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!
What Are the Prerequisites for the CCNA?
The CCNA is a Cisco certification required for most IT professionals. There are actually a few versions of the exam, but the most common is the CCNA Routing and Switching certification. This exam can be taken at the Associate level, so there aren’t many concerns as far as prerequisites go.
The only real limitations are that a person under 13 years will not be permitted to take it, and a person between 13 and 17 must have parental consent. For those 18 and older, there are no restrictions, as Cisco does not require any previous exams to become eligible for the CCNA.
Still, just because there are no real prerequisites, this doesn’t mean the exam isn’t challenging. It’s a 90-minute test consisting of both multiple-choice and performance-based questions. Anyone taking the exam will have to thoroughly prove their knowledge and problem-solving skills in a limited time. It can be stressful, and it’s recommended to have both theoretical knowledge as well as practical networking experience before taking the test. The following are the best ways to prepare for the CCNA.
There are plenty of study materials that can get you started. These range from official study guides, video courses, labs, and more. There is a list of Cisco approved materials for those wishing to follow that path, though there are a variety of options from other vendors as well. Regardless of whether you pursue free or paid options, you’ll need to do your best to cover all of the content that could appear on the exam. The methods you choose will likely depend on your learning style.
In general, it’s recommended to take a self-paced video course, regardless of your knowledge level. These will generally measure your knowledge at the start of the course to ensure you aren’t bored with concepts you already know nor overwhelmed at the beginning with unfamiliar ideas. You’ll likely need some additional materials, however, as it can be easy to miss some ideas when watching videos.
There’s an official Cisco Certification Guide available in ebook and hardcopy forms which many argue to be the best study guide available. It’s also impossible to replace hands-on experience through any number of study guides or lab courses. Luckily, modern simulation tools like GNS3 can let you practice the majority of performance-based content you’ll see on the exam.
To get a better idea of what the real exam will be like, you’ll need to take some practice tests. While no practice test can show the same questions that will appear on the current exam, there are many tutoring packages out there that include a CCNA practice test with real questions from past exams. These questions are obtained directly from Cisco and Pearson and can give you a good idea as to the structure of the exam. If you’re able to complete these in the allotted time, you should stand a better chance at the real thing.
No matter how you decide to prepare for the exam, you’ll likely be doing some combination of self-study and seeking outside help. External training options like expert boot camps and live courses may be just what you need if you require a more personal touch. These options generally include several hours of live instruction, and boot camps will let you schedule appointments with an expert instructor.
The real key is that you need to understand your own learning style and pace, something you’ll hopefully have good experience with from previous classwork. Luckily, you can have a combination of everything you think will work for you before you attempt your exam.
5 Tech Jobs Guaranteed to Last
With the rise of automation, not to mention artificial intelligence, the future of tech jobs from a human perspective can be a little uncertain. That being said, there are certain jobs in the tech sector that will not be going away, not until the machines rise up that is.
1. Database Administrator
DBAs (database administrators) take care of a company’s data. They make sure that their databases run efficiently and that they are secure from people that shouldn’t have access. A DBA will also be responsible for organising that data and storing it effectively. This role does generally require a degree in MIS (Management Information Systems) or in a related field.
Database administrators also need to have an understanding of database languages, the most common of which is SQL (Structured Query Language). Whichever programming language a company may use, the database administrator will have to be able to navigate it effectively.
2. Software Developer
The creatives behind a computer program are called software developers. Some will create applications, such as circuit board software, for example, while others will build systems. Software developers will usually work alongside computer programmers.
A bachelor’s degree in computer science is generally required of a software developer, that or in software engineering or another related field. In some cases, a degree in mathematics is acceptable too.
In addition to the above, a traditional academic education is not necessarily required due to ‘online coding boot camps’ that are often available free of charge.
3. Web Developer
Developers that specialise in web applications will use various programming languages in order to create online software to client specifications. A web developer will normally be proficient in the use of multiple programming languages as well as operating systems.
An employer will look for computer-related education as well as relevant experience in the field. With these skills being in high demand, formal degrees are not usually required.
4. Computer Systems Analysts
A computer systems analyst is responsible for investigating an organisation’s systems and procedures. Following this, they will revamp or design these to help a company operate more efficiently. An analyst needs to have an understanding of both IT and business needs and their limitations. Responsibilities include liaising with managers to determine their IT related needs.
The majority of systems analysts have a bachelor’s degree in a computer related field, but they may also be required to have a business background.
5. Mobile Application Developers
Mobile application developers are responsible for creating or adapting existing applications for use on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Video game studios, advertising companies and marketing companies recognise that mobile is an effective content distribution channel. Mobile application developers are in demand from other sectors too such as financial institutions, government agencies and those industries that require products to help their operations run more efficiently.
Many mobile application developers will have a background in either computer science or software engineering. There are now colleges that offer degrees in mobile application development so that’s another option to look at.
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.
- Management2 years ago
20 Of The Worst Business Decisions Ever Made
- Finance2 years ago
What are the Advantages And Disadvantages of Business Loans?
- Marketing1 year ago
Creating Brand Identity for Small Business [Infographic]
- Finance9 months ago
Why Entrepreneurs Often Fail
- Marketing2 years ago
What You Can Learn From Amazon’s Marketing Strategy
- Social Media3 months ago
In-Depth Guide to Social Media for Small Businesses
- Mindset4 months ago
Entrepreneur Newcomers Join Billionaire Rich List
- Mindset8 months ago
5 Positive Impacts of Green Businesses On Employees’ Wellbeing and Performance