While they come in many shapes and sizes, most businesses need some form of online presence. Smaller businesses may only require a simple site with a few pages, establishing credibility and giving their customers more information about who they are and what they do. As businesses grow, their website's need to become more sophisticated, and can offer valuable functionality that benefits their employees and customers alike.
What is a website?
In simple terms, a website is just a collection of multimedia pages stored on a web server – but most internet users have come across sites whose functionality and usefulness is insufficiently described by those terms.
The internet is now filled with websites whose content and functionality are light years beyond what anyone would have imagined in the early days of the Worldwide Web. The best way to understand the staggering potential of what a website can be is to look at some notable examples:
- Wikipedia has collected and moderated the combined knowledge of their users, offering over 40 million articles in 295 languages.
- Facebook has connected almost 2 billion people across the world to share their lives and communicate.
- Google has indexed over 40 billion websites and helps you find the most relevant one using simple phrases.
- eBay facilitates over $150 million in sales per day.
With today's web technology, a website can function like a piece of software, giving it nearly limitless capabilities.
How do small businesses benefit from having a website?
Small business websites can serve a variety of functions, depending on the purpose of the business and how much they are willing to invest in their online presence. The most common uses of a website for small businesses are:
- An online brochure to inform potential customers about your business and what you offer
- A marketing hub which you direct traffic towards using online marketing techniques, with the intention of creating leads or sales
- A marketing tool for collecting information such as email addresses into a database for use in later marketing efforts
- An online store which uses eCommerce to sell your products or services online
- An employee portal which allows your staff to communicate internally, often useful for collaboration and rostering
- A point of contact which offers your address, your preferred email and your phone number to any potential customer or business partner
What sort of professionals are used to create a website?
Before starting the web design process, market research is often used to determine what competitors are currently doing and whether a website is a vital part of the business' marketing strategy. Once the aesthetic and functional requirements are nailed down, the visual side of a website is designed by either a web designer or a graphic designer. This design is then turned into a working website by a web developer, who uses code to add the required functionality.
The best websites utilise copywriters, content writers and bloggers to create compelling content. If imagery is required, professional photographers are often used to craft unique, aesthetic photos that make the website pop.
Websites with online stores typically require an eCommerce strategy to ensure that the website will effectively generate sales, and most websites will use some form of online marketing to push traffic towards the website once it is complete.