If you want your small business website to stand out from the crowd, follow these practical website design tips. If you do, you’ll harvest more traffic, higher conversions and more sales from your site. 1. Know your site’s objectives – The success of your company’s website should, at the end of the day, hinge on how well it achieves your objectives. To help with identifying your website’s objectives, here’s a starter list of the most common ones: • Generate more qualified traffic • Produce more leads • Sell more products • Educate buyers • Generate passive income • Increase employee productivity. Once you identify all the objectives for your site, see if you can’t prioritize what the top three objectives are. Keeping these top three objectives for your website in the forefront, you’ll do a far better job of designing a website that achieves your objectives. 2. Make your online identity synch up with your offline one – Most small businesses have spent countless hours and dollars developing an offline company identity. This identity, found in existing signage, PowerPoint presentations or brochures, may have already established an image in the minds of visitors who land on your site. That’s why you should work hard to incorporate logos, icons, colors and typestyles from your offline identity into your online one. To drive this point home, picture a visitor to your site with one of your brochures in her hand. Now, imagine her reaction if she sees one identity reflected in the brochure and an entirely different in your website. 3. Identify the key three tasks for your site - A short time ago, I was hired to audit a client’s website. When I met with the owner, I asked him to name the top three things he wanted visitors to do after arriving at his website. He said he wanted them to 1) place an order for his spa covers 2) understand why his spa covers were superior to the competitors’ and 3) order accessory items. But when I visited his site for the first time, I couldn’t see how to do any of these three tasks. For your small business website to succeed, first identity your Key Three tasks and then make each one blindingly obvious. Use whatever design ideas you and your website designer can come up with (i.e. box them in, shade them a different color, use bursts), but just make sure they’re as obvious as the nose on your face. 4. Draw visitors in with your first two paragraphs of copy - Based on studies, you’ve got between 15 and 30 seconds to convince a visitor to stay on your site, so your first 100 words of copy have got to be compelling. I once heard a webmaster refer to these first 100 words as your “opening statement”. And much like the lawyer arguing in court, if your opening statement doesn’t convince your visitor, you’ll fail to win your case. 5. Consider including a search box - According to website marketing guru Jakob Nielsen, 50% of all website visitors are search-dominant; meaning they arrive at a website fully expecting to search its content using a search box. So, if your site contains many pages (over 100), articles, white papers, or back issues of newsletters, provide a search box that’s easy to find and use. 6. Use a tagline - Good sites use a tagline to communicate what their site is all about, and place it inside the front page header for maximum exposure. Some of the world’s most popular websites use this approach including: Ebay – “you can get it on Ebay”. YouTube – “broadcast yourself”. MySpace – “a place for friends”. If you’re wondering how to develop a distinctive tagline for your site, try my book Stand Out from the Crowd; Secrets to Crafting a Winning Company Identity which features a step-by-step approach to generate taglines for any business. 7. Keep the web page layout consistent throughout your site - I disagree with those who say the home page template should differ from the site’s interior pages. In my mind, all pages, images, elements, typefaces, headings, and footers should stay consistent throughout your site. Consistency may be the “hobgoblin of little minds” (Ralph Waldo Emerson), but it’s the hallmark of any standout website. 8. Keep text short - Recent statistics show that people read from computer screens 25% slower than from paper. To address this, break up your small business’ website copy into small blocks, use shorter paragraphs, lead off text sections with subheads, and occasionally use bullet pointed lists. 9. Provide a FAQ section - For recurring questions, a FAQ section can be a godsend. A FAQ will also help first time visitors get acquainted with your company and its philosophy. But more importantly, a FAQ section will build trust and credibility in the mind of a visitor by helping them answer their own questions. 10. Hang sales tools off your site - One of my larger clients hangs its latest PowerPoint sales presentations off its website. That way, one of its sales reps in Boston can give a product demo to a prospect in Wyoming without either of them leaving their offices. If your small business is national in scope, think of the travel savings if you adopt this approach. 11. Provide contact information on every page - Many times buyers print off web pages for further review. Then, they end up contacting your company from that piece of paper. That’s why it’s so important to include your company’s address, phone numbers and email at the bottom of each web page. As a marketer, your job is to make it as easy to do business with your company as possible. This is one way. 12. Increase media access to your company with a press room – If one objective of your site is to generate media coverage, consider adding a self-serve “Press Room” to the site. I was once emailed by a reporter who had, unbeknownst to me, downloaded one of my marketing articles and my biographical information from the “Press Kit” section of my website (www.emergemarketing.com) . She then emailed me, seeking my permission to reprint the article, just hours from her deadline. The more accessible your website is to the media, the more your company will be written about. Follow these twelve tips and you’ll be well on your way to a standout website design.