How to set up a small business website for success

As a small business owner, a version of this question is likely already floating around your thoughts. Where do I start? How do I know I’ve made the right choice? With so many options out there, setting up a small business website can quickly become overwhelming.

In this article, I’ll give you a framework through which you can approach the website process. Whether you decide to do it yourself or hire a web designer, you’ll know what questions to ask when you get started. I’ll talk about user journeys, structure, and content and give you tips you can easily apply yourself.

Written by Stephy

Published: 05/10/2023

Does a small business website need a user journey?

You may find this question a bit silly, but you’d be shocked at how often we hear it. Small business owners often operate under pressure and have very limited support. This forces them to rush projects like their own website and skip the planning phase altogether.

After working on many web design projects, I can tell you with 100% certainty that a lack of user journey will cost you clients. Every time we’ve redesigned a website, a bad user journey has been one of the biggest issues. Founders often think that a small business website doesn’t need much thought. What they don’t consider, however, is that as their business grows, their website will need to do so as well.

When I advocate for a user journey from the get-go, I do so with the future in mind. Naturally, your website won’t attract thousands of visitors on day one, but it might do in a year. As your business grows, you will need to add pages, update content and maybe even update your user journey. Building a good foundation will allow you to do all that without the need to invest in a redesign.

How do I create a user journey for my website?

The best way to start is by creating a few paths web visitors can go down. Next, assign an intention to each path and brainstorm how it can be fulfilled. If the visitor’s intention is to find out more about you, they’ll visit your about page and check out your work. This tells you that you need to link these two pages so they’re easy to navigate between. Play this scenario out with the user intentions you can think of, and you have the basics of a user journey.

After you launch your website, you might find that visitors aren’t following the paths you’ve set out for them. This is absolutely normal and nothing to worry about. It just means you need to make changes to accommodate their needs. Make sure you install Google Analytics or a similar software so you can see visitors’ interactions with your website.

Map your pages and calls to action

Your web pages are an essential part of your user journey. As a minimum, a small business website must have the following pages:

  • Home Page – the main page of your website that represents your business
  • About Us – a page to help visitors get to know you and your business
  • Services – a page to showcase what you do or offer
  • Our Work – a page with some evidence of your work
  • Contact Us – a page with information like phone, email, address, and a contact form

Sometimes, a one-page website might be a better option, especially for small businesses. In these cases, the home page holds all the essential information I listed above. It’s organised in sections and usually navigated through a menu known as ‘sticky’. This means it sticks at the top of the page as you scroll down. One-page websites are a great option for websites with little content. Additionally, if built well, they can be expanded later on with more pages.

Focused calls to action work best for a small business website

As you organise your website into pages, consider what actions you’d like visitors to perform. For example, if you’d like them to contact you, then display that throughout your website buttons. Make sure every page offers a clear way for users to get in touch and consider adding a ‘Contact Us’ button to your menu.

Now that you’ve planned what goes where, it’s time to think about content. In my experience, it’s always better to hire a copywriter, even for a small business website. However, I’m not explaining how to wire electric panels here, so it doesn’t hurt to give it a go yourself. If you do so, get some professional eyes on your web copy as your business grows to make sure it’s not costing you clients.

Content is the key to a successful small business website

It’s a bold statement, I know. But more often than not, a small business website only has a couple of pages. You might not even have case studies on there yet (although you should add some ASAP). This leaves your website’s content as the only conversion tool you have for the time being.

Not all fingers are thumbs and not all content is copy. For the sake of this article, I’ll assume as a small business owner you don’t have the design skills to create visual content. You do, however, have the ability to write about what you do in simple terms. Approach this task methodically and if you can, keep SEO in mind as you write. Check out our article about the best SEO Tools for small businesses in 2022 if you need a place to start.

As you craft your copy, think about what you would say to a client and use this as a guide. The biggest content mistake I’ve seen business owners make is centring website copy on themselves. When you talk about your services, do so in the context of how they are beneficial to your ideal clients. This will make readers feel like you’re speaking to them as they read.

I’ll quickly show you an example. Let’s take the florist business we created a brand for in the Small Business Branding Guide:

Copy that talks about you:

I am an expert florist with 15+ years of experience in creating flower arrangements.

Copy that talks about how your services help clients:

Your flower arrangements will be in the hands of an expert florist trusted by happy clients for more than 15 years.

It’s a simple trick that can go miles in convincing someone to work with you.

Don’t forget the formalities

Whether you’re a sole trader, freelancer, or a limited company, you are liable for the way you process others’ data. A privacy policy is a must even for the smallest of businesses and so is a cookie policy. They’re both held on your website but could cover policies that span outside its limits.

For example, if you have a Facebook pixel installed, you should mention that in your cookie policy. If you share your clients’ data with third parties, that should go into your privacy policy. I covered this in a bit more detail in my article about preparing for a content marketing strategy. You can also find numerous resources on the subject online. I recommend the Information Commissioner Officer’s guide to writing a privacy policy. The ICO is the official body regulating data protection in the UK and offers advice in line with its policies.

How do I build a small business website?

There are more answers to this question than you’re probably prepared to hear. Option number one, of course, is to do it yourself. You don’t need any coding knowledge to set up your website and there is a wide range of web builders out there. I haven’t used many of them, so I can’t make any informed recommendations apart from WordPress. A quick Google search should send you down the DIY website rabbit hole of your dreams.

If you’re not that keen on taking on the role of web designer, you can always hire one. Nowadays, a small business website doesn’t necessarily need to hire a developer. In fact, I’d recommend you opt for a designer who uses a visual builder and invest the leftover budget in your content. For example, we build all our websites by using a drag-and-drop builder and WordPress. It’s a great option for small business websites as they rarely need complex bespoke features. Moreover, it allows our clients to also fit copywriting and SEO into their web budget.

Hopefully, by now you have an idea of what you need to do to get your website up and running. What you decide to do from here onwards is up to you. If you think you could do with a bit more guidance, you can always book a chat or email us with any questions. I promise we don’t bite and we always love helping small business owners succeed.

About the Author

Stephy is a copywriter and digital marketing consultant, as well as the
co-founder of The Atom Lab. She writes about all things web and
content-related and shares tips from the trade to help small business owners and entrepreneurs grow their online presence.