Websites are the new shop window

When researching more about a business or a person, you are most likely to search for their website online. However, how many times did you leave a site a few seconds later because it lacked the basic information you needed? Perhaps the template was complicated, or you could not locate the contact information. If you are like me, then you have probably found yourself in a similar situation recently.

Nowadays users search for everything with their mobile or computers. It is rarely that they would call anyone on the phone to learn about you. A great website is key to attracting new customers and retaining old ones. Think of your site as your shop window, or the first stop for your customers to know more about you.

Building a website is not hard anymore. In fact, companies such as WordPress, Blogspot, and made it so easy to make a professional looking website using ready-made or custom templates and registering a domain in a matter of hours. You do not need to invest that much money for a basic website. I built mine on my own and I felt proud when it was completed.

Through my work I meet interesting clients from different industries, whether it is a retail or a fashion store, and though a lot of them have great concepts, and dedicated team behind them, most of their websites lacked a basic component that users would look for when they visit their sites.

If you are an entrepreneur and have a website, ensure that the following vital information is included:

Include an About section. An important factor to provide more information about you and your business is to include a section on your website that says exactly what you do. In it you would include a precis of business: how it started, how were you inspired, and your vision and goal is. It would be good to include a brief biography about yourself. Under that section you could include a subsection where you could highlight the team behind your business. Highlight who your team members are and provide a brief background about them. You could even make it seem personal where each team member could explain their part. My favourite About sections are those where I feel that the business and the team members are speaking to me using first person. People like stories, so narrate your business. It does not have to be long – 500 words would be sufficient. Add photos of your team, and ensure they are of high resolution and professional looking ones to give your business a more human element.

Make it easy for customers to contact you. Place your contact link on the top right hand side of your website or within the menu, but make it easy to find. Customers want to ensure that they are dealing with a real, credible business, so include your location if there is one, your address, email, and telephone numbers. This is where you should include links to your social media pages as well to make it easy for your clients to locate you. If you have a physical shop, then upload a map. One of my clients included GPS coordinates on their website to make it easier for clients to locate their offices.

Last but not least, keep your website simple. While you may be excited to load everything about your business to your site, you do not need it. A basic business website would include the following items: About, contact, news, products or services, portfolio of work, and a blog if relevant. Most of the templates provided by the web building companies mentioned in this column are mobile-friendly, so you do not need to invest in a company that would turn your website to mobile friendly unless you are running an e-commerce website or one that is more than basic.

It is also a good idea to keep your design simple but sleek and professional, and that the font chosen, style, and the background are all comfortable to look at. Avoid cursive fonts in small sizes, and flash backgrounds and colours.

Websites are becoming the first stop for customers to learn more about you and your business. Make sure to provide them with what they need. Remember first impressions take mere seconds to make and could be deal breakers.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and communications consultant based in Abu Dhabi. Twitter: @manar_alhinai.

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