Small Business Website Checklist: Details That Are Often Disregarded

Small Business Website Checklist: Details That Are Often Disregarded

  • On August 2, 2021

With digital business on the rise like never before, almost all small businesses need to build a website or renew their old one.

Oftentimes, a website may have the perfect content, images and texts, but lack some important technical and practical details, which are by now a standard for any website to look professional and inspire trust.

So, your new website is ready to launch! At this point, most business owners make the last check: all necessary information is there, images look pretty and showcase the company’s best features, graphics are cool, contact information is correct.
And so, the website goes public.

In the pre-internet era, you would actually look into the exact same features before printing your ad leaflet: descriptions, photos, graphics, and contact info. But websites are so much more than paper advertising.  Multiple factors contribute to a professional online presence.

Websites are so much more than paper advertising. Multiple factors contribute to a professional online presence

Every single webpage of your site needs to satisfy both visitors and search engines. And while the average visitor may not look too deeply into all the details of your website, the discerning client will often take into consideration various details before deciding to do business with you.

These details often coincide with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) – simply put, various aspects of a website that search engines are looking for to evaluate its quality and search relevance to give it a higher position in individual search results.

There’s a long list of must-do’s and continuous adjustments and evaluation for effective SEO. However, there are some basic things any website can implement from day 1 to set the foundation for a higher ranking in the future and at the same time offer the best possible user experience within the project frame of each business.

So, if you want to make a new website or renew your existing one, here’s a short list with some essential elements of a good website that are easy to spot on your own and fix with the help of your webdesigner.

Here’s a short checklist on what to look for in your new website before going public.

Responsiveness

Your website needs to be responsive on most kinds of mobile devices and screen sizes. Although responsiveness is by now a standard feature, it’s always worth checking how your website looks on various desktop screens, IOS & Android mobile phones, and tablets, in both vertical and horizontal views.

Why not check your website from all of your devices and friends’ devices! Keep in mind that a website can often look different on some not-so-common screens, but as long as it’s nice and functional in widely used devices then you can cross this one off your list.

Images

Quality images (photos and graphics) are a must for an attractive website. Check that all your images look good on different devices, desktops, and mobiles.

As for sizes, horizontal and square images usually work best. In slideshows, make sure all images have the exact same dimensions. It’s always better to crop an image to fit the required dimensions, even if this means that you’ll lose some details near the edges.

Check with your web designer that all images are lightweight, ideally up to 150MB with max. 250MB, so that they load fast even with slow connections.

Rename each and every photo with an optimized alternative: instead of keeping the original image name generated by the camera, eg.: 2548963.jpg – images should be renamed to include 2-4 words that describe what’s shown in the photo.

For example: on a fashion company website, a photo of a model wearing a long, blue summer dress could be renamed to: blue-summer-dress.jpg. In this case, “summer dress” is also a keyword which sends the signal of a coherent, quality page and helps your images rank well in image searches.

Image names should follow the same format with all small letters and words separated by dashes.

To see the image names of your current website, it’s best to consult your web designer. In many cases, you can check the image names yourself: right-click on the image, select “Open Image in new tab” from the menu. The image name will appear as a tab title in the new tab.

Alt Tags

Alt tags are an important element both for humans and search engines that I often see neglected in small websites. Alt tags are the alternative descriptions for images.

Alt tags are short sentences, currently up to 125 characters, that describe what each image is about in a natural way. For example, an alt tag of an image of a city park on a Sunday could be: “People of all ages hanging out in Victory Park, Pasadena, on a sunny Sunday morning.”

Alt tags is a user-friendly feature

  • In slow connections where images take time to download, alt text shows in the place of the image, so users can immediately see what each photo is about.
  • Hovering over an image, alt tags appear to quickly offer more information of what the image is about to curious viewers.
  • Alt tags were originally developed to facilitate visually impaired visitors, who might not see 2D patterns and shapes but can read what is in the image using big-size fonts or similar aids.
  • They are a sign of website quality, showing that you really took care of yet another detail in your website.

As for the search engines, alt tags offer another tool to help search crawlers understand what your content is about, and help you rank higher for this content.

Sometimes, you can check for yourself if your website has alt tags. Navigate to a few images in the main body of your page, not the header, slide show or similar. Hover over the image and wait 0.5 sec. A text box with the image description should appear. Talk with your web designer to check if all or some of your website images have alt tags.

Pop-Ups

Pop-up messages are used to attract the visitors’ attention to perform an action, such as subscribe to your newsletter, or to pass a vital message like ‘50% sales’. Even though in my opinion pop-up CTAs (Call To Action) are on the decline, at present they are used extensively in popular websites and portals with frequent and/or devoted users.

For a small company website my advise is to follow the old time favourite: the 3-Click Rule and help web surfers find their destination quickly and painlessly. Any extra click on a ‘Close X’ button gets them one step further away from the infor they’re looking for.

Responsive pop-up announcements which benefit the potential client, are welcome.

Customer discomfort rises with flashy shout outs for the benefit of the business, eg. ‘Subsribe to our newsletter’.
~If your content or service is of value, they will subscribe on their own.
Try getting visitors’ emails with news on offers or magazine-style articles and politely offer them the chance to subscribe with an alluring graphic placed in the main body area, on the sidebar or other prominent spots of your pages.

Occasional responsive pop-up announcements which benefit the potential client, like ‘Check out our New All Inclusive Deal and Save’ are always welcome.

Mandatory cookie notices, make in fact 1 of the 3 clicks of the golden rule. Visitors need to take a decision as soon as they land on your webpage: Accept or reject (some or all) cookies?
A second decision to click, fill out or close a pop-up message ~ should totally worth it!. A pop-up CTA is as soon as they land on your webpage. If you ask them to take a second action, it can be a bother.

Always check how your pop-up messages look on various desktop and mobile devices:

  • Which parts of the page do they cover?
  • Can important parts still be seen? (eg. Menus)
  • Is the ‘Close X’ button clearly marked?
  • Is the ‘Close X’ button easy to close for everyone?

Page Titles

Page titles (or Meta Titles) are what people see on their browser tab that helps them distinguish your page among other open tabs in their browser window.

Page Titles appear in the search engines results – so they can be a decisive factor for a search user to become a website visitor! The more informative and professional they look, the more people will decide to click on your website instead of your competitor’s.

They also show that you took the time to make your website user-friendly and informative – a positivie sign of your business.

Page titles can vary, but for small businesses without an eshop, they traditionally include your company name and roughly 3-6 additional words of what each webpage is about.

If you are a company that offers services locally, add your location on (most) page titles. On the home page, start the title with your company name… and DO NOT include the word HOME.

On other pages, depending on the nature of your company, it’s best to start with 2-4 words describing the main subject of your page and add 2-3 more informative words like your company name or other uniquefeatures. Currently, it’s advisable to add up to 60 characters on a page title, but you can go extra since this number is slowly rising.
~ This simplistic approach will give you some well-structure page titles if you decide to them quickly on your own.
For more effective Page Titles, search for latest trends and resources in SEO blogs like:

It’s best to capitalize the first letter of each word and separate each bit of information with a dash (-) or vertical line (|).
For an accountant website for example, a nice page title would be:
Payroll Services | Smith & Co. Accountants | Anerley London

To see if your website has effective page titles, open each page and hover your cursor over the tab title at the top of your browser window. YOu can always contact your webdesigner and even offer some ready Page Meta Titles for your pages.

Secure Connection

Security is very important – both for search engines and human visitors.

Check the address bar of any of your web pages. Ideally, it should start with https:// instead of the outdated http://

Secure web pages need an SSL certificate purchased by your hosting provider. An SSL certificate is a digital certificate that authenticates a website’s identity and enables an encrypted connection. And a decisive factor for search engine ranking.

Old technology websites without ssl certificates may even present your visitors with a warning that your website is not secure. A truly negative first impression!

Web users often avoid visiting and navigating not-secure websites.

Make sure that your website is secure and that your SSL certificate is updated regularly.

Contact Details

People may visit your website just to see your contact details. So, help them find what they are looking for easily, by adding your contact tel., email, and (if you have a physical location) your address with or without a map thumbnail, in various places: in the footer, but also on your homepage – especially if you don’t have a contact page clearly marked as such, ie. “Contact”.

Keep in mind that when your company email appears on your website it’s always prone to be harvested by spammers who bombard you with unwanted emails, sometimes, until eternity.

While the popular email protection used to be a contact form – which doesn’t show your actual email address on your website, nowadays users may want to copy or to quickly click on your email address to contact you straight from their own email account.

To avoid having your email filled with spam, consult your web designer on what’s the best current way to protect your company email. And contact them again, in case you start receiving spam emails.

Last but not least…

Favicon

A favicon is the small symbol that appears on the tab title right before your page title. It’s almost a standard by now.

It’s cute it enhances brand awareness and helps users easily distinguish your page in the multitude of open pages in their browser window.
And, of course, it is one more sign that you really took care of your website!

Ask your graphic designer to create a favicon: a square graphic inspired by your logo, ultra minimal with clear details and contrasting colors. Check here for technical details on how to create a favicon. Better still, connect your web and graphic designer to communicate favicon specifications between them.

Once the favicon is uploaded, check that it looks smart on the most popular browsers.

Following the tips above, will make your new website more professional, appealing and SEO-friendly. Work with your web designer and always check all your website pages every few months to make sure everything looks and finctions as they should.

And remeber: a website goes beyond technicalities. It even goes beyond content. A website is also about feeling.
What’s the feeling a user gets for your company through your website?
A website is more than business.
It’s inspiration; it’s art.
The art of presenting your business to the world.

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