Not too many years ago, it was almost unthinkable for a small business to invest in their own website. Today, however, it is less of a choice than a necessity if you want to engage with customers, and stay ahead of your competitors.
Website building is more accessible now than ever before, with a wide range of tools and services available to help you create your brand vision in online form. Nevertheless, setting up a business website can be a daunting process, especially if you are new to the world of online marketing.
The on-the-move consumer has little time or patience for poorly-designed websites, so your landing page, and every page thereafter, needs to be structured with purpose and precision. Fortunately, this is not as difficult as it might sound, and if you keep the following checklist in mind, you will soon have a business website to be proud of.
1. Clarity and simplicity
When users land on your homepage, it can take mere seconds for them to decide whether to explore further or move on. As such, you need your landing page to clearly display who you are and what you do. Additionally, using consistent branding throughout your website, using your organization’s name and logo, adds cohesion to your content, and reassures visitors that they have not accidentally left your site.
Most internet users want to be able to navigate a website quickly and without confusion, so your layout is of critical importance. In recent history, there has been a trend towards shorter and shorter menus. Now, many sites display only three menu options, with the aim of quickly directing visitors to the key areas of the website.
Ultimately, your goal here is to make your website as easy to navigate as possible, both for internet users, and search engine crawlers. The simpler it is to crawl and index your site, the more likely you are to be able to secure a good search engine ranking.
Another upside to a simplistic design is that it will load faster, meaning visitors are more likely to stick around. When the Financial Times updated their layout at the end of last year, they reported that a one second reduction in loading times could boost engagement by 5 percent.
The rise of social media marketing has brought about significant changes in the way consumers evaluate businesses and products. You are not, and should not be, an invisible entity hidden behind your brand; your customers want to know who you are and why they should be excited about your business. Furthermore, it is your passion for the products or services you offer that should shine through in your content, and establish your website’s unique personality.
This doesn’t mean you need to reveal your deepest darkest secrets, or divulge personal information. Bear in mind, anything that you put on your website needs to add value, and be relevant to the overall plan. Think about the details you can share that highlights the best characteristics of your business, or that will cause visitors to feel more comfortable and familiar with your brand.
- Describe who you are and how your business came to be. What drew you to this industry, and where do you plan to go with it?
- What is your business all about? Give a brief, but clear description of the products or services you offer, and what makes them unique.
- Set out your values. Perhaps your materials are organic, or sustainably sourced. Maybe your business is carbon neutral, or is regularly engaged in community initiatives. This is your chance to highlight the details that have no place elsewhere on your site, but that you would like your customers to know.
3. High Quality Content
At the same time, it is important not to overload your landing page with content. By selecting key pieces of information, you ensure that these are the first things visitors learn about your business. Consider features such as a landing page video, so you can introduce yourself or your services in more detail, without filling the page with a wall of text.
Throughout your website, your content should adhere to SEO best practices, and always aim to offer something useful to your audience. If you are renovating an existing site, you should also go back through old content, removing anything that does not add value, and sprucing up anything that remains.
4. Business Tools
Do not be afraid to make use of the wide range of tools and applications available for building and running a business website. These applications are not for everyone, but when applied correctly, they can reduce your workload and streamline many time-consuming processes.
For example, you might consider an e-commerce CMS to facilitate the management of product pages, and generation of uniformly structured page links. Similarly, if you are managing social media accounts, or running a blog, content delivery systems can help you schedule posts, and deliver your content on a regular timetable. Shopify is one that brings blogging and ecommerce together nicely, but you’ve also got ones like Squarespace and Wix — your web technology will have a big impact on the overall affordability and design of your website, so choose carefully.
Efficient use of business tools can free you up to focus on other matters, such as creating new content, or engaging with customers. Many tools can also help with the collection of data analytics, providing you with valuable information about consumer behaviour, and the success of individual pieces of content. You can also use tools like chatbots to help customers along the customer journey, though you’ll have to ensure you still remain approachable.
As with all aspects of web design, you will need to weigh up the cost of using these tools against the long-term gains for you and your business.
For any website, security is a primary concern. After all, no one wants their data or their content to be compromised. For small businesses, having a secure website is even more critical, as a breach could not only put you and your site visitors at risk, but also can be extremely damaging to your organisation’s reputation.
If you have an e-commerce site, ensure that you are using a secure payment system, such as PayPal or Stripe. In addition, if you use a content management system, or any other third party applications, you should double-check their security standards, and be diligent about keeping them up to date.
Even if your website is not used for sales, it is still important to have HTTPS enabled on your website. You can do this via a Certificate Authority such as Let’sEncrypt, which provides free-of-charge automated certificates, in accordance with TLS security best practices.
That tiny padlock in the corner of the browser can be the difference between a new customer, and a visitor who never makes it past the landing page.
6. The Grand Plan
While this is the final item on the list, it is also the first step towards creating or improving your business website. Every aspect of your design should have a purpose, from menus to image placement, and even the structure of your URLs.
Whether you are starting from scratch, or renovating an existing site, you should create a comprehensive plan, going into as much detail as possible on every aspect of your design. This will enable you to identify potential challenges, costs, and long-term goals for your website. In addition, your finished plan acts as a coherent blueprint for when you finally turn your idea into a reality. Following in the footsteps of tech giants like Amazon is also a good way to grow your online presence — remember to always research the competition and keep tabs on their websites.
A Long-Term Endeavor
Remember that your business website is an ongoing project, not a static entity. This means you can always add or adjust things later if necessary. It is generally far better to create a fully functional, aesthetically optimized website with fewer features, than one bloated with half-finished pages and ideas.
Your site will need grow and change with your business, so constant improvement and reevaluation is essential. Pay attention to consumer feedback, analytics, and shifting trends, so you are always able to stay ahead of the curve. A successful business website requires regular maintenance and renewal, so it is vital to set aside the time to keep your content fresh, and your brand narrative current.
Even so, establishing your website is already half the battle. The rest relies on the same diligence, dedication, and passion for your business that has gotten you this far in the first place.
Victoria Greene: Brand Marketer & Blogger
I’m an ecommerce marketer by trade, and I run a blog in my spare time where I like to talk about content and blogging. I love taking people’s ideas and making them into digital realities. Big advocate of having an customer experience — something I’m currently trying to implement on a few stores of my own!
Take These Steps And Protect Your Business From A Cybercrime
You might have read the news story surrounding the events that happened at Mal A Largo. The prestigious club favoured by the president was recently breached by a woman who claimed she was a member. She wasn’t. When she was inside, she suggested she was there for a conference.
There was no conference taking place and the woman entered the club with multiple pieces of tech. One of which contained malware data. The president was in the club at the time and it is not currently known what the woman’s intentions were. It is however clear, that she almost succeeded.
This shouldn’t come as a massive shock. After all, recent reports have suggested that by 2021 there will be a cyber attack on a business every twenty seconds. That’s crazy and it won’t just be big businesses that are exposed either.
Indeed, experts suggest that smaller companies will be targeted because criminals won’t expect them to have the latest protection measures in place.
This leaves an important question: Is your business secure and prepared for the threat of a cyber attack?
Truthfully, the answer is probably no. But you can take steps and make changes to ensure that your business is protected.
Let’s look at some of the ways you can do this, plus here’s a quick recap on what you need to know about cyber crime and malware.
What is Malware?
You don’t need to know the history of malware but it’s kind of interesting so here’s a short summary. Its beginnings are thought to be in 1949, with computer scientist John von Neumann, however the first documented viruses were in the 1970s.
Not all viruses are bad, though malware is and it’s thought that a third of all computers world-wide have been infected at some time.
There have been some very hard hitting computer viruses over the years including:
- 2013 – Cyptolocker. This is one of the early ramsonware programs. Ramsonware in itself is interesting insofar as it denies the user access to their computer with threats to publish the users’ data unless a ransom is paid.
- 2014 – Backoff. Known for hitting the Point of Sale (POS) machines to steal credit card data.
- 2016 – Cerber. One of the most infective viruses according to Microsoft.
- 2017 – WannaCry Ransomware. Appropriately named as many companies attacked by it did ‘want to cry’.
What is Cybercrime?
Simply put, cybercrime is the term given to describe any criminal activity online, i.e. uses the Internet. It’s far-reaching, insofar as it includes everything from ramsonware and other viruses, to hacking, phishing and spamming.
So, what can you do to make sure your business is protected?
Installed And Up To Date
It’s important to make sure that you are installing anti-virus software. Once it is installed, make sure that you are updating it regularly. Many people think that once you have installed anti-virus software on your tech, your issues are over. This just isn’t the case. Indeed, it’s instead possible and even likely that you fall behind on updates and suddenly there’s basically no protection for your business.
This is usually because people are relying on free antivirus software. Free software is better than nothing, but it’s definitely not the ideal solution. If you want the highest level of protection, then you need to invest in the best software on the market. This isn’t free but it does provide fantastic value for your company.
Choose Strong Passwords
Passwords are incredibly dangerous if they are easy to guess or if they include information that people could quickly access. As such, there should be no personal information used to create your passwords. It should be a random string of numbers and letters. These are almost impossible to guess or hack and as such will keep your sensitive data secure.
The Latest Tech
Do make sure that you are investing in the latest technology and equipment. The latest tech will usually have preventive measures in place to ensure that software is protected. Particularly if they are running the latest programs and systems.
You should be careful of methods for saving money as well such as BYOD initiatives. While this can cut costs down, you can’t guarantee that the devices that employees are as secure as they need to be. Investing in the latest technology yourself will always be the best option.
We hope this helps you understand how to secure your business from a potential cybercrime.
How Is AI Being Used In Business?
Artificial Intelligence is bandied around the office, and there’s plenty of information on it online, but is your business using it and if not yet, where could it be using it, some time soon?
Machine Learning, Biometrics, and Robotic Process Automation are in use right now and growing in popularity, not just with the big businesses but also startups, SMEs and everything in between.
Adext’s report includes 19 AI Technologies to look for in 2019 and it’s well worth a read. In this article, we consider three types that mainstream business can no longer live without.
Listed in no particular order, you may of heard of these AL technologies, but you’re not aware of what they do, or how businesses use them.
Where Business Is Using AI
Digital marketing & advertising, research and administration, are key areas of business that are seeing massive change with AI, and specifically these AI techs: RPA, Biometrics and ML.
A branch of AI, this tech has been around for a while.
Machine Learning (ML) develops techniques so computers can automatically learn and improve from the experience. It’s used right now to predict and classify data, hence it’s been a game changer for advertising platforms like Google Ads.
Analysis of huge quantities of data, in quick smart time, all the while delivering accuracy has relieved many of us from jobs that involving mundane repetitive tasks.
ML gets its data from APIs, algorithms of course, other machines as well as big data tools; to name a few sources; but not all machine learning algorithms are the same.
Machine learning algorithms:
- Supervised – can apply what’s been learned to new data
- Unsupervised – explores data and describes hidden structures within datasets
- Semi-supervised – somewhere between the two mentioned above
- Reinforcement – allows software and machines to pick the optimum response within specific context to improve performance.
More detail found here: ML algorithms definitions
There are many platforms available now and you’ll know many of the companies in this space: Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and a few you may not know that well including: Adext, and Skytree.
This AL tech is focused on improving communication and understanding, between us and machines. It’s uses measurements and analyses human behaviour. Interactions, such as touch, speech, images and even body language are in its sights.
Just like ML, this is a big field of AI with huge potential, particularly in area of market research.
Robotic Process Automation
Think AI workers, that’s this technology. Robotic process automation (RPA) is another area of AI that’s a game changer for employment, and many of the jobs we used to do, still do and will no longer do. Already RPA has found its way into many industries and AI workers (machines) have replaced humans in the workforce.
The prosaic and repetitive tasks, humans used to do, are now done in part or in full by machines. In areas of the business such as: accounting, administration, customer support and help desks but also on websites, AI has found its place.
The ‘chat bot’ is now ubiquitous on websites for products and services and online sales support. Here is a good read on how using a chatbot could benefit business and change the customer experience.
Live Chat is a more human form of the chat bot and when you’ve experienced it, as a customer, your level of appreciation goes up a notch or two.
There is a flip side for businesses using live chat and chat bot tech. Customers now used to it will expect your business to delivery immediacy and efficiency every time.
With RPA, businesses see lots of upside, with reduced overheads and improve productivity.
There has been some clever marketing for it, mainly to dissuade negative reaction from workers fearful of job displacement. Business and workers are encouraged to see it as a solution that promotes better use of human workers; though new roles that are infinitely more interesting, and fulfilling, while also doing wonders to the company’s bottom line.
AI is everywhere and depending on how you view your business, career and life; the future is either very exciting, or maybe a bit scary.
How tech is transforming three traditional industry sectors
When it comes to tech transformation, you only need to look at what the smart investors are funding to see that it’s not just the dynamic, emerging sectors such as fintech that are benefiting. Investors such as Tom Chapman, co-founder of MatchesFashion; Sanjeev Krishnan of S2G Ventures, and Donald Lucas of Lucas Venture Group are focusing on the traditional industries too.
While we’ve all been watching the dynamic, and often consumer-facing, end of the tech market, activity is growing at a rapid pace in some of our most traditional sectors. Here are just three that are coming up on the rails by using tech to power the next generation of companies.
1. Logistics and shipping
Established industries don’t come much more traditional than shipping or as profitable as freight forwarding, a sector worth some $2 trillion at the last count. Freight forwarding companies ensure the smooth movement of goods around the globe but, up until recently, the industry has not seen anything like the kind of tech transformation you would witness elsewhere.
This year that’s set to change. A number of new tech businesses have sprung up to service the sector, dragging it into the 21st Century. Possibly the most high-profile is San Francisco-based startup Flexport, which in February received another $1bn in investment taking its valuation to a whopping $3.2bn. Started just five years ago, it now employs more than 1,000 people from 11 offices worldwide and is building warehousing facilities at many major ports. Flexport has seen such stratospheric growth because it understands the industry’s biggest problems and has got the tech right.
For the first time, Flexport has created a holistic cloud-based software platform that connects all the parties together in one place: importers, exporters, shipping carriers, truckers, airlines, plus the customs agencies and ports, allowing real-time interaction and document transfer. This might not seem so groundbreaking but in freight forwarding, where to date mountains of paper documents have been the norm, it really is.
2. Agriculture and food
Farming is another sector that’s slowly being transformed by tech innovations. For the last few years we’ve seen a big growth in agtech, fueled by a rapid rise in investment on the back of concerns about food security and environmental regulation. In fact, last year agtech deal activity hiked 11 per cent year-on-year worldwide; according to agtech funder Sanjeev Krishnan: “We have never seen the tectonic plates shifting as much as they are now, from the farm gate to the fridge.”
If there is one company that encapsulates the ethos and innovation of the new agtech revolution it’s Farmwise. Based out of San Francisco, Farmwise aims to solve some core issues in farming: the elimination of weeds and the need to optimise the amount of crops grown on a farmer’s land and the need to reduce the use of harmful pesticides.
Founded in 2016, Farmwise is just about to launch its first generation automated weeding system. The vehicle provides information about the crops in real time, giving farmers a more accurate early warning system and pointing to areas that need their attention. But more than this, using a combination of AI and robotics, the onboard tech captures images of each plant, analyses the data and identifies whether it’s friend or foe. Then it removes the weeds, even around individual crops. In time it’s hoped that this tech will drastically reduce the need to spray chemicals on the land and increase the productivity of each individual field.
3. Construction and housebuilding
Regarded by many as the last tech-free bastion, the building industry is highly traditional and up until recently was resistive to change. But over the last couple of years we’ve seen a growing number of startups coming on stream determined to transform this determinedly old-school sector.
One company focused on the building industry that has hit the headlines is Katerra, a startup focused on increasing collaboration, productivity and speeding up the construction process using tech. Driving them forward is the challenge we all face: creating more and cheaper housing as global populations boom. It’s a company with big ideas and big ambitions that has attracted high-profile investors.
Katerra is set to transform the sector because they are creating a one-stop building shop. They handle everything: architecture and design, specification, construction and fit-out, all powered by a heavy use of the latest tech including AI, robotics, apps and customer software interfaces. If there was ever a company that demonstrated the future for traditional industries, its Katerra. As Katerra Chairman and co-founder Michael Marks says: “Progress won’t come with incremental measures, we are pursuing transformational change on a massive scale.”
Today, tech is driving every industry sector, transforming everything, including where we live, how we’ll ship goods and what we will eat. The next five years will see traditional industries play catch up and you can bet the results for us all will be startling.
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