Whether you’re a caterer, restaurateur or care home owner, your website is vitally important. It’s the first port of call for a prospective new customer. If it’s eye-catching, easy to use with all the relevant information, it will increase the chances of them doing business with you. Visitors to websites have short attention spans so you have to ensure that your website is clear, concise and easy to navigate otherwise they will click off after a few seconds.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF YOUR WEBSITE?
Are you planning a brand new design or a redesign of your existing website? What do you want to achieve? The first step is to identify your typical client. As Onika Staas from OS Webdesign says “Think about your ideal customer and what they will be looking for on your website.”
Review competitors’ websites and note down what you like or dislike.
This will help you come up with ideas. Do you like the font and colour? If you were a customer, would you be interested in the services offered? If you’re aiming for an e-commerce website, research other players in the market and see how they do it. Identify what makes you stand out from your competitors – this might be your noted head chef, your special facilities or a sought after service.
WHAT ARE THE KEY ELEMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL WEBSITE?
According to Rob Holmes from Vinegar Creative, the pages of a website need to have a good mix of images and text. “Also keep the structure simple so it’s easy for users to navigate the site. It’s also important to keep in mind your branding – using the correct fonts and any specific colours. Make sure the design doesn’t jump round from page to page,” he says.
If you have an existing website, it’s important to keep it current. “This is the main problem,” he adds. “There may be blogs from four years ago, links to pages that are no longer live or old email addresses that no-one responds to. Also technology changes quickly – for example, all sites need to be mobile friendly.”
Loading speed is another issue – if a site takes too long to download, users will go elsewhere “or even worse, they won’t even find your site as Google will penalise you in its rankings,” Rob says.
FINDING A PROFESSIONAL
The best idea is to hire an experienced website designer who not only designs the website, but can also advise on how to market it as well. You need to have a budget in mind or at least a ballpark figure so the designer can work round this. The timing is important – tell the website designer when you plan to launch the new website especially if it coincides with an
opening or new service. Discuss your requirements such as how many pages, photography, video, the ability for users to book or make payment.
A PICTURE TELLS A THOUSAND WORDS
Make your website as visual as possible by using high quality images. Close-up images of food work well for restaurants and caterers. If your business is a care home, visitors will expect to see, for example, facilities, rooms and catering amenities. The right images will encourage visitors to explore the site. Investing in a professional photographer is worthwhile, as the pictures
can be used for other marketing activities.
CONTENT IS CRUCIAL
Hire a professional copywriter (your website designer can probably recommend one). Although it may be tempting to write the words for the website internally, copywriters can write about your business objectively, highlighting the company’s selling points. They are also trained to use “keywords” in the copy which will direct people to the website when they search for specific keywords or phrases. The website should contain all the basics, as well as the following:
- Testimonials and reviews: Customers want to know what others think about you so make sure that testimonials and reviews are easily found.
- “FAQs” (Frequently Asked Questions) – this is an important page and can save staff time answering emails.
- “About Us” Page: This provides an opportunity to give customers the background about your company and its USPs (unique selling points).
- Covid-19: inform customers what you’re doing to follow the government’s guidelines to make them feel safe.
MAINTAINING YOUR WEBSITE
When planning a new website, this aspect is often overlooked. As Onika
Staas from OS Webdesign says, “You need to think about who will be responsible for the ongoing maintenance of your site – you or your website designer?” She recommends having a content management system (CMS) which enables you to control the content by updating, changing images, text, video or audio.
DRIVING TRAFFIC TO YOUR WEBSITE
There are many ways to promote your website. Include it on everything from business cards to promotional lettering on delivery vans. Make
sure it is included in online directories. Add new content regularly and add your website to Google My Business. Start a blog, write guest blogs and link the website to your social media accounts.