Let’s face facts: no contemporary business of any size can thrive without a viable website. While this may seem obvious for product orientated e-commerce outlets, it is a truth that service providers must also bear in mind as they look to retain and win custom. It is relatively simple to procure a website and domain address, and the challenge for small business owners lies in hosting the site, providing technical support to customers and optimising the layout for mobile devices.
These are the three cornerstones of successful website hosting in the modern age, although they demand advanced and technical skill-sets that are beyond most entrepreneurs. This is why the vast majority outsource the design and management of their websites to viable industry experts, who can conceive innovative designs and handle the technical aspects of hosting. As a small business owner, you must give careful consideration to these elements and prominent market trends prior to recruiting a design or hosting professional. For example: -
1. Mobile and Responsive Website Design
In terms of the design element of your website, the trend for increased mobile usage is highly influential. Last years’ ‘Cyber Monday’ provided a relevant case in point, as the volume of retails sales executed through mobiles and tablets reached just short of $400 million in the U.S. alone. Given that consumers are also using their handheld devices to reference and review products prior to making an online purchase, it is absolutely imperative that the design and layout of your website is optimised for mobile interfaces.
How to respond as a Small Business Owner: As a small business owner who is faced with this challenge, you have two clear options. The first is to outsource design to a professional agency, which will create a professional, responsive and actionable website that will load quickly when accessed by mobile devices. Although this may seem favourable, however, it also carries a significant cost that some businesses find too much to bear. Another option is to build your own website, which is far more affordable but requires certain skills and industry knowledge. This is increasingly viable given the growing capability of website builders, as many now incorporate strong Content Deliver Networks to improve the availability and performance of your pages and content.
2. Technical Support
Once your website begins to benefit from increased volumes of traffic, the need for technical support is crucial. This can be provided by either external firms or your individual website builder of choice, and it is important that your partner adopts an innovative and proactive approach to maintaining functionality. Even with the relatively smaller customer bases associated with small businesses, it only takes a significant period of website downtime to diminish revenues and damage your existing reputation.
How to respond as a Small Business Owner: The most important thing to consider when appraising companies is the capacity to deliver 24 hour technical support, as this ensures that server and network faults can be quickly corrected regardless of the time of day that they occur. This is particularly important for small business owners with an international focus, as they are likely to have a geographically diverse customer base that is active across multiple time zones. If you experience connectivity issues and do not have the benefit of 24 hour technical support, there is a genuine danger that you will lose revenues and long-term custom.
3. Dedicated Site Management and Sustainable Web Hosting Solutions
In terms of site management and hosting, reliability is your main priority as a small business owner. There are also a host of topical and real-time trends that impact on this sector, however, with Cloud technology and sustainability two of the most prominent examples of 2014. The emergence of the Hybrid Cloud allows small businesses to merge the benefits of dedicated hosting and public servers in order to boost efficiency, for example, while green environmentally friendly hosting helps CSR-conscious ventures to partner with like-minded service providers.
How to respond as a Small Business Owner: These are two key trends for 2014, and they have particular relevance to business owners who are looking to scale upwards and further develop their website. Before you look to host your website, however, you should take the time to research Cloud technology and develop an understanding of the exact benefits that it will deliver to your business. In terms of sustainable hosting, this should be considered carefully in line with an existing CSR strategy, while it is also crucial that it does not compromise the performance of your website.