Small Business Web Sites

by : Ray Davies

It's so easy to forget just who a small business website is for. It's not for you, it's for potential and existing customers. Far too many web sites are "vanity projects" that impress friends and family but have little appeal to the target market.

A business at the cheaper end of the market should have a web site that reflects that. If it looks too "Posh" it will give out the wrong messages and possibly intimidate the visitor

Careful attention to this aspect of design will avoid the visitors gaining the impression that things might not be in their price range.

Of course, the reverse is true. A high earner who's used to up-market stores and luxury goods will not be impressed with the low rent look and will swiftly move on.

The target markets differ greatly and this fact must be fully understood. A small business catering to those seeking a low price bargain has to have a sort of "low rent appeal". That's not to say the site should be a mess of broken links and unfinished pages.

Think of it in terms of the "Red top" tabloid newspapers in the UK. They are properly laid out but have a brash cheap look that appeals to their readership.

Contrast these with the more tasteful and sober impression given by the "Quality" dailies like The Times or Daily Telegraph. It's fair to say a "Times reader" wouldn't be seen dead with a copy of the Daily Sport!

In the USA the comparison could perhaps be between the National Enquirer and The Washington Post. This analogy can be applied anywhere in the world, only the titles of the publications change.

Think carefully about your target market's demographics. This doesn't mean targeting specific social groupings such as "Upper, Middle or Working" classes. It's far more subtle than that. Try to get inside the customers head and think as they would. What would a prospective customer expect to find?

One way of approaching this, is to think in terms of your own likes and dislikes but be careful not to let personal prejudices get in the way.

As an example; say you had an intense dislike of pop music and you were taking a 15 year old out to buy clothes. You would undoubtedly find your ears assailed with just the sort of music you hate played at full volume. The target market would love it - that's why it's played. Just imagine a "Teen fashion" store playing organ recitals - it wouldn't last long.

In summary: Ensure that your prospective clients don't suffer some sort of culture shock - don't go over the top with anything.

Have a clear image of the type of customer you have or maybe, seek and then provide a small business web site design that's in keeping with that image.