Every website serves a purpose – to relay a message, collect information, pass on advice or sell goods or services.
For large and small businesses a website is a salesperson who never sleeps. It’s vital that this ‘digital salesperson’ permanently stays awake, continually performs at its best, provides a positive user experience and does not have people reaching for the back-button or a knife!
To this end it’s important for a website to consist of core elements: the things your prospective customers want and expect.
It’s also important for a business website to pamper to the needs of the customer and not the business owner.
Here are nine essential on-page elements every business website should have:
1. Easy navigation
Have you ever visited a website and struggled to find your way around? If you have you know how frustrating it is. Sometimes it’s tempting to break the rules and sway from conventional wisdom when it comes to website navigation, this is fine if you are in the creative niche, but if you’re selling houses or landscaping gardens, keep navigation simple.
Put the main menu horizontally across the page or down the left hand side of the screen, this is where your visitors, who may not have much technical know-how, expect to see it.
If they can’t find something to click within just a few seconds you can be sure they’ll be looking for the back button (they know exactly where that is).
Also perform plenty of in-context linking. This is when you add links to your content which directs visitors to the sections of your site you want them to go to. The links tell them the page you’re linking to, and the words you are using to form the link, are relevant to the subject they’re reading about. (There are a few examples in this post.)
2. Easy on the eye design
We all have different views on design. Some people like cluttered pages while others prefer the minimalist approach. The best choice for you is often dictated by your niche, or at least you feel as though you should conform to the style of your competitors’.
There is nothing wrong with this approach (as it almost certainly working for them otherwise they’d change it, right?).
It could be argued that function and usability are far more important than design. And in a lot of ways this is true, as a beautiful website isn’t worth much if people can’t use it.
Try striking a balance between the two and you shouldn’t go wrong.
3. Phone number
Remember, your website is selling your products or services, you must make it easy for people to contact you.
If you can, put your phone number somewhere really obvious and on every page. The header section is a great option, as is the top of a sidebar. People also expect to find this information in the footer so you can put it in there too.
4. Contact form
Not every prospect likes picking up the phone and talking to you. Some prefer making initial content by email.
Make sure you have a ‘Contact Us‘ page that contains a form people can fill-in. These are easy to create using a plugin and you can add additional fields and ask questions relevant to your business.
Your Contact Us page is another chance to include your phone number and you should also include the physical address of your business. If you work from home this may generate unexpected visitors, so consider it carefully.
A search function is extremely useful for larger sites. WordPress has this built-in and the widget is easily placed in one of the sidebars. Unfortunately, the results are not quite as relevant as you would like. A good alternative is placing a Google search box on your pages. The setting up process is a little more complex than the standard WordPress option but worth considering if the results on your site are unbearable.
6. Legal pages
Pretty much all websites need legal pages, exactly which pages depends upon the type of business (sole trader, limited company etc) and the sector the business operates in.
Here is a list of pages you may consider using on your site:
- Copyright notice
- Returns policy
- Accessibility information
- Abuse or complaints contact information
- Cookie law
7. About us
People are naturally inquisitive, some call it nosey. They like finding out about businesses and people they could potentially be doing business with. To this end they look for an ‘About Us’ page. Take a look at ours, we keep it fairly short and talk about our business and ourselves.
You can write as much or as little as you like on an about us page, and it’s a good way to bring some personality into your business/brand.
8. Social media buttons
If you are blogging and continually publishing new content then you really should have some social media buttons on your pages.
These buttons allow people to share your content through their social media accounts. Plugins can do this job too. Over the years we’ve tried quite a few different plugins and found the best is Social Sharing Toolkit.
You should at least include Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and email. After these, choose the social networks that work for your business.
(Take a look at the buttons at the end of this post for an example.)
9. Links to social media pages
If you have business accounts on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter you really should link to them. Doing so will encourage people to like and follow you. The Social Media Toolkit plugin I mentioned in the last section has a widget you can customise and embed into the sidebar of a WordPress site. We’re using it here.
There are other elements to consider too, such as page loading time, good housekeeping (fixing broken links, missing images etc) and how a site displays on mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones.
If you can think of anything else to add to the list, please leave a comment in the section below.