How to Design a Business Website for Dummies

How to Design a Business Website for Dummies
  • Good websites have several key elements in common.
  • They have great user experience and are designed for mobile devices.
  • Plenty of effort is put in understanding analytics and SEO, growing traffic and conversions and social proofing.  

For most small business owners, websites probably aren’t your core business strength. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you need web designers and developers to get something good looking and functional out there to drive your business forward. The truth is that unless you’re going to be involved in e-commerce on any scale, or spending large amounts on digital advertising, the basics of functional website design and production aren’t that complex.

But regardless of how you choose to create your website, from building it yourself to using a freelancer or hiring a digital agency, making sure it works for your business isn’t that complicated, if you’re aware of a few key themes. Let’s consider these in turn.

1. Be honest with yourself

What do you need this website to do? If it’s simply to provide a digital brochure and an easy way for potential customers to contact you, all you need is a little time and the willingness to make mistakes while learning something new. That said, if it’s all just a bit too much, you can always consult a web developer or designer.

2. You need mobile-centric design

Gone are the days of desktop dominance. The world has moved into the palm of your hand, so you need to be designing for mobile first. This is often a secondary consideration, as most designers work on desktops or laptops, which naturally skews their perspective. Insisting that your website is designed for mobile devices first or using themes and builders that allow for 100% responsiveness should be your number one priority.

3. Focus on user experience (UX)

You’ve no doubt heard this buzzword. For a website to have a good UX, it needs to have a good user interface (UI). Therefore, as the world has become more digital, most companies are looking for good UX/UI designers. It’s also why, if you’re looking for a change, you should consider UX/UI as a career.

Essentially, good UX is about removing friction. This means allowing users to complete tasks like finding your contact details and pricing information or paying for a product or service in the shortest possible time and with minimal effort. Attention spans are short, and the online space is crowded. Frustrate potential customers, and they will go elsewhere. 

When you boil it down, good UX is about empathy for your customer. It’s about humanizing the online experience of your business. How many times have you sworn at your computer screen or mobile phone, because something didn’t work the way it should or because you couldn’t figure out how to do something simple? Why would you want to put your customers through that?

4. Grow your traffic, SEO ranking and conversion

Just as important as building a website that is pleasant to use, is considering how your users will arrive on site. When we talk about websites, we must talk about traffic, which is the flow of users onto and around your site. Typically, you want as much traffic as possible, although low quality traffic (think someone who is just passing the time, or worse, arrived at your building materials site thinking they were going to buy diapers) will visit your site and probably not convert, and this is no good to you. As far as possible, you want to qualify your traffic by having relevant content and/or advertisements in the right places.

The reason you want a lot of traffic is that online lead generation and e-commerce is all about conversion. For every 100 people that arrive on your site, 50 might be willing to look further than the homepage; of those, 10 might be keen to buy something; and of those, only 2 might end up getting in touch or actually giving you money. This would be a 2% conversion rate, but if that rate stayed constant and you had 500 website visits, you’ve sold 5X as much product.

Now, not all traffic was created equal. Traffic from organic searches (like when you Google ‘day care centre Sydney’, and click on the link right at the top of the search engine results page or SERP) generally converts at a much higher rate than ad traffic - this is because people trust that Google shows them the most relevant pages first. This is why good SEO is important, because you want to rank as highly as possible for keywords that are relevant to your business.

5. Understand your website analytics

Of course, knowing your conversion rates and other key metrics is going to require a good understanding of basic website analytics. It’s worth stressing that if you haven’t set up your analytics correctly, worrying about UX or SEO is useless. Take the time to understand how activity on your website is measured - it will help you build a much better business much faster. 

So many SMEs get this wrong, and it’s hard to understand why. Perhaps they don’t understand the impact good analytics can have on their business as a whole? For instance, just seeing that there is far more interest in your service from people in Sydney, as opposed to Perth, could change your whole marketing strategy. Take the time to properly understand the data your website produces. It will pay off massively. The Google Analytics Academy has an excellent series of free courses, and you earn certificates as well. 

6. Social proofing your website 

Finally, when you design your website, you need to think about what your customers need to feel good about before giving you their money. Yes, they need to want your product, but they also need to trust that your product will do what you say it’ll do. Incorporating reviews from other customers, or simply making it easy for people to get to your social media and evaluate you, is key. What’s more, you can social proof in really creative ways.

In Summary

We’ve discussed a few key themes of website design in this article. To summarise:

  • Employ clear business logic: What do you need this website to do for you? How do you see it growing and developing, and how are your customers going to interact with it? These considerations will shape the platform you use and determine the level of expert help you might require.
  • Build for mobile devices
  • Don’t build something people hate to use or can’t use at all.
  • Understand how people are going to get to your site, and how many of those you expect to convert to customers.
  • Use the incredible (and free!) analytics tools available to you. They will revolutionise your business.
  • Use your online and social media community to build your business.

Websites aren’t so complicated after all. Address these bigger issues first, and then iterate on everything else as you get feedback from users and customers. Setting up a simple, clean website that gives you useful data and services your customers shouldn’t be a Herculean task. It’s actually quite a lot of fun :)

Carl Thomen

Chief Customer Officer at

NONA is a cutting-edge software development studio with offices in Cape Town and Adelaide. My role at NONA is to bring digital business experience to our partnerships, ensuring our parters build the best web and mobile products possible and then effectively take them to market. I hold a PhD in technology research, and am the ex-Head of Digital at Old Mutual Finance.