It's a really tough time for small businesses at the moment, with the government introducing social distancing protocols, and then the forced closure of bars and restaurants, and we understand that a lot of our customers will be impacted.
The Government have granted permission for pubs, cafes and restaurants to operate as takeaways as part of the coronavirus response. And taking payments over the phone could be your first step to looking at things differently, like starting a pick up or delivery service.
But it doesn't just apply to the hospitality industry. We're seeing many of our other customers thinking differently - from offering delivery of meat and veg boxes, to delivering milk and other supplies.
Creating a simple, well-designed website can help you tell your customers about your new offering, but where should you start?
We’ll kick-off with our guide to creating a great website, and then highlight some of the best options on the market to get you started.
Whether your site will act as a full-blown sales portal or a simple information station, your user needs to know where they stand from the word go. When it comes to the online world, the user experience should be your number one priority throughout.
To achieve this great user experience from the get-go, state on your homepage in simple terms what it is that your business does.
Another very important feature of your website is your URL - it’s what you’ll share with current and prospective customers, so it needs to be relevant, descriptive and easy to use.
You might not be able to get exactly what you’d hoped, but remember to keep it short and avoid abbreviations and numbers where possible.
Top tip: don’t forget to check copyrights to avoid infringing on someone else’s protected name.
For most small businesses, hosting their own website is simply far too big an expense, so you’ll likely need to select an external ‘host’ or ‘server’.
There are plenty of options to choose from, and which is right for you will depend on the nature of your business and what you need a website for. We’ll take a closer look at some of the options on the market shortly.
When building the pages within your site, always keep the user experience in the front of your mind. Studies show you’ve got about eight seconds to grab a user’s attention before they give up and move on, so it’s critical you design your site so it’s easy to navigate and super user-friendly.
Here are our top tips for creating a user-friendly website:
If you’re planning to sell through your site you’ll need to source a payment provider. To sell online, you’ll need a payment gateway, and this hooks up to your website’s shopping cart and processes card payments.
Reputable payment providers (like us!) will provide you with developer support to help you set up your payment gateway on your website.
Good to know: our payment gateways are compatible with over 50 UK shopping carts.
Before you take the plunge and go live, you need to meticulously go through all the pages of your site and check for errors or faults. Research suggests just one spelling error on a business’ website can cost them as much as 50% in sales because it can seriously impact credibility and trust.
It’s also important to check your site is loading at a reasonable speed - between four and six seconds is the optimum load time, any less and it could cost you customers as well as negatively impact your Google ranking.
The final element to check is your mobile site, thanks to smartphones over 50% of Google searches are now done on mobile, so your site needs to be mobile-friendly too.
Fun fact: 61% of consumers wouldn’t return to a website if it wasn’t optimised for mobile use.
Now you know what you need to do, let’s take a look at options for where to do it. There’s tonnes of choice on the market for building a website, but here we’ve narrowed it down to just five. Let’s take a closer look at each.
This ‘drag and drop’ website builder offers loads of different themes and designs and is super user-friendly (even for novices) and customisable.
Once signed up all you need to do is select your theme, drag and drop your elements to arrange them how you want, and then use the menus to change elements such as typeface, alignment and size.
Price: prices start at £6 a month for the Combo package, £8.50 for unlimited, Business Basic is £13, or go for Wix VIP for £18.
Squarespace can offer everything a smaller online business will need - it’s a drag and drop format again, and produces beautiful websites with ease.
It has tonnes of built-in tools to support your store and blog, plus also offers plug-ins that can track your inventory, create gift cards, highlight certain products and loads more.
Price: plans range for £10 to £30 per month depending on features required.
Weebly is another drag-and-drop builder (are you noticing a theme?) and is great for designing great looking websites at a low cost.
One of its best features is that its default templates look great on both desktop and mobile, giving you one less thing to worry about. It offers plenty of additional tools like Wix and Squarespace, but you’ll have to opt for a premium plan to get your hands on them.
Price: Basic packages start at £4 a month, the Pro plan is £9, Business £18 and Business Plus £28.
This one’s a menu-based builder, designed to make creating a website as speedy and painless as possible. If you’re after something simple and straightforward to showcase your business, this could be the host for you.
The customisation options on offer are fewer than the previous three, and there are less appealing themes to choose from, but this is reflected in the price.
Price: £4.99 - £19.99 per month.
If you’re really after a bare-bones, no-frills website with the intention of having a place for customers to find you besides social media, Google sites could be an option.
They’re customisable to an extent, but don’t offer the same level of design as you’d get with Wix and Squarespace, for example. Having said that, you’ll get plenty of support in setting your site up from Google, and you can access your site directly from your Google Drive.
So there’s the low down on five website CMS’, ranging from a bells and whistles builder to a basic but functional server, but if none of these sound like the right fit for your business, it’s a pretty busy market and there are plenty of others to choose from, including:
If you want to accept payments via your website, you’ll need a payment gateway and that’s where we can help. Our payment gateways hook up with most leading shopping carts and can be customised to provide a seamless customer experience.
We’ll also help you or your website developer with everything you need to get up and running. Ready to start taking payment online? Get in touch with our experts on 08082 397003 to get the ball rolling.
All prices correct as of 26.2.2020