that.When you put money into a good design, you’ll see the ROI of your decision in website conversions. Click To Tweet

It’s important to remember that web design is about more than making your website pages look pretty. It’s also about defining and embodying your brand in the online space. This means ensuring consistency with your existing brand standards, designing logos and images, and making other aesthetic decisions to represent your brand accurately and in a way that appeals to your existing and ideal customers.

Misconception #3: Designing a Website Shouldn’t Take This Long

This is one of the most  common website design misconceptions, and it goes hand-in-hand with “web design is easy” and “web design shouldn’t cost so much.” Web design isn’t easy, and a good design is going to take time, especially when you consider all that goes into it: designing the page structure, the images and design elements, the color scheme, the written content, and the functionality. 

 If a website really was just a digital version of a billboard, then yes, it would make sense that it could be designed in a day. But a website is infinitely more complex than that, which, of course, is a benefit. A website can do more, and it’s worth more as an asset. You need to be willing to invest the necessary time in the process to get the best result.

Misconception #4: Anyone Can Build a Website

We blame this one on the free-for-all days of the early internet and hosting platforms that promise they can help you build a professional-looking website yourself, with no expertise. 

There are a million DIY website tools out there being used by all sorts of people for various reasons. And while as someone who isn’t a web designer, you can probably make do with a free site on WordPress.com or Wix for your personal blog, that just isn’t going to cut it for a mid-size to large business.

Why do you need to hire a professional web design firm for your business site? First, the size and complexity of your site. A free website tool is great for a website with one or two pages, but your company’s site is going to have way more than that, in complex hierarchies. You’re going to want a professional’s help to ensure that pages are organized correctly and are easily, intuitively found by website visitors.

Additionally, DIY website tools will lack the functionality you need for a professional site. Features like plugins for collecting email addresses or visitor retargeting, an ecommerce platform, landing pages, or a custom theme to fit your brand guidelines aren’t available with a standard web design tool.

If you need anything more that standard blog posts or pages with text and images—which you undoubtedly will—you’re going to want a pro to build your site on a sophisticated CMS (content management system).

In regards to using a sophisticated CMS, the software necessary to build a robust, functional, and attractive website is not itself easy to learn or user-friendly, and at times, it can be confusing or difficult. Web designers have years of experience with various CMS and can navigate and manipulate them with ease. 

As a novice, it’s a website design misconception that you could build a high-quality, high-performing website by yourself. You’d need a lot of training, and trial and error, to get to the necessary level of competence. Certain programming languages may also be required to achieve your desired website appearance and function, with web developers will be well-versed in, but which is incomprehensible to those without web design experience.

Misconception #5: Web Design Should be Done In-House

We get it, you don’t want to pay someone else to do something you could do yourself. The thing is, website design isn’t something you should (or could) do yourself.

Yes, you have an IT department and they’re all geniuses with computers. That doesn’t mean they should be designing your website. Why?

IT and web design are vastly different specialties with less overlap than the non-techies think. Your IT team may not have experience designing websites at all, especially professional ones for businesses with many and varied needs.

Additionally, foisting a website design project onto your IT team is going to get in the way of them doing their primary and necessary function—keeping your company running.

Unless you’re at an extremely large, global enterprise, it just doesn’t make sense to hire a web designer or web design team for the one or two websites you need. If you have fifteen different branches with their own sites and are constantly growing, maybe you do need a team—but that’s not likely to be your situation. For medium to large organizations, the budget and the necessity of hiring a web design team isn’t there. 

We hope this blog helped clear up a few common misconceptions about website design! With these in mind, are you ready to build your new website? Let’s chat.

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Hey! We’re Evenbound

Hey! We’re Evenbound

Hey! We’re Evenbound

HA Digital Marketing → Evenbound

HA Digital Marketing is now Evenbound. And that change goes way beyond our new website and name. Here’s why we’re making the switch, and what it means for you.

Earlier this year, our team sat down to take a good look at where we were, and where we wanted to be. We looked hard at our mission, our purpose, and our vision for our company, and we realized that we’d started to outgrow the HA Digital Marketing name. Some amazing insights came from our sessions last fall, and one of our favorites is our team’s purpose, “to create joyful clients.”

With that new purpose at the heart of this rebrand, we settled on the name Evenbound. Equal parts inbound marketing and outbound marketing working together to deliver the most meaningful results for our clients.

Inbound + Outbound = Evenbound

Whatever goals you’re working towards, we’re here to support them. Our purpose is to create joyful clients, and we do that by delivering the marketing and sales support that best helps you reach those growth goals.

What about your team and your services? Are those changing?

As we move deeper into our rebrand, you can still expect to hear directly from your favorite people here at Evenbound. You’ll probably even start hearing from some new team members. As you might know, we recently moved into an expanded, renovated office space. That move gave us plenty of room to keep on growing our workforce, so we can offer more clients the very best service.

Speaking of services…

You can also expect the same great service offerings you’ve come to know and love. The only difference is that you’re going to start seeing some new services, and improvements to our service delivery. With new space and new staff, we’ll be able to expand the types of services we offer while keeping up the great quality and results you expect from the Evenbound team.

How are you going to support all those new websites?

We’re excited to announce that we’ve recently partnered with WP Engine to provide website hosting services to all of our clients. This recently improved WP Engine hosting platform is built on new Google C2 servers which is 40% faster than any other WordPress hosting option on the market today. It gives us the ability to develop better, more creative, and faster-performing websites for our clients.

This is just one investment that we’re making that aligns with our purpose to create joyful clients. We know that when your site looks better and performs better than the competition, you’re going to get the leads. This switch to WP Engine will make that happen.

Are you going to host any more events?

We’re so glad you asked. We’re proud to say that our company has grown more than 60% year over year for the past few years. And we did it using our own marketing strategies. Since we know how to make growth happen, and we’ve done it, both for our clients and for ourselves, we think it’s time to take that info on the road.

As we continue on the expansion path of this rebrand, we’re planning to roll out fun educational opportunities that will help support our business community. These events will give us the chance to share what’s worked for us in the past, what hasn’t, and ultimately what you can do to see the same kind of growth we have.

Anything else we should look out for?

Yup. The biggest obstacle we see in this new rebrand is simply awareness. To combat that, and to make sure we’re repositioning ourselves where we’d like to be in the market, we’re planning to blanket the West Michigan market with awareness. 

You’re going to start seeing our faces everywhere. When you do, we’d appreciate your support spreading our message with a quick comment, review, or share. Let’s start conversations that help people.

That’s it for now, but there is certainly more to come as we move forward with this rebrand, and as we continue to grow. Be sure to keep an eye out for additional updates from us! And, before you go, we’d like to say thank you.

Thank You!

This rebrand wouldn’t have been possible without our amazing clients and partners. We’re expanding our capabilities and services so we can help you reach your goals faster, but we wouldn’t be able to do that without your continued confidence in our team. Thank you for your ongoing support and trust.

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Website Design Checklist: Does Your Site Have What it Takes?

Website Design Checklist: Does Your Site Have What it Takes?

Designing a new website can be a time- and money-intensive process, so naturally, when you do decide to redesign your site, you want to make sure that you’re getting your money’s worth and creating a beautiful and functional site that helps drive business growth.  If you’re designing a new website, here is a comprehensive website design checklist to help you see if your site has what it takes to attract visitors, convert leads, and foster growth.

✔️ Calls to Action (CTAs)

No website is going to convert visitors into leads without calls to action (CTAs). If you want your website visitors to do something, like enter their contact information into a form or to give you a call or to request a quote, you need to ask them to do that, and you need to make it an easy process.

CTAs are generally clickable buttons with text prompting a specific action, and they should appear in intuitive places on your site, like the top right corner, across your banner image on the homepage, or after useful blog content.

✔️ Landing Pages

A landing page is a page a website visitor lands on when they visit your site from a specific place or link. Landing pages are useful for directing visitors to content or actions that are relevant to them and that you want them to see, based on their behaviors and interests.

If you don’t have landing pages, your PPC ads are not going to get great results. If you just direct people who click on your ad to your homepage, they aren’t going to know what to do next, and they’re probably not going to do what you want them to do, which is likely to give you their contact information or get in touch with your company. A landing page limits visitors’ options and presents them with exactly the content and calls to action that are relevant to them and are therefore more likely to convert.

✔️ Great Images

So much of what we respond to is image-based (insert cliche about how 1 picture = 1000 words), that a site needs great images to compete. Gone are the days of irrelevant stock photos of people in business suits and pixelated images from a digital camera that someone in HR took at the company picnic. High quality, professional images of your facilities, products, processes, or people are going to be attractive to website visitors.

This is especially true if you’re in a B2C industry where they way your products or the results of your services look matter. For example, custom home builders need to have images of the gorgeous homes they build, because that’s what their website visitors want to see. These kinds of images are also perfect for social sharing across a variety of platforms, from Facebook to Instagram to Pinterest.

✔️ Mobile-Responsiveness

It’s 2019. Your site needs to be mobile-responsive. Click To Tweet More than 60 percent of all searches happen on mobile devices, and more than 77 percent of adults in the world own a smartphone. If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, you’re missing out on a ton of traffic.

Mobile-responsive design isn’t difficult to accomplish, either. Selecting a template for your design that is mobile-responsive will ensure that your content is readable on the tiniest of phone screens and the biggest tablet and that nothing is cut off or hidden to the far right where no one will scroll.

✔️ Fast Load Times

If your site takes too long to load, your design isn’t effective. According to HubSpot, most mobile users expect a website to load in less than four seconds. Not only that, but a one-second delay in page loading means a reduction in page views by 11 percent and a seven percent reduction in conversions. That’s a big deal.

To keep load times fast, make sure that you incorporate best practices, like enabling browser caching, optimizing your images and CSS, and controlling when external Javascript files load.

✔️ Blog

A good website without a blog is like a new car with no gas—it’s not going anywhere, and you’re not going to get to show it off. Click To Tweet Why? Because content is one of the main ways to drive organic traffic from search engines to your website.

In order to do that, search engines need to crawl your content and find keywords in your content. Search engines rank sites with more unique instances of a keyword and more regularly updated content higher, meaning those sites are more likely to be seen by searchers in the search results for that term and are more likely to get clicked on.

Besides that, a blog is an important way of marketing to your clients and establishing brand awareness and authority. Your blog content shouldn’t just be company updates (though you can include some company updates if you want!). It should address the specific problems, challenges, and stages in the buyer’s journey that your ideal clients are experiencing.

If you can provide content that answers their questions about your industry, product, or service, you’re more likely to show up in their searches, and when they do read your content, they’re more likely to find it useful and even convert.

✔️ SEO-Friendly

Your website should also be SEO-friendly. SEO (search engine optimization) is another critical factor in getting ranked by search engines and appearing in organic search results for your desired search terms. A good website is going to be SEO-friendly by incorporating keyword-targeted content, relevant, keyword-optimized image alt tags, and on-page SEO including site tiles, social media sharing buttons, title tags, etc.

✔️ Reliable CMS (Content Management System)

A custom web design that was hard-coded by a web designer or someone in IT is a bad idea for a lot of reasons. It’s difficult to maintain custom code, it requires a lot of skill and time to produce, and if the developer leaves the company on bad terms, your site could go with them.

That’s why every website should operate on a reliable CMS (content management system), such as WordPress or Joomla. (We use WordPress.) A CMS allows for multi-user access, a user-friendly interface for making changes and updates, design templates that are optimized for mobile, and a content publishing platform that is easy to use.

Did your site come up a little short after reading that checklist? We’d love to help. As an inbound marketing and growth agency, beautiful, functional websites are what we do every day. Let’s chat.


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