The Internet is the root from which our increasingly digital culture sprouts, and as such, it wouldn’t be too outlandish to say that business websites are the new storefronts. Your website provides many customers with their first impression of what your business is about, and the quality of your Web design has a significant effect on whether they’ll buy from you. With steep competition in online advertising and e-commerce, your business needs to have strong design to stand out among the crowd and win customers.

Main goals of the Web design process

The tools you select for your Web design project need to be able to satisfy three major requirements for a competitive business website:

—      Visual representation of the business: Your site design needs to fit the feel of your business, whether that’s modern, urban, personal, or cozy. Branding on your website includes features like the logo, colors, images, shapes, and layout of the elements. The last thing you want is an unprofessional cookie-cutter site that doesn’t fit the feel of your business at all.

—      Easy to use: Your website won’t be very helpful if people can’t figure out how to get past the home page, or — even worse — if they don’t find your site at all because it isn’t indexed in their search engine of choice. Therefore, you need to have a site structure with easy-to-navigate menus so no page ends up at a dead end. In addition, your website must include proper title tags and keywords to help search engines index it and drive traffic.

—      Communicate why your business exists: Beyond the visual and technical aspects of Web design, your site needs to make it clear to visitors what your business is about and what role you fill. This helps convert visitors into customers. Plus, after they’re customers, it helps develop loyalty as they continue to connect with your business. You communicate these ideas through images, words and guiding visitors deeper into understanding your business.

Affordable web design options

Creating a website that fulfills all the major requirements doesn’t need to destroy your budget. Consider several options, each with a different mix of upfront and ongoing costs.

—      Use a do-it-yourself service to create a website from a provided template, often through a “What You See is What You Get” (WYSIWYG) editing and design interface. Popular options these days include Moonfruit, Weebly, Qapacity, Jimdo, and Yola. This route requires a high upfront investment of your time. Plus, if you don’t have any design experience, you can easily end up with a confusing, jumbled mess of a site. This is the least attractive option.

—      Hire a Web designer to create your website in. Then it’ll be up to you to take over and manage your website in the future, or to go back to that designer or another when you need to make changes to the site. This can work if you have moderate Web design skills and can afford the upfront cost of a professional design.

—      Contract with an affordable web design company to create and manage your website on an ongoing basis. This type of service often includes initial consultations, custom website design, copywriting, search engine listing and often options to create and manage your social media accounts as well.

Your business can’t afford to go without a competitive website. Your site provides a first look at your company and often goes as far as making sales for you. Rather than wasting more of your time on your cobbled-together site, take the necessary steps to create a website that truly markets your business and reflects the quality of your products and services.