This article is aimed at those that are self-employed, or who are a sole trader. Those who want a simple, professional looking site that showcases their work. Something that will be a point of reference for new clients. Something that will be found on Google and direct customers to your business. It’s for those who realise that they need an on-line presence that they can control. Facebook, other Social Media sites or on-line directories are not enough. You know you need your own website, but are not sure where to start. You realise that a website could well be a client’s first impression of your business, so getting it right is vital. A poorly designed website with out-of-date content could do more harm than good. But what information should it contain? How should I organise that information? How can I stand out from the crowd?
The most competitive sectors on the web
I did some research. These are the most popular forms of self-employment:
- Construction workers- builders, plumbers, carpenters
- Housekeeping- cleaning or elderly care
- Landscpape gardeners and tree surgeon
- Hairdresser or beautician
- Accountants or bookkeepers
- Artists – photographers, crafters, jewellery making
- Animals care- dog walkers, cat sitters
- Fitness instructors- dance classes
- B&B or guest-house owners
- Cafe owner or caterer
If you are involved in one of these sectors, you will know how competitive it is. Your website needs to show how you are different from everyone else. It’s your chance to show off what you do, how well you do it and what is unique about you. So where do you start?
Before even starting to design any website you need to ask yourself these 3 basic questions:
- Who is my target audience?
- What do they want to know?
- What do you want them to do when they are on your website?
Let’s have a look at each of these questions:
1# Who is your target audience?
Your target audience are the people who will use or buy your product or service. Who do you think will be looking at your website? Are they children, young adults, older adults, professionals, males, females… What do they want? What are their preferences and needs?
Children tend to like bright colours with plenty of interaction. They like things that are fast-paced, easy to read and intuitive. Pictures could be cartoons. A design could be based around a character.
Young adults might like something dark or mysterious. The colour scheme could be much more muted. The illustrations could be in a Manga style or a little more minimalist, for example.
Older adults might appreciate a slightly larger font size on a light or plain background.
Choose your images carefully. Your target audience will want to feel represented in the photos you include.
Have a look at others’ websites, especially those that offer a similar service, to a similar target audience, but in a different location than you (and therefore not in direct competition). You can’t copy their content of course, but you could let their design ideas inspire you.
Remember, don’t just design something that you like. Think about who your target audience is and what they will be looking for. Base your design and content around them.
2# What does your target audience want to know?
Yes, you need to think about how your design appeals to your target audience, but the written content is important too. What do site visitors actually want to find out from visiting your site? Why not ask yourself a number of questions about your service, and write your content based on answering them? Most importantly, make all information clear. Don’t use flowery language. People don’t tend to read all information on websites. They scan, picking out what they need to know. Try using bullet points and sections in clearly labelled headers. Use short, concise sentences. If you wanted to add detailed information, you can always add an articles section. Keep your main website clear of unnecessary content.
I like this short Youtube clip about writing for the web. It’s easy to understand and encouraging. It will reassure you that you can write the content for your own site. You know your businesses better than anyone else. You don’t need to be clever, just clear:
What information should I include on my website?
- Your website should make what you do, and where you are based, instantly clear. Don’t hide such critical information in a busy design. This will often be on your home page, but your whole design should reflect your profession.
- Include an “about me” section. This is a chance to add a personal touch. It should include any relevant qualifications and professional experience, but could also say something interesting about you. What are your interests? An “about me” or “about us” page, shouldn’t be too long, and could be light-hearted. Maybe you want to stress that you are a family business. Make yourself approachable and friendly, but also professional and knowledgeable.
- It should be very clear how you can be contacted. Most websites have a “contact” page, but this information is also often included on the bottom of each page. Personal email accounts don’t look professional. email@example.com is preferable to firstname.lastname@example.org, for example. I personally prefer to see a landline phone number, as well as a mobile. It gives the feeling of security and permanence.
- Word of mouth and personal recommendation is everything. Your site visitors will want to know how good you are and see examples of your work. Testimonial Rotator is a great WordPress plugin for testimonials.
- Images are a very powerful means to demonstrating what you do. Remember to watch out for imags sizes. One picture may speak 1000 words, but if it slows down your site, visitors will become impatient and go elsewhere.
- Prices, where possible, should be clearly stated. Remember that one of the main benefits of having a website is that you can keep information up to date instantly and cheaply. Take advantage of this by using your site as a price reference, rather than printing expensive price lists.
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) answer all the sorts of questions that customers need to know in one place. You may have answered these elsewhere, but having a FAQs page is still a good idea. Think, what questions do you get asked the most? These will be different for each industry.
- Do you have a Facebook, Instagram or Twitter page? If not, why not?! It’s free, and a great way to spread the word about latest offers, local projects or events. These should be linked into your website, but are not a replacement for a website.
- Articles, as part of a blog, are a great way of showing your professional knowledge. Set yourself up as an expert in your field. As a general rule of thumb, articles should be at least 2000 words if they are to fully benefit the search engine optimisation of your site.
- You may want to include a “terms and conditions” page. Unless you know what you are doing, it may be worth getting legal advice about these.
In summary, on your website, you probably should include:
- What you do
- Where you are based
- An “about me” page
- Contact details
- A portfolio of your work
- Quality images of appropriate sizes
- links to social media
- terms and conditions
These features are all fairly straight forward to include. Participants of our standard WordPress courses should be able to incorporate all of these into their own website.
Some other things to consider
Do you ever get clients to fill out paper work? Maybe you’re a beautician and you need to carry out a basic healthcare check first. It may save you time in a consultation if these forms are on your website for people to either fill in online or download, print and bring with them. These can be included with a plugin such as Caldera Forms.
This is a big topic, and will only be touch upon in the introduction course. E-commerce is covered in more depth in our Intermediate course, or you could book a bespoke course, where we tailor make our teaching around your exact requirements. The most popular e-commerce plugin is Woocommerce.
3# What do you want your site visitors to do?
Call to action (CTA)
This addresses the last question, what do you want your site visitors to do? Let’s look at the James Middleton Training website as an example. If people land on our home page, we want people to know what we do and to take a look at our training courses. There are sliders at the top of the page, each with a call to action- “view WordPress courses”. They are often written in the imperative, starting with a verb, clearly stating what the site visitor is to do. We also want people to subscribe to our site, so we can give up to date information to those who are interested. There’ s a button on our home page with the instruction “DO NOT PRESS”. This is reverse psychology, and if clicked, it takes you to our subscription page. (Please note that this feature is only visible on our desktop site, as pop-ups are bad for the SEO on a mobile site.)
But call to actions aren’t just for your homepage. Once visitors are looking at our courses, we want people to book a place. Where is the call to action? Right at the top of the page- “book course today”. It’s clear, uncluttered, in a contrasting colour. It also tries to convey a sense on urgency, an action that I want them to do now…but underneath is a “register interest” button. We don’t want to scare people off!
In summary- you could consider these when planning your call to action:
- Think what you want your site visitors to do
- It’s often written in a few words, in the imperative- e.g.- call us, get in touch, book course, subscribe, learn more, view testimonials
- Make it prominent. Maybe it could go at the top of the page. Make sure it stands out- so not cluttered with busy information. Maybe it could be in a contrasting colour.
- Try to convey a sense of urgency- call us now, book today.
- CTAs aren’t just for the homepage, but every page where you want people to act.
- Look at other websites for ideas.
- If you find that you’re not getting site visitors responding to your CTA, change them. Make them bigger, change the colour, their position. Have a play, and see what works.
This is a pretty big topic, and I’ve only just scratched the surface. Hopefully I’ve given you a few ideas and the confidence to try it for yourself. Any small business now has the opportunity to have a professional looking website at a very affordable price. Our Introduction to WordPress courses are a great way of making your website happen. As long as you have basic computer skills, you will be empowered to create your own mobile compatible website. You won’t be paying monthly rates to a web developer to keep your site up-to-date (although we can do that if you want). The site can be edited whenever you need it, and you can give it a face-lift when you think it needs a fresh design. You can write the content in a style that reflects your personally and product. It has never been easier.
Useful resources for website owners
Have look at this form. It’s what we ask people to fill in for our Build a website in a day course. It asks you some focused questions about what you want your site to contain. It has been designed to help clients start to think about the above questions. Feel free to use it as a resource to aid your own planning.