14 Tips to Design a Slick Website on a Small Business Budget

Businesses in the United States spend over $40 billion on web design services each year.

In fact, experts say the US web design industry has grown 4.4% annually every year since 2016.

Why do companies spend so much on web design?

They understand the importance of designing a thoughtful and functional website for driving business revenue.

A successful company website is easy to navigate, considers the needs of visitors, and looks impeccable on every device.

Although small businesses typically spend between $5,000 to $35,000 on web design, your customers really don’t care how much you spend. They’ll never see the invoices.

Customers just want to find the information they need. That’s it.

Fortunately, you can create a slick, functional, and purpose-driven website yourself with intentional web design – all while sticking to a small business budget. Most web design tools are extremely user-friendly and often free. It all boils down to splurging on the right elements and strategizing the rest.

The list below explains everything you need to know to create an amazing website for your small business on a tight budget.

How Important is Web Design Anyway?

A lot of small business owners don’t realize that their website’s functionality depends on the design. Visitors come to your website expecting it to serve specific purposes. Impressive design is a nice bonus but basic functions must come first.

That’s why nearly half of all people admit they will leave a website if it has poor functionality. 38% look at your layout’s composition, navigation, and overall aesthetic before deciding whether to stay or leave.

why people abandon websites

GoodFirms

Plus, your brand’s website is essentially your digital business card or storefront. It’s your biggest chance to build brand recognition, connect with new customers, and boost customer loyalty online.

Here are a few reasons why thoughtful design is so important:

  • Your website is the “face” your brand shows to the world.
  • Your website is where you’ll make a first impression with new customers and prospects.
  • It directly relates to your SEO success (or lack thereof).
  • Web design gives you plenty of chances to reinforce branding with your logo and colors.
  • Customers can use your website to engage with your brand and take certain actions – like completing a purchase, asking questions, calling your company, or finding directions.
  • Your website serves as a home base for your entire digital presence including email marketing, social media, paid ads, and content.

As you can see, web design is a smart investment. Invest time into your brand’s web design today and it will give you leverage to deliver financial returns tomorrow.

14 Tips to Build a Slick Website on a Small Business Budget

Every part of your digital marketing strategy connects to your website in some way. Thoughtful and functional web design ensures your brand is set up for success everywhere online.

How much does great web design cost? Well, it depends on what you want to spend. Here’s a snapshot:

web design costs

WebFX

You can pay a fraction of that if you’re willing to invest the time to do things yourself. Just use the strategies below to build a functional, professional, and stunning website on a minimal budget.

1.) Prioritize a Clean and Consistent Logo

Visual assets are incredibly important online. No visual asset carries more weight than your brand’s logo because it’s how the world will recognize your brand. That’s why it’s vital you design a memorable logo and use it consistently for brand recognition.

Big companies like UPS and IBM understand this. That’s why they pay famous designers like Paul Rand up to $100k to design their logos.

You don’t have to spend that kind of money. Just make sure your logo is memorable, follows basic design elements, and accurately reflects your brand.

When it comes to web design, you’ll want a copy of your logo in multiple sizes and dimensions. This typically includes a 512×512 pixel design for your icon and another slightly larger header image, depending on your website’s theme.

2.) Develop a Set of Brand Guidelines

Many small businesses neglect this part of the process because they assume brand guidelines are only for huge international companies. The truth is, every brand can benefit from creating a strict set of guidelines.

Your brand guidelines include instructions on what colors to use in design elements, how to use your logo, how to choose appropriate stock photos, what your brand voice and tone should sound like, and much more.

Brand guidelines are critical for consistency. Don’t assume the same person will be writing copy across your website or tweaking your design elements indefinitely. Brand guidelines fix consistency problems before they happen and give your business’s website a professional touch.

Here’s a snapshot of Coca Cola Zero’s:

coke zero brand guidelines 2

coke zero brand guidelines

Issuu

3.) Create a Functional Spec Sheet for Business Requirements

Since web design plays such an important role in functionality, it’s absolutely critical to create a spec sheet that maps out what functions your website needs.

Ask yourself what you want visitors to do when they visit your website. Should they be able to…

  • Purchase physical products through an online storefront?
  • Schedule appointments at a physical location?
  • Speak to a sales rep or customer service rep?
  • Connect with your brand on other platforms?
  • Create and register an account with your brand?
  • Sign up for your email list or provide their contact information?

Nail down a spec sheet that outlines these functions so you can install the right technology and avoid bloat.

4.) Be Intentional with Your Menus and Navigation

When I work with web design clients, I like to define their website architecture on a high-level before even thinking about web design. By ‘high-level’ I mean:

  • Home
  • About
  • Mission
  • Staff
  • Why Choose Us?
  • Contact

Don’t get fancy with your navigation menus. This only confuses people because they expect everything to be in a certain place.

According to the design experts at Nielsen Norman, a simple menu with just a few categories is ideal. But if you must include more than the basics, they recommend aligning your menu to the left because users will spend 80% of their time on your website looking at the left-hand side of the screen.

Here’s an example of a successful left-aligned menu with 13 categories:

proper website design navigation menu

Nielsen Norman

5.) Use WordPress as Your Content Management System

Nearly 40% of all websites use WordPress as their content management system – up 5% from last year. Among websites that use a CMS, WordPress boasts a more than 64% market share.

content management systems wordpress

Search Engine Journal

Why does WordPress dwarf other choices like Shopify and Wix? It’s user-friendly, highly customizable, and sets you up for SEO success.

WordPress is the go-to option for both web design newbies and experts alike thanks to its massive library of (often free) plugins for customizing the user experience. Plus, WordPress’s robust and responsive community forums can help you address any issue that crops up.

6.) Choose a Lightweight, Responsive, and Affordable (Not Free) Theme

Choosing the right theme is incredibly important from a design perspective. Your theme impacts your website’s speed, customization options, functionality, and much more.

Pay close attention to the theme’s release date and update schedule. Don’t install a theme that hasn’t been updated in over a year. Themes require regular updates to fix bugs and keep up with WordPress updates. Otherwise, outdated plugins can pose a security risk or break your website.

I recommend Astra for themes and Elementor as a design builder platform. Astra is an affordable yet lightweight, responsive, and reliable theme. Paid themes are always worth the money because they offer excellent support. WordPress forums are helpful but paying for a theme will get you one-on-one tech support if you screw something up.

wordpress website themes

Elementor

7.) Customize with Free and Lightweight Plugins

Plugins are your secret weapon for creating a slick web design yourself on a small business budget. They help you customize your website and take control of certain aspects.

Depending on your spec sheet, you might choose plugins for…

  • Search engine optimization, like Yoast, Rank Math, or SEO Press.
  • Selling products or managing a digital storefront, like WooCommerce.
  • Capturing email addresses for a mailing list, like Mailchimp or Constant Contact.
  • Personalizing your blog content or suggesting content.
  • Security, like WordFence.
  • Optimizing speed and compressing images, like Autoptimize and WPRocket.

Plugins also give you the perfect opportunity to integrate your website with other marketing tools like a customer relationship management (CRM) system, email marketing, social media, analytics, and more. If you have other marketing tools, chances are they have a WordPress plugin available.

Yoast is a must-have because it gives you a play-by-play of the SEO on each page:

plugins yoast

Yoast

Again, I don’t recommend installing any plugin that hasn’t been updated in months. Any reputable plugin should receive updates for bug fixes every few weeks or months, depending on the function.

8.) Analyze Other Websites in Your Industry

You can learn about what to do/not to do from a design perspective simply by analyzing your competitors’ websites.

Make a list of your competitors and take notes as you visit their websites.

  • What functionality does every website seem to have?
  • What will visitors expect when they visit your website?
  • How could you offer something better with your web design?
  • Are any functions or features missing from these websites?
  • What does their brand “sound” like in the copy?
  • Which topics do they cover in their blog and landing pages?
  • How are different functions mapped out across the website and navigation menus?

9.) Always Choose Minimalist Over Extravagant

Minimalist design shouldn’t come at the sacrifice of functionality. Make sure you cover all the functions outlined on your spec sheet.

Where visual design is concerned, however, always choose minimalist over the alternative. Nearly 85% of professional designers say small business websites are usually too cluttered. Just because you can include something, that doesn’t mean you should.

Always put the user experience first. And where user experience is concerned, simple is best because we’re a mobile-first culture.

According to Think with Google, nearly 40% of smartphone users prefer using a brand’s mobile app because it offers an easier and faster way to complete their purchase. Your small business website design must prioritize ease of access and simplicity if you want to compete against other brands with mobile shopping apps.

Starbucks understands the importance of clean minimalist design:

minimalist design

Starbucks

10.) Use Clear Fonts with Proper Hierarchy

A lot of small businesses don’t realize that with web design, it’s really the little things that matter. Case in point: font choice.

You might be tempted to choose a fancy font that seems to represent your brand’s vibe or culture. In most cases, avoid this urge.

Your website font should be easy to read and scan before anything else. That means it needs to show up properly on everyone’s screen. Many fancy fonts are not available across every single device, making them poor choices for your website.

Luckily, Google has a repository of open-source web fonts for you to browse and use, if needed.

web fonts

Google

Typography hierarchy matters too. In fact, 19% of consumers say typography is the most important element on your website – that’s almost one-fifth of your visitors.

Choose the same font for every piece of text on your website – both paragraphs and headings – and make sure your headings are larger and/or bolder than your paragraph text.

11.) Keep Copy Concise, Actionable, and Direct

Here’s where many small businesses go overboard. They type huge blocks of copy to tell their story or promote their brand. This is a mistake.

Keep your visitors in mind. Make your copy about them – not you.

What information do your website visitors absolutely need to know? Why did they come to your website in the first place?

Make sure every line of copy serves a purpose or answers a specific question. Keep language concise and write direct short sentences. Make your point and move along.

12.) Choose Buttons for CTAs Instead of Hyperlinks

Stick with one main purpose and CTA for each page to prevent choice paralysis in your visitors. For those CTAs, it’s best practice to use a button instead of a hyperlink.

Buttons are ideal for the page’s main action because they typically stand out in a bright high-contrast color compared to the text on the page or background color.

Don’t you just want to click this button? Plus, buttons are easier to tap on a mobile device without accidentally clicking something else.

astra theme wordpress

Astra

13.) Quality Photos and Images Go a Long Way

A whopping 40% of consumers say images and photos are some of the most important elements on your page. When it comes time to invest money into certain aspects of your web design, don’t be afraid to splurge on high-quality photos.

These could include high-quality photos of your:

  • Products
  • Staff
  • Office or on-site building
  • Services in action

It could also include high-quality custom infographics, branded graphics, and stock photos. Either way, make sure your photos are unique and represent your brand accurately.

Top Design Firms

14.) Website Speed is Paramount

At the end of the day, your web design should prioritize speedy load times before anything else.

If your website loads in more than three seconds, most visitors will hit the back button and go somewhere else. Google aims for “less than half a second” with two seconds being the e-commerce threshold. That’s not much time to make an impression.

Plus, Google will ding your site’s SEO for slow load times.

You sacrifice so much with a slow website. Who cares how beautiful the design is if no one sees it?

Use tools like Pingdom’s website speed tester or GT Metrix to monitor your load time throughout each part of the design process.

pingdom website speed test

Pingdom

We Help Small Businesses Build Stunning Websites Designed with SEO in Mind

Need help optimizing your web design or building something from scratch? We can help with that. Our team at JS-Interactive has built stunning and functional websites for countless small businesses.

That’s how we help brands reach their full potential online. Whether you need to grow online reviews, reach a local audience, or maximize functionality, we can develop exactly what you need to impress customers and build a strong online presence for your brand.

Browse the JS-Interactive portfolio to see some of our web design work in action then book a free 30-minute call to chat about your goals!

19 Digital Marketing Trends and Predictions to Stay Ahead in 2021

2021 is here and most of us face a completely different reality than we did one year ago.

Your audience does too. Their financial situation, expectations, and material conditions have all changed drastically over the past year.

Speaking of change, chances are that your digital marketing strategy for 2021 could use a revamp. Moving into 2021, here’s what we know about customer expectations and what you can do to keep up with demands.

19 Digital Marketing Trends and Predictions to Stay Ahead of the Competition in 2021

The average person spends 37 minutes online on a desktop and 155 minutes online via mobile devices each day – amounting to nearly 3.25 hours total each day.

You should assume your audience is:

  • Reading blogs
  • Watching videos
  • Browsing graphics
  • Chatting in groups

The key is to figure out where your audience is and what kind of content they want. These digital marketing trends and strategies are vital for getting there in 2021.

1. Emphasis on Core Web Vitals

Starting in May, Google will look at your website’s user experience when it judges where to place you in search results. Metrics called Core Web Vitals will set the standard here.

core web vitals seo

Specifically, you’ll want to prioritize:

  • Page load time
  • Interactivity (like buttons over hyperlinks)
  • Layout and visual flow
  • Security and safe browsing (HTTPS, malware scanning, data privacy, etc.)

2. Greater Demand for Transparency and Trust

Knowing who to trust online isn’t always simple. People are bombarded with low-quality or downright fraudulent products via Facebook ads, for example:

transparency trust digital marketing

Radical transparency can get you far. Consider things like:

  • Beefing up reviews on your site and third-party sites like Google
  • Sharing a clear return policy and guarantee
  • Responding to negative reviews professionally
  • Managing profiles on sites like Trustpilot
  • Sharing your story and who you are via your About page

3. Voice Search Dominates

According to Gartner, an estimated 30% of all web browsing sessions happen without ever interacting with a screen. That means voice search matters.

Voice searches are longer and mimic natural language more than what you’d normally type into the search bar. Optimize for voice search by including long-tail questions as subheadings in your blogs and providing concise answers immediately.

Plus, this strategy will help you optimize for Google snippets as well.

4. Organic and Local SEO Still Matter

53% of consumers say they’re more likely to buy from local businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic and 68% of them plan to keep up the habit after the restrictions end.

Well, people use local SEO and organic search to find businesses in their area.

Optimize your local listings in Google Business, Bing Places, and map apps. Keep your hours up to date and encourage reviews. Consistent reviews can push you to the top of results.

5. Content Marketing and Strategy Aren’t Going Anywhere

Comprehensive content marketing shows customers why they should trust you. It demonstrates your industry authority and knowledge.

Consistent high-quality content also tells Google that you’re tapped into your industry’s current events and worth showing up in the search results.

The keyword here is “high-quality” though which translates to:

  • Long-form (1,500+ words) content that answers questions thoroughly
  • Well-researched, citing statistics and based on the latest info
  • Detailed subheadings to expand on details

6 Prioritize Conversational Marketing

82% of customers expect an immediate response from your brand when they reach out – wherever they reach out. Make sure you have a chatbot set up for DMs on platforms like Facebook Messenger, Twitter, and WhatsApp.

Tools like Twilio can help you add machine learning to your chatbot on any platform and keep conversations centralized in one dashboard. Plus, chatbots help you collect data.

If you can’t staff a live chat or manage a chatbot somewhere, turn the messaging feature off. It’s better to direct a customer elsewhere than let their message go unanswered.

7. Videos and Visual Content Beat Out Written Content

92% of marketers say video is a critical part of their digital marketing strategy. Look at it this way, YouTube is the second-largest search engine and people watch over one-billion hours of content there each day.

Skip the promotional stuff. Keep your video content human, casual, and entertainment-based. Pick an audience interest and run with it.

Patagonia does video particularly well with their nature and environment documentaries:

video content marketing

YouTube

Mailchimp also has a video series about entrepreneurs who made major career changes called Second Act:
video content mailchimp

YouTube

8. Virtual Events Sticking Around for the Long-Haul

Virtual events are here to stay but they could use some optimization. Audio-based apps like Clubhouse and Telegram’s group voice chats help take events to another level.

voice events

Telegram

Focus more on the community and less on the marketing. What can attendees gain from your event?

9. Focus on AR for Digital Engagement

Direct-to-consumer e-commerce brands were the first to understand the importance of AR in digital marketing for engagement and sales.

The shift online during the pandemic restrictions heightened the need for AR and VR as well.

Don’t shove augmented reality into your marketing where it doesn’t make sense. Look for areas where AR could enhance the experience.

Zenni Optical lets customers upload a video so they can try on as many frames as they like virtually:

AR digital engagement
Zenni Optical

10. Brand Equity and First-Party Relationships

What emotions do people feel when they think of your brand? What type of experience do you provide on your site and social media?

The digital space is more cluttered than ever. Brands must prioritize their overall experience and how they connect with individuals.

This could mean sending personalized blog recommendations via email, custom questions in chats, or gamified web experiences. Whatever you do, make your brand memorable offline.

11. Advancements in Analytics

Google Analytics constantly rolls out features to stay competitive. Today, the all-new GA4 looks more like a complete business intelligence tool or CRM than just website analytics.

It’s all about data integration. You can sync data from not only your site but third-party tools like apps to build a better picture of your customers.

google analytics new reporting
Google

Stay on top of your analytics to prevent churn and meet your customers halfway.

12. More Social Commerce and Shopping Features

Social media apps want to keep users on the platform. They also want to make their apps a friendly place for businesses.

In-app shopping features are the compromise.

Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest all offer shopping where your customers can complete an entire purchase without ever leaving the app.

See how Sony uses Instagram Shopping to promote its latest products:

 

instagram shopping
Instagram

Make sure you have your app store optimized to promote the latest products and accept digital payments.

13. Optimize Backend and Frontend with Automation and AI

Automation and AI can help you:

  • Send triggered customer journey emails
  • Understand customer behavior
  • Personalize website content, like Netflix or Spotify
  • Schedule social media
  • Track mentions and brand reputation

As you can see, AI and automation work on two levels: Improving the experience for your customers and making your life easier. Don’t brush it off. Look for ways to make AI work for you.

14. Care More About Customer Retention

You aren’t just competing with other brands in your industry for attention – you’re also competing against the entire internet.

What’s your strategy to ensure your visitors return month-to-month and your customers come back?

E-commerce brands can set up auto-ship features for consumable products like pet supplies, personal care, and foodstuff.

If you don’t sell consumables, you’ll need a different digital marketing strategy. Give people a reason to visit your site that has nothing to do with buying products.

15. User-Generated Content Turbocharges Your Effort

User-generated content is important for keeping your audience engaged online. The trick is to pick UGC campaigns that don’t revolve around your products but include your brand.

Think about the lifestyle behind your audience segments. Do they bake bread? Hike? Fish? Watch sports? Make art?

People always love showing off their creations and accomplishments. Launch your UGC with a branded actionable hashtag like #BakingWithBrand and ask users to tell a story. Share the best ones to your page with a shoutout.

16. Admit the World is Digital-First

Assume existing customers and future leads will “meet” your brand through digital channels – like a Google search, Google Maps, or social media.

If someone only saw your Yelp profile, what impression would that give them about your brand? If someone randomly finds your blog through Google, does your site answer every question they could possibly have about what you do within a few clicks?

Your website is your digital storefront and business card, as are your social media profiles and profiles on third-party sites like Yelp.

This local business has a nice, optimized Instagram page that answers every question someone could have:

digital first instagram
Instagram

17. Increase Spending on Digital Tactics

Plenty of brands scaled back their digital marketing spending in response to COVID.

While caution is smart in some cases, it’s hard not to wonder where some small businesses no longer with us would be today had they gone all-in on digital tactics instead.

Ignoring digital marketing just means you’re letting your competition and the Big Guys eat up all the traffic (and sales). And with major companies like Walmart and Target beefing up their e-commerce, small and mid-size brands literally can’t afford mediocre digital marketing strategies.

18. Diversify Your Content Delivery

If your content isn’t delivering the traffic you’d like, rethink how you’re delivering it to the world. Can you:

  • Expand to different, less cluttered, social media platforms like Pinterest or Telegram?
  • Send personalized emails with relevant videos and blog posts?
  • Add an AI engine to your site to offer personalized content recommendations?
  • Share in niche forums on Reddit?

Don’t just publish it, share it on Facebook, and hope the right people will find it. Go to where your audience hangs out and show it to them.

19. Audit and Refresh Old Content

Auditing and refreshing old content can give your rankings a boost site-wide and save you tons of time.

Start with your best-performing timeless content – especially if rankings and traffic have dropped. Update your headings, statistics, and links while expanding the copy based on any current events or changes.

Repurpose your content too. Transform popular blogs into infographics, videos, interviews with subject matter experts, Stories, and Instagram Reels. Use each point from popular listicles to create its own blog post and link back.

Don’t Wait to Fall Behind – Maximize Your 2021 Digital Marketing Now

Don’t wait for your sales to drop or your audience to dry up before you adjust your digital marketing strategy. Keep an eye on other brands in your industry to stay competitive. Constantly research your audience to stay tapped into their interests. Try to stay two steps ahead.

Countless B2B and B2C brands trust our team at JS-Interactive with their most important digital strategies, SEO, and content. Check out our portfolio to see who we’ve helped and the results they enjoy.

 

 

9 Strategies for Strengthening Your Digital Marketing in Uncertain Times

Those of us working in digital marketing have always understood the importance of a holistic online presence.

Back in April, however, countless brands who previously put their website, SEO, and overall digital presence on the back-burner found themselves scrambling to make up for the lost time.

45% of B2B marketers report using digital channels for the first time. Meanwhile, 88% doubled down on digital tactics.

Consumer brands are no different. Major companies like Target and Walmart reevaluated their digital marketing strategies to compete with Amazon—and they’ve seen much success. Walmart’s online sales rose by 97% last quarter while Target’s skyrocketed by nearly 200%.

Fortunately, digital strategy helps level the playing field for small and mid-size businesses in all industries. With the right research, SEO, web design, and tactics, you can compete with the big guys.

Now’s as good a time as any to rethink your digital approach and hone your arsenal.

How to Strengthen and Focus Your Digital Marketing During Times of Uncertainty

Digital marketing is fluid. It’s not something you can just set and forget. Much has changed over the past year, so it’s smart to reevaluate your digital marketing strategy and look for ways to improve.

1. Evaluate and Audit Your Current Digital Marketing Strategy

Before making any changes, you first must look at your existing strategy to see what’s working and what’s not.

Grab a notebook or spreadsheet. Write down everything you’re currently doing to maintain your digital presence. Now, look at how your metrics have changed over the past year.

Ask yourself:

  • Where is your website traffic coming from?
  • How many backlinks have you gained? Lost?
  • How many email subscribers and social media followers have you gained?
  • Which keywords are you ranking for?

2. Rethink Your Audience Personas

The needs of your audience have changed over the past year. The personas you developed when you started your business most likely don’t apply to your audience today.

As of June, nearly half the US population was unemployed. Although official figures have improved as unemployment benefits expired, the situation is still dire. For example, between two-thirds and half of Americans are behind on their rent or mortgage as of October and facing eviction.

Some people have become stay-at-home parents balancing homeschooling. Others have turned into caretakers.

Everyone faces a different reality right now. You might even find that you need to target different demographics entirely.

3. Center Empathy in Every Digital Marketing Message

With so many struggling right now, it’s especially important to center human empathy in everything you publish. Your website pages, blogs, videos, and social posts should all reassure your audience that you’re aware of their problems and here to help.

Don’t make any assumptions. Instead, just offer sincerity in your messaging.

Look for fresh opportunities to meet your audience halfway as well. Free shipping, discounts, giveaways, and free returns are all smart ideas, but figure out what your specific audience would appreciate the most.

4. Get Creative and Thorough With Your Digital Marketing Content

People have no time for generic content and Google’s algorithms are no different.

Follow Google’s EAT in everything you publish: Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness.

Your content should always aim to solve a specific problem or add value to the reader’s life. Google pays attention to this because its job as a search engine is to answer questions and queries with effective, thorough, and nuanced results.

As you evaluate your new audience personas, include research to find creative content ideas. Consider frequent questions you hear from customers in your industry. Can you address these in blog posts or landing pages?

Start with some keyword research. When you find a great keyword to structure a blog, run a Google search for it and study everything on the first page of results.

Aim to outdo everything on the first page in some way:

  • More thorough content with more details and explanations
  • Updated statistics, best practices, or trends
  • A new angle or perspective no one has addressed yet

Don’t stick with a single type of content either—diversify!

Not everyone learns best through reading. Plenty of people prefer videos, infographics, and podcasts for audio-visual content.

5. Personalize and Diversify Your E-Commerce Experience

Your website’s e-commerce experience should be personalized and seamless. Make it easy for shoppers to find exactly what they need—and then some.

Urban Outfitters provides a smart search with immediate suggestions as you type along with trending items:

smart search filter urban outfitter Urban Outfitters

Relevant filters and categorization are also important to the experience. WordPress plugins make it easy to personalize your shopping experience without coding knowledge.

It’s shrewd to accept the fact that not everyone is going to buy your products through your website. Diversify your e-commerce shop across all relevant shopping platforms where customers can discover you—and be sure to optimize each one for searches.

Consider all the platforms where your shoppers might hang out:

  • Instagram Shopping
  • Facebook Shopping
  • Pinterest product pins
  • Rakuten
  • eBay
  • Etsy

6. Focus on Organic and Sustainable SEO and Reputation

Organic search engine optimization through content is affordable and sustainable if done correctly.

SEO isn’t an overnight solution and you shouldn’t trust anyone who says otherwise. Black hat SEO tactics can produce quick results but the traffic isn’t targeted and you risk getting exiled by Google. It’s not worth it.

Instead, play the long game. Focus on your overall reputation.

When you prioritize branding and content, Google notices. Reviews, consistent quality content, genuine and relevant backlinks—these are all part and parcel of sustainable SEO practices.

7. Prioritize Transparency in Your Digital Marketing

Sadly, millions of people facing hardship has also given rise to more scammers and shady fly-by-night e-commerce stores. For every new problem, there are a hundred people looking for ways to exploit the victims.

Transparency is key to earning trust with your digital marketing.

Both Google and your visitors need to know who you are, your background, and what you represent. Run through this checklist to boost your transparency and trustworthiness:

  • A clear return policy
  • FAQ pages about your company and products
  • Legitimate author names attached to every post (don’t use names like “news desk”)
  • A thorough “About” page explaining your relevant background and experience
  • A public address or location listing, especially in Google Maps

8. Ensure Your Web Design is 100% Accessible for Everyone

Everyone deserves the option to shop and conduct business online, no matter their disabilities.

Accessible web design ensures that people of all mental and physical abilities can use your website as intended like anyone else.

Experiences we take for granted online—like scanning image contents and adding things to shopping carts—can take hours for someone with vision impairments or other conditions.

The W3C Web Accessibility Initiative offers detailed guidelines on how to create an accessible web design for people with vision, hearing, intellectual, cognitive, or physical impairments.

It’s worth mentioning that ADA lawsuits regarding web design accessibility have increased since lockdowns as well—with many levied against small businesses. Professional web designers with an understanding of the ADA and associated guidelines can help you avoid costly and embarrassing situations like these.

9. Properly Leverage Your Data

With more business and activity happening online, you have more opportunities than ever to track each customer’s digital footprint.

Tools like Facebook Pixel help you collect and leverage data on your website visitors across multiple platforms. You can do things like:

  • Measure cross-device conversions and impressions—great for tracking elusive branding metrics!
  • Optimize ads for users most likely to convert
  • Create custom audiences that mirror certain segments of your audience in terms of demographics and browsing behavior
  • Learn about your customers and their online behavior

Facebook Pixel and related tools give you a deeper understanding of your audience and more digital marketing strategies to target them with relevant content.

Take a Comprehensive and Balanced Approach to Digital Marketing, Web Design, and SEO

Digital marketing is more than a full-time job. Between SEO, content marketing, web design, branding, and social media, you need to manage several moving parts—and you must do it well.

People trust our team at JS-Interactive because we treat their brands like our own. We take all the details of your mission, audience, and goals to heart as we develop your strategies.

Have a look at our diverse portfolio to see how our experts have helped consumer brands, B2Bs, and nonprofits reach their full potential online with remarkable results.

13 Tips to Build Healthy and Respectful B2B Relationships

Most of the B2B relationships I’ve developed are awesome.

But if I’m being honest, some aren’t so great. At least, they’re not where I’d like them to be.

I’ve always felt that business relationships should look more like partnerships. Some interactions, however, feel much more like a transaction than a personal relationship.

That’s why I wanted to go over some of the skills I’ve developed over my 15 years running JS-Interactive.

If you find yourself struggling to maintain healthy interpersonal relationships, make a few adjustments to your mindset, speech, and actions.

13 Tips for Building Strong and Respectful B2B Relationships

Relationship-building is a skill requiring communication, transparency, trust, patience, and, most importantly, respect.

It’s important to nurture and grow your relationships with other businesses in order to really thrive in the marketplace.

Below are a few tips on ways you can build trust within your organization, and become a reliable resource for each of your business partners.

1. Respect Each Other

“Treat others how you’d like to be treated.”

It’s all about compassionate empathy.

By viewing each client as a business partner, you understand everyone gets a seat at the table.

As you make decisions throughout the day that apply to clients, ask yourself, “if I were them, what would I want me to say/do?”

Having the right attitude ensures that you always have the best interests of your clients in mind.

2. Value Everyone at Every Level in B2B Relationships

“Honor ALL people.”

I primarily build relationships with higher-ups within organizations, but that’s really beside the point: Everyone deserves the same level of respect.

Whether it’s the CEO, the freelance designer, or the Postmates guy delivering lunch, respect matters. Sometimes, just a “hi” to acknowledge someone’s existence goes a long way.

When everyone feels respected, trust builds, and more people feel comfortable participating in conversations.

Not only is it the right thing to do, but it reflects genuine character and respect regardless of someone’s status.

3. Prioritize Integrity in B2B Relationships

“Look to the interest of others…”

They say your reputation is what people see, but your integrity is how you behave when no one’s watching. Integrity is critical for keeping strong B2B relationships. It’s the foundation upon which many other qualities for success are built, such as respect and trust.

84% of business buyers say the key to winning their business is merely treating them as a human – not just another sale.

Make the habit of focusing on the business partner in front of you and their needs – not your own. Their needs are yours.

4. Set Goals for All B2B Relationships

Every business has unique goals, audience segments, and visions. Make it a priority to understand each business partner’s specific pain points, greatest needs, and goals.

Once you understand their expectations,  develop shared goals and a plan. In every case, aim to deliver well beyond what they expect.

5. Keep Learning About Yourself

Understanding yourself is crucial for building solid interpersonal skills and B2B relationships.

People often say they overanalyze every interaction – but what do they learn from those fears?

If the thought of being conversational frightens you, ask yourself why. Are you worried about being misunderstood? Distrusting? Easily irritable?

We all have shortcomings. But shortcomings are just opportunities to grow, whether personally with family or professionally, when cultivating business relationships with clients.

6. Center Honest Communication in B2B Relationships

cultivating business relationships Small business owners put their heart and soul into it. To them, business IS personal. If it’s personal to them, it’s personal to me too.

You can’t work with a small business owner and not have empathy for their emotional investment.

You also owe them the respect of honest communication. This often might include the words “no” or “that’s not the best idea.”

I believe B2B relationships should prioritize honest communication respectfully – whether we want to hear/say some things or not.

7. Keep Up Consistent Dialogue

Speaking up when it’s absolutely necessary isn’t enough. Strong business relationships also demand ongoing dialogue.

I like to cultivate positive relationships with clients both inside and outside the workplace. When I have a healthy relationship with a client, I know I can be honest with them about challenging business matters because we’ve established trust.

If a client’s budget doesn’t line up with their goals, I’m completely comfortable discussing it with them. It’s much easier to default to transparency than scramble filling the gaps.

Any healthy relationship without manipulation requires transparency. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and encourage questions. Make yourself somewhat vulnerable, and clients will feel more comfortable trusting you.

8. Be Vocal About Expectations

You can’t set expectations once at the beginning of the business relationship and expect everything to flow just fine. Things change – that’s just life.

Expectations should be an ongoing topic in every discussion. Keep shifting the conversation back to your client’s bottom line: What kind of ROI do they expect to drive from their investment in you?

The best business relationships I’ve ever had prioritized frequent and open discussions about budgets and expectations. This attitude eliminates any major disappointments on both ends – ensuring everyone comes out happy.

Doing free work and people-pleasing all the time doesn’t do any favors. I’m not opposed to generosity – especially with the most loyal clients – but again, I set expectations.

People-pleasing is often a slippery slope leading to codependency, frustration, and feeling unappreciated.

9. Focus Less on the Business Part of B2B Relationships

Not every client is someone to hang out with for a beer, CrossFit class, trip to the bookstore, or *insert your hobby here*.

But think of it this way: When was the last time you made a new friend? Over 61% of Americans say they regularly feel lonely, and 25% claim their mental health is fair or poor.

I’m not saying you should be anyone’s therapist, but a little conversation can go a long way. Did a client tell you about their fitness competition over the weekend? Shoot them a text to ask how it went. Did someone mention their mom was sick? Follow up via email to ask how she’s doing.

10. Treat Their Business Like Your Own

Adding value and helping their business grow is always my top priority. My profits, price points, and goals take a backseat.

I can’t succeed unless my clients succeed first – that’s just how business works. Focusing on its success is just logical. If I’m 100% invested in a client’s growth, I can do my best work because my heart is in it.

I don’t even measure my company’s success on its revenue: I judge my own success by my clients’ growth.

11. Listen More Than You Speak

Everyone’s suffered through one of those dates where the other person just talks about themselves the entire time. You don’t want to be THAT person with your business clients either.

If I spend a consultation rattling off my skills, industry jargon, and what I’ve accomplished, I won’t learn anything about the other person. I won’t even know enough to help them.

Instead, I take time to ask questions and process their goals, audience, and business. By simply listening more than I speak, ideas start flowing, and I can learn important things about the client.

12. Be Ready to Accept Criticism

“… constructive criticism, is at home among the wise.”

A complaint isn’t an insult. It’s an opportunity to improve. Clients might not always say things most eloquently but try to focus on what they say – not how they say it.

Even falling short on a goal when you tried your best is a chance to express humility: Apologize, grow, tweak your tactics, and improve in the future.

13. Always Improve Your Patience

“Whoever is patient has great understanding…”

Patience is a skill that demands constant self-awareness and work. Ever hit the send button on an email and instantly regretted it? I know I have.

I know I’m not everyone’s top priority. Every client has their own schedule, business to run, and personal stuff to deal with.

Remind yourself to take a step back, evaluate, and understand each side of the situation before you say or do anything out of frustration you’ll regret.

We Put B2B Relationships First

At JS-Interactive, we believe relationships are the most vital part of branding. That’s why we take the time to understand the goals, audience, and values of every client. We create partnerships – not vendor/customer relationships.

Browse some of our reviews to see why so many trust and value our work.

Everything You Need to Know About the Web Design Process

The goal of a brand’s web design isn’t to impress designers.

The purpose behind design is to make it easy for visitors to find the information they need, stay on the website consuming content, and take action.

75% of consumers say they use website design to judge a business’s credibility. Meanwhile, 38% of people will stop engaging with a website if its layout is hostile or unattractive.

That’s why the design process is also complicated and long. I take time getting to know every brand and their goals before I even touch the website itself. I’ve explained the process step by step below so you can understand how all the moving parts work behind the scenes.

Getting to Know Your Brand and Web Design Goals

I usually start by getting a spec sheet or request for proposal (RPF) so we have some details in writing. If you don’t supply one upfront, that’s fine! We can go through a Discovery Process and map out your project in detail so we can figure out how to meet your goals.

Generally, your RFP would include:

  • Goals for your website
  • Target audience
  • A high-level website map of the site’s architecture
  • Functional requirements like memberships, subscriptions, eCommerce, forms, or shopping
    • Third-party integrations like Salesforce, WooCommerce, Zapier, Eventbrite, etc.
  • Web server requirements
    • If you don’t have a web server, we can debate what’s best such as WP Engine, SiteGround, or something else based on your needs
  • Email hosting
  • Decide whether you will use internal resources for web copywriting and images OR if you’ll need those as part of the web design process

The more details we have about your needs and goals, the better because this helps me offer you the most accurate, technology solutions, estimated time, and price quote.

Agreeing on a Contract

By now, we have a detailed RFP with your web design needs and expectations mapped out.

At JS-Interactive, we take client satisfaction and goals very seriously. We make sure to list our payment terms and conditions, the timeline for launch, and any other details in writing. We want to make sure there aren’t ANY surprises here.

With small jobs (under $10k), I accept half of the payment upfront and the remaining balance when we finish the website. For large projects (over $10k), I’ll accept payments in smaller increments like thirds or quarters. I’ll take the first payment up front, the second in the middle, and so forth.

Sometimes things pop up and a project requires work out of the scope of our agreement. Work that takes place outside our agreement I bill hourly. When this happens, I’ll make you aware and provide an estimate right away.

Starting Web Design Mockups

Before I jump into the actual web design process, I’ll need to get my hands on your brand guidelines: logos, colors, voice, tone, etc. Unless you’re a startup, brand guidelines are essential to maintain consistency.

create website wireframe

I’ll also ask some questions about your likes and dislikes in other sites. These don’t necessarily have to be sites in your own industry either! Think of things from a user’s perspective. What looks good? What’s easy to navigate?

Once I get these final pieces of input from you, I’ll start on the wireframe (like a website blueprint) and some mockups in JPG format for you to check out.

I’ll ask what you think about the mockups, make tweaks if necessary, and get your approval to start the actual design.

Beginning Development

At this point, I’ll set up your website server and a staging environment to work on your new theme. I don’t work under a live URL so there’s no disruption to your website functionality as we design the new layout.

custom web development team

I’ll also have to integrate your content management system now. I prefer WordPress because it’s secure, easy for anyone to use, offers countless plugins, and integrates well with other platforms.

I can’t say enough wonderful things about WordPress and all our clients have found success with WP as well.

Once we get setup on WordPress or your preferred CMS, I’ll start building the framework which includes:

  • Pages and page templates
  • Custom code for headers
  • Custom CSS as needed
  • Brand styling
  • Menus and navigation
  • Homepage and sidebar widgets
  • Google AdSense and Analytics
  • Implementing all content like images and copy
  • Adding necessary plugins and third-party integrations

Every client gets a 100% custom layout. I don’t use free or paid WordPress themes and make minor changes.

After I finish this, I’ll run some tests and debugging.

Time to Launch

It’s time for the final sweep. I’ll check all your links. I’ll ensure there aren’t any structural issues with the site. I’ll also run cross-browser tests to make sure your web design is compatible for every visitor on every operating system and device.

Next, we’ll go for a soft launch to a live environment to make sure everything runs smoothly.

Post-Launch Handover

We’re all done! I’ll handover access to the server, WordPress, and anything else.

I don’t resell hosting. I want you to have complete ownership over your domain, hosting, and website source files so I always send copies of the documentation over.

I’ll take the final payment from you and you’re ready to go!

Ongoing Managed Services

Solid web design doesn’t end after launch. I also offer managed services to help you grow, such as

  • Technology upgrades
  • Content management
  • Search engine optimization
  • Security and monitoring
  • And much more

Hire an Award-Winning Austin SEO Company for Web Design

JS-Interactive Austin SEO company has over 15 years of experience building trust through purpose-driven and accessible web design. B2B and B2C clients trust us because we consider every design element from hard-hitting content and speed to local SEO.

Ready to create an effective website? Schedule a free 30-minute call and let’s talk about your goals.

How I Went from Freelancer to a Full-Time Business Consultant in 10 Easy Steps

You’ve worked the 9 to 5 gig, the graveyard shift, and everything between.

You are well-versed in the careful balancing act between your job and your business. Maybe you’ve considered a career in professional juggling.

Time and time again, you find yourself working away in the wee hours of the morning. You always want to try to write one more post or create one more design before you begin your “real” job.

You may even question the rationality of becoming a freelancer. Do cubicles get you down? Maybe you’d like to be your own supervisor and have the freedom to create your own schedule. Perhaps you’re just allergic to your boss.

10 Crucial Steps to Scale-Up Your Business

Like you, I found myself “creatively moonlighting” in the wee hours of the morning. I sacrificed sleep like a bodybuilder sacrifices their blood, sweat, and tears.

I forgot what the so-called “free-time” was.

Before working in web design in Austin, I hit a rough patch in which no freelancer wants to find themselves. Forced to run back to my full-time job, I rethought my approach to my freelance business.

Now, as a leading Austin SEO consultant and designer, I’ve never looked back.

No matter the industry, If you’re starting out on the road of freelancing or have hit a rough patch, here are 10 critical steps that you should take to grow your business.

1. Seek Out Counsel and Expertise from the Experts

Freelancers of all experience levels are often more than happy to share their knowledge and expertise.  One of the best ways to learn how to succeed is to mimic those who have already succeeded.

#FREECON is just one of many ways in Austin that you can meet, collaborate, and learn from other freelancers. These conferences present the opportunity for education and lasting connections.

2. Step into Your Dream Client’s Shoes

Take the time to consider your dream client. Imagine what they look like, where you can find them, and how you can best attract them to your business. Determine the core values and services that you can offer your clients.

3. Be Confident, Know Your Worth, and Proofread Everything

You must know your value and how the services that you can provide exceed that of your competition. Confidence is key. Believe in your product or service in the same way you would like your clients to.

As a professional, it is crucial that you proofread anything that you submit to your clients, including emails or consultations. This is especially critical if you are striving to be a copywriter as documents full of errors can cause your potential clients to doubt your capability of success. Consider utilizing 3rd party programs that are designed to give your writing a boost, such as Grammarly.

4. Be a Good Steward of Time and Bill Hourly

While a flat fee is more appropriate in some cases, strive to bill hourly. Your time is one of your most important aspects, especially as a small business. Strive to bill hourly not only for the services that you offer but for consultations as well. The amount of time you will spend consulting in meetings and chats can quickly add up.

5. Qualify Your Clients and Ask Questions

When approached by a potential client, don’t be afraid to ask your client questions. Ask your clients about their budget and if they have a request for proposal (RFP). An RFP is a detailed spec sheet that includes all their business requirements. These proposals provide you with insight into their challenges. By understanding these business challenges, you can find a suitable solution.

Most committed clients have done their research and can provide a budget and an RFP. For serious clients that have not yet built an RFP, propose a small fee in exchange for your services. Then, do the research and assist them in defining their RFP in a manner that will meet their budget goals.

6. Set Clear Expectations of Work and Payment Terms

You can avoid future hassles if you define clear statements of work and payment terms upfront with your clients. Determine the amount you would need upfront for contracts large and small.

As an Austin SEO consultant and web designer, I request half of payments upfront for small contracts. For more significant deals, I ask for about a third of fees upfront.

However, you should always honor client requests about longer turnarounds on payments.

7. Utilize a Great Time Tracking and Invoicing System

You can save yourself a lot of time and hassle by utilizing a great time tracking and invoicing system. Systems such as Freshbooks can help you to track each hour that you spend committed to tasks for your clients. Utilizing these systems can substantially increase your profit margin.

8. Invest in Other Entrepreneurs

As you grow your business, it is crucial that you invest in other entrepreneurs. Productivity is significantly impacted when investing in qualified, reliable independents. By recognizing the talent in others, your business will have the opportunity to expand further.

One way to ensure that you make significant investments in other entrepreneurs is by determining your skillset and the skills that you lack. For example, if you are a graphic designer, you may not have the technical skills required to make a business website that will help you shine. While business websites are essential for most industries, graphic designers need a place to showcase their work and gain exposure. By working with a web designer that has the skills that you lack, you can advance your business opportunities tremendously.

9. Maintain Your Client Focus

Maintain a client focus throughout each aspect of your business. Make yourself accessible and available to clients. Create boundaries, but CARE about each client and the services that you will provide them.

Strive to exceed expectations. Learn more about your clients and their business. When hiring other entrepreneurs, find those who are just as invested in your business as you are. This adds a tremendous amount of value to your clients as well as improves the product or service you provide.

10. Create Retainer Plans That Add Value

Create retainer plans that add value. It is best never to leave your day job until you have a solid plan for income. You can find a large number of marketing solutions online to suit your business needs. If contracting other freelancers, be sure to utilize their talents for your benefit. Strive to create monthly plans that not only offer value but solve problems.

What this will look like will depend on your business. For example, if you are a copywriter, you may agree to provide a specified amount of blog posts each month, update and spruce up a certain number of articles regularly, or you might agree to be at a client’s beck and call (within reason). If you are a graphic designer, it may make more sense for you to agree to a specified amount of hours each week or month. It is essential that you and your client decide on pay for tracked hours beyond the agreed-upon amount upfront in cases such as these.

Use Your Failures as a Guidepost for the Future

Failure is never the end of the road. When you fail, you have the opportunity to learn from your failings and aspire to do better next time. Always go back to the drawing board. Always stand back up if you fall.

Those who risk nothing gain nothing, so lose the fear. Take control of your day, your business, and your life. Recognize risk for what it can represent: an opportunity. As you venture into new territories and take on new risks, it is essential that you trust your judgment and know your limitations.

Stay encouraged. Entrepreneurship is NOT easy, and it’s not for everyone. There is no “get-rich” quick methodology that will help you succeed. In this business, you create your success through hard work, commitment, and dedication.