A business doesn’t have to do e-commerce to benefit from having a professionally designed website. Most local brick-and-mortar businesses nowadays rely on their internet presence to connect with customers and bring them into the store. The majority of consumers are now searching for local products and companies before they shop or while they’re out. Without a website, a local business cannot hope to capture those potential customers.
If you run a local business and need to build a website or upgrade the one you have, there is help available. A local web designer who understands your business and your market is the best partner for the job. While the process of building a website is unique for each client, local web designers go through the following general steps.
Step One: Establish the Purpose of the Site and the Target Audience
The process of building a website begins with a conversation between the designer and the client. It is essential to discuss the goals of the business and the purpose of the site. A website is just one element of an overall marketing strategy, so the discussion needs to establish how the site should contribute to that strategy.
For example, will the website be used for e-commerce? Will it be used to develop an email marketing list by collecting information from users? Will it be a platform where the business can interact with customers? Will customers find the website when they use specific keywords in a Google search?
One of the keys to answering these questions is to know the target audience. A local web designer who is a member of the client’s community will have an in-depth understanding of the client’s target customers. This knowledge includes who they are, where they live, when they shop, and how they shop. These details are essential in customizing a website’s user experience for specific groups.
Step Two: Choose a Domain Name
Once the site’s purpose is established and the target audience or audiences defined, the next step in building a website for a local business is choosing a domain name. Though a relatively small detail, the right domain name, and URL will help customers find the site when they search.
For example, a great domain name is easy to spell and remember. Your domain should be short and descriptive, not too broad or too narrow in focus. The name should avoid numbers or unusual spellings that would make it hard for users to remember. A geotag, such as a city name, in the URL can help local customers find the site when searching for a nearby business.
A local web designer can help you choose a domain name that will positively represent your business and brand. In turn, this will help to improve your search engine page ranking.
Step Three: Select a Theme
A theme is a basic visual template that provides a distinct look and style to a website. A theme includes a background color or image, text styles, and the layout of text and images on the page. The theme of a website is a crucial design element because it needs to convey the business’s brand. It also needs to provide all of the information local customers need to find. This information would include the name of the business, its location, and its phone number. This information should be displayed consistently on every page within a website.
There are many pre-made themes available to choose from, and most can be customized. While it is possible to build your theme from scratch, there are benefits of using a pre-made theme. First is cost, having a theme built for you saves you the time of coding a site from the ground up. Second, a well-built theme should already be responsive and display well on all browsers.
A local web designer can either design an entirely new theme or customize an existing one. The theme should align with the website’s goals and work well for every customer. Since users tend to encounter similar sites over and over, opting for a unique design will help your website stand out and grab your customers’ attention.
Step Four: Design the Overall Structure of the Site and Build the Pages
The next step in building a website is the actual construction of the pages that will make up the site. This phase has to start with an overall plan for the site’s architecture. To make this plan, the web designer and client need to discuss what kind of content the site will feature. In addition to a home page, a website might include an about page, pages for each type of service or product, pages for each physical location, a blog, an FAQ, and an e-commerce component, to name a few.
The key to putting these elements together is to create a streamlined architecture. The architecture should be easy to navigate, both for human visitors and for search engines. Web designers need to consider how to categorize content, what menus and sub-menus to use, and where to place internal links from one page to another. Sub-menus are particularly valuable for targeting content to specific audiences (for example, customers at a particular location or shoppers interested in a specific category of products).
With well-constructed architecture, a website loads quickly will be easier to navigate and will be pleasing to the eye. When choosing a local design agency, it’s a good idea to look at other sites they have built and notice how they are structured.
Step Five: Make a Plan for Creating and Updating Content
In the past, many businesses published their websites as if they were print ads, merely displaying information on a single static page. Modern sites, however, are more comparable to magazines in that they publish fresh content regularly. Moreover, websites need to provide a call to action on every page, encouraging users to interact with the site by filling out a form, for example, or subscribing to a newsletter.
While a web designer does not typically create content for a client’s website, a local design agency can help with content creation in a couple of ways. First of all, a local website designer can offer insight regarding the types of images, videos, and articles that will work well to engage local customers. He or she may also be able to recommend local writing or editing professionals who can assist with content creation.
Additionally, a website designer will install a content management system (CMS). Having a CMS, like WordPress, makes it easy for business owners and their employees to update content on their own. By making a plan for creating content and by encouraging teamwork, business owners can start publishing their content regularly.
Step Six: Test the Website
Testing is one of the most critical steps in the process of building a website. The best design and most engaging content have no value if users can’t see it or if it takes too long to load. Additionally, with more than 50% of traffic coming from mobile phones nowadays, it’s more important than ever to make sure a business website is responsive.
However, testing isn’t limited to checking a website’s basic functionality. A web designer will also test the site for usability by having others go through the site and report any problems or confusion. This type of testing will ensure that every menu or link is named correctly and sends the user to the expected content. It can also help to check pathways and make sure there are not too many clicks from one point to another in a user’s journey.
Before a website is made public, thorough testing should be conducted. However, continued testing will also be needed. A web designer should conduct ongoing testing and analysis of the site’s performance to determine when updates are required.
Step Seven: Optimize the Website for Local Searches
This step isn’t a separate step. Search engine optimization (SEO), mainly local SEO, should be a consideration at every point in the process of building a site. In general, SEO encompasses all of the aspects of web design that make a website visible to search engines. These aspects include keyword usage in URLs, title tags, and content, inbound links, site architecture, and outbound links, to name a few. All of these features help search engines crawl the site and recognize the site as an authority on the keywords it features.
Local SEO is a little different in that it is specifically designed to benefit businesses with a physical location. Local SEO focuses on optimizing a website’s Google My Business listing, the information in Google’s knowledge panel, Google Maps listing, and contact information (known as NAP for the name, address, and phone number) listed on other websites. These listings determine the sites that show up when a user searches for a product, service, or business “near me.” Even without those words, searches products and services are often interpreted by a search engine as having a local intention.
The purpose of local SEO is to help customers find a business at the moment when they are trying to find something online. That moment could be when they’re searching for a place to eat, for example, or a place to shop. A local website designer with local SEO experience should have experience with helping their clients use their websites to bring customers into their business.
Step Eight: Site Maintenance
Websites need regular maintenance; thus, providing ongoing updates and support is an integral part of the web design process. For example, any plug-ins added to increase a website’s efficiency, speed, or functionality will need to be updated as bug fixes, and improvements are added. Updates to browsers and operating systems will also require changes to the website to ensure that it works well for all users and provides the highest possible level of security.
Besides, a website will need to be updated in response to traffic and performance data as well as strategies used by the competition. A business may also choose to update a site to rank for new or different keywords.
Reasons to Hire a Local Web Design Agency to Build Your Website
There are many advantages to going local when hiring a website designer. For one thing, the logistics are more straightforward. Face-to-face meetings are typically more productive than Skype calls and emails. In-person meetings also better allow for the web designer to get to know the client. This, in turn, helps them really get a feel for his or her business and website needs.
Also, local web design agencies are experts in the local community. They are familiar with the local business climate, and their understanding of local audiences and their distinctions is much deeper than that of a distant company with no local experience.
What to Look for in a Local Website Designer
When hiring a local website designer, it’s crucial to find a person or team you’ll enjoy working with. One of the first things to consider is the quality of the work they have already done. Before hiring an individual or agency, check their portfolio to see if their style appeals to you. If it does, then follow up with some of their customers and learn more about other business owners’ experiences with the agency.
It’s also a good idea to interview a website designer before committing. It’s essential to find someone who listens to your ideas, demonstrates expertise, has extensive experience, and understands responsive web design.
Hiring a local web designer is the best way to get a professionally designed website that responds to the needs of your business and your customers. With personalized attention and ongoing support, a local design agency can make sure that your website is helping your profits and your business to grow.