How to Design a Successful Website: A Beginner’s Guide

Beginning the process of planning and creating your business’s website can seem challenging. Knowing what goals you need to support its purpose can vary from business to business. This guide will help you not only identify your business’s goals, but also the goals of your website. It’ll also explain how good content and design can drive success for you and your small business.


Before You Begin

It’s always important to plan ahead, but knowing which website builder is a good fit for creating and launching your business site will really help you kick-start the process. Check out our Best Website Builder review to learn more.

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Along with this guide, check out our other helpful articles to learn how to create a more complete business website using various website builders.

Identifying Your Goals

The first part of planning for any successful business website involves having a good general idea of what you’d like to accomplish and how you’d like to do so. These goals will not only help you decide how to build and design your site, but also how you’ll measure the success of both your website and business.

Read on to learn how to identify the goals for both your business and your website, how they relate to each other, and some tangible ways to measure the success of your business website.

Identifying Your Business Goals

Before starting on this journey, ask yourself several questions about what you want and need from your small business. This process will help you determine your overall goals as well as how they relate to your business’s website.

Here’s a list of good questions to ask and answer for yourself:

  • What type of business do you have? Are you a local business owner? Someone who runs a coffee shop, auto repair business, or restaurant would fit into this category as well as anyone with a small brick-and-mortar location. Is your business an online service, such as a social media or membership site? Or, are you an ecommerce business owner seeking to sell goods through an online store?
  • What kind of goods or services does your business provide? Do you provide physical goods like clothes, auto parts, pastries, etc.? Or, do you offer digital goods, such as downloads, memberships, and/or tutorials? Does your business provide a service that needs both an online and in-person presence? A good example of such a business is a chiropractor or other wellness service provider looking to set up online scheduling while it still provides face-to-face services. 
  • How do you want to engage with customers? Do you want to have customers call you directly? Do you plan to issue monthly newsletters to keep customers informed about your business? Or, would you rather have most of your engagement occur on social media instead? Does an email campaign to promote sales seem like a good fit for your business model? Or, would you prefer to drive more foot traffic to your store? 
  • How new is your business? Are you just starting out and very fresh to all of this? Has your business been around for several years and you want to revitalize your business model or perhaps forge in a new direction? Or, is your business experiencing a growth spurt and you realize you need a more professional website to keep up?
  • What kind of growth do you seek? Do you plan on opening a new location soon? Do you plan to add more products to your store? Or, do you want to find a way to reach new customers?

Your answers to these questions will help paint a clear picture of what type of website your business needs and its ideal structure. They’ll also help you focus on how best to use your website to attain your business goals.

After answering these questions, it’s time to connect your business goals to your website goals.

Using the right website builder for your business can make all the difference. Check out our Best Website Builder review to learn more.

Identifying Your Website Goals

Now that you have a deeper understanding of your business goals, you’re ready to connect them to what you want from your business website.

Here are some important questions to ask yourself to help identify your website goals:

  • Based on your business goals, what type of website do you need? The type of website your business will need can range from a simple landing page with basic information to a detailed online store with multiple pages. Knowing if you need something more complex or pared down will greatly improve your chances of success.
  • How do you want to showcase your goods or services? Try to envision the sort of content that’ll really benefit your website. Are you an artist seeking to showcase a professional portfolio? Will you need a blog full of weekly updates and information? What about an online store? 
  • How can your website engage with customers? Think back to how you answered the question about how you want your business to interact with customers. Will your website need a chat box function so customers can reach out immediately and directly? Will you need a contact form to collect visitors’ email addresses for an opt-in newsletter? Do you want your website to display connections to your business’s social media channels? 
  • Will your website be able to grow with your business? This really boils down to which website builder you use. Do you currently have a good website builder you like and trust? Can you upgrade your plans or services with your current provider or will you have to look elsewhere? Does your website builder allow for multiple pages and websites? Or, are you starting from scratch and need help finding the right website builder for your business? 

Your answers to these questions should give you a good idea of your website goals. But, how will you know if your website is successful? To do that, you’ll need to connect your business and website goals to a tangible way of measuring progress toward achieving each of them.

Still need help deciding which website builder is best for your business? Check out our Best Website Builder review.

Measuring Your Website’s Success

Now that you have a better sense of your business and website goals, it’s time to determine how you’ll measure the effectiveness of your website at achieving them.

It’s often easier said than done to take a big idea and break it into measurable pieces. The best way to do this is to follow the “SMART” method. In this context, “SMART” stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based goals.

  • Specific: Narrow in on a singular goal. For example, you might state you want to increase your newsletter subscribers by 50 percent in the next year.
  • Measurable: A good example of a measurable website goal might focus on selling a certain number of items through your website within a specific time frame. 
  • Attainable: This one can prove difficult because it requires you to make an honest assessment about if you have the skills, resources, and time needed to accomplish each goal. If you have a larger goal in mind, consider breaking it down into smaller, more attainable goals.
  • Relevant: All of your website’s goals should help you achieve your business’s goals in some way. You may have specific goals for your website as a whole as well as separate goals for individual pages. But, all of them must support your business’s overall objectives.
  • Time-Based: Finally, set a timeframe or deadline for achieving each of your goals. This’ll help you more accurately measure the success of both your business and your website.

Now that you’ve identified your business and website goals — and how to measure progress toward achieving them — it’s time to focus on what your website will need. Specifically, how the content and design of your business website help you achieve your goals.

Creating an Effective Design and Engaging Content for Your Website

A well-structured website is key to attracting visitors’ attention, keeping them engaged, and, ultimately, persuading them to take a specific action like subscribing to a newsletter, viewing a portfolio, or purchasing an item.

Determining Your Website’s Optimal Structure

The structure of your website should make it easy for visitors to find vital information about your business. By applying good, general design concepts, you can keep your online visitors engaged without making them feel lost or overwhelmed.

Most business websites need at least four specific pages:

  • Home: The homepage is the first thing visitors will see when they arrive at your business website. Ensure it makes a good first impression by providing a balance of information and creativity. Importantly, it should include a short description of your business and its offerings as well as links to the rest of the site’s pages.
  • About: This page should provide more in-depth information on the history and team behind your business. Use it to tell your story from a personal perspective as well as highlight how it makes you and your business unique.
  • Contact: Making it easy for visitors to contact you will improve their overall experience on your website. This page can include your business’s contact information as well as links to its social media accounts. Adding a contact or subscription form to this page (and others) also can encourage customers to stay in touch.
  • Privacy Policy: This page is a great way to build trust with your visitors. Clearly state how your business collects and manages visitors’ personal information as well as how you share this information with any third-party providers (if you do).

These four basic pages will help your online visitors know where to go to find the information they seek. The next step involves creating engaging content to improve their overall experience.

For more information, check out our How To Structure a Website article.

Creating Engaging Content

While creating engaging content isn’t always easy, it’s still essential to your website’s success. Knowing your website’s goals will help guide you as you develop thoughtful content to engage your target audience. 

Think about the reasons why your target audience might visit your website. For example, are you a ceramicist who sells pottery online or a manicurist who offers online scheduling? Ensuring your site has both the visual appeal to compliment your branding and the content to pique potential customers’ interest is key. Tell your story and provide necessary information. If you're an artist, use this space to explain your unique process, keeping your content both personal and informative. That’s the best way to drive authentic engagement with your visitors.

Next, structure your website’s pages and content according to the information visitors will find most useful. You also should use internal links and drop-down menus in your navigation menu to direct visitors to specialized pages within your site if they want more detailed information.

You also can provide a variety of other elements on your website to help achieve your goals.  Will be discussing these next as they will make it easier to meet the needs of your visitors and create a cohesive, well-designed site.

For more information, check out our How to Make a Website article.

Incorporating Key Elements for Success

Beyond the essential pages and content a good business website needs to achieve its goals, several other key elements also can impact its success. 

Here’s a list of some key elements you can add to your site to improve the overall user experience and its business performance, and examples of how to use them to track your success:

  • Internal Links: These embedded links not only help visitors more easily navigate your website, but also communicate the exact information visitors need to know when clicking on them. Just ensure these links remain up to date because a broken link never provides an enjoyable experience. Use your site analytics to see how often specific pages are viewed by visitors, a great way to see if clicking on these links is successful.
  • Calls to Action: These commonly appear on buttons site visitors can click, inviting them to “sign up,” “buy now,” or take another action. Just remember to provide a compelling reason for visitors to click on your call-to-action (CTA) buttons with headlines and subheads that clearly illustrate the benefits for them. A great way to measure the success of these CTAs is to track how many people purchase an item or sign up for a newsletter with a CTA button.
  • Contact Forms: Most website builders include these forms within almost any template. They typically enable customers to sign up for newsletters, subscribe to a service, or simply send your business a message. They also provide a great way to stay connected with your visitors and should always include a thank-you message. Contact forms are one of the easiest ways to measure the success of your website, as they provide all the information you need about your visitors who use them.
  • Social Media Icons: Most website builder templates include a way to attach social media icons to your site’s header and/or footer that’ll take visitors to your business’s social media feeds. You’ll also typically have several ways to connect your Instagram®, Twitter®, or Facebook® feeds directly to your business website. With these features, any post you make on a connected social media account also will appear on your site. This makes it easy to keep track of your online success, by having a social media feed and website that compliment each other. Looking for new followers is an easy way to track your growth.
  • Chat Boxes: More and more website builders now support chat boxes — either as something built into a template or as an app you can add on to your site. This feature allows customers to chat with you or an employee, ask questions, take a quiz, or even add their details to a contact sheet. These are great ways to measure the success of your engagement and collect information necessary to tracking your growth and customer interaction.
  • Drop-Down Menus: Typically found in your site’s main navigation menu, these menus make it easy to keep your site organized while also helping visitors quickly find the information they seek. 

Adding these key elements to your site will enhance the user experience for your visitors. They also can help you thoughtfully engage with your target audience and collect the data you need to accurately measure your site’s success.

Final Thoughts

Now that you have a better understanding of how to design a successful website, it’s time to begin building your own. Read our Best Website Builder review to determine which tool will work best for you and your business. 

Interested in seeing some amazing examples of different business websites? Check out these articles for a peek at what these website builders can create:

GoDaddy Website Examples
Shopify Website Examples
Weebly Website Examples
Wix Website Examples

Additional Resources