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The foundations of creating a small business website

Laptop open on a website on a desk
(Image credit: Unsplash)

The number of choices you need to make when you’re creating a small business website can feel overwhelming. From deciding on one of the best website builders, to figuring out navigation structures or content priorities, you need to make confident decisions. 

We’re doing our best to simplify that process—with practical guides including the best website builders for small businesses and the best website builders for ecommerce. We've also got tips for building your first website: so, whether you’re focusing on ecommerce or insisting on accessibility, we’ve got you covered.

When you’re researching and planning your small business ecommerce website, remember that you need to focus on a vital factor: intent.

One of the most important areas for building your website is intent 

MacBook and iMac on desk in home office

Intent is integral to business, especially when considering what your website will be (Image credit: Unsplash)

Intent is critical to business success. It plays into many aspects of your website—from choosing the best web hosting or website building app, to understanding what your business and your customers need.  

Although intent is vital, its importance can sometimes get lost in advice about color schemes, domains, meta tags, and product listings. But, when you strip everything else back, it’s at the foundation of all your other choices. When intent guides your website choices, you know you’re building on strong foundations.

Let’s explore how focusing on intent can maximize your success with ecommerce, brand awareness, business goals, and the customer experience.

Why intent is critical to your small business website 

Intent brings together many aspects of business success—defining your purpose, designing an experience, setting objectives, and meeting goals. When it comes to building your small business website, it’s helpful to think of intent from three perspectives: business intent, audience intent, and search intent.

Building a website for business intent

Business intent is all about meeting your goals through your website. From a business perspective you’ll want to focus on:

  • Ensuring easy navigation and a positive customer experience
  • Putting your products and services front-and-center
  • Providing information so your customers can make an informed choice
  • Making it easy for consumers to find and buy the right products

Building a website for audience intent

Audience intent helps your customers to interact with your website, find what they need, and purchase your products. When you’re building a website based on consumer requirements, this means:

  • Maximizing the customer experience by thinking about all the ways they interact with your website
  • Focusing on speed, clarity, quality, and simplicity by making it fast and easy for them to find reliable information and answers
  • Strengthening accessibility and responsiveness, so your website is easy to interact with under all circumstances
  • Helping them make informed decisions when purchasing your products and services

Building a website for search intent

Search intent provides answers. It allows search engines to point users at the most relevant websites. When you’re building a website based on search intent, this means:

  • Clearly defining the information, products, services, guides, and other content on your website
  • Telling search engines how to crawl your website to surface your most relevant pages
  • Understanding your search results and optimizing for higher organic search placement

Starting with intent means you can choose a website builder based on the needs of your business and audience, rather than being stuck with a builder that doesn’t quite do everything you want.

Turning intent into website features and functionality 

Mac at desk displaying website designs, within an office

Ask yourself questions about what the intent for your site is, to help find the best website builder for your needs (Image credit: Photo by Format from Pexels)

Asking questions about intent helps you narrow your search for the right small business website builder. We’ve provided some examples of the types of questions you might ask. These would be great starting points for zeroing in on what matters most to your business and customers. 

Answer these questions honestly to create a list of ideal features and functions for your small business website. Consider other questions and answers based on your business goals, audience needs, and search priorities.

Business intent: Is my business mainly focused on ecommerce and selling products online?

Use a website builder that’s laser-focused on ecommerce. These will showcase your products in the best possible way, and make it easy for customers to purchase your goods.

Consider Wix, Shopify, or Squarespace, and make sure to read our comprehensive investigations of each in our Wix review, our Shopify review, and our Squarespace review.

Business/search intent: Is my website mainly just a storefront, or an in-depth resource for customers?

Storefront-type websites tend to be lighter on content, with short product descriptions and focused functionality—but they don’t tend to do as well in organic search. Websites that are in-depth resources will provide much more information, possibly including blogs and support guides. They do better in search, but require much more energy, commitment, and content.

Consider Shopify for storefronts, and consider SquareSpace and WordPress for more in-depth content and blogs. 

Business intent: Do I want a strong focus on building my brand?

Building a brand is about much more than just selling products. It means using a combination of great design, a beautiful website, and a consistent tone to create an impression and build trust. Look for website builders that are very strong on their design elements.

Consider Squarespace, or WordPress with premium themes.

Business intent: How easy is it to market my small business website and products via social media?

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest are all becoming increasingly important for marketing businesses and selling products. You’ll want a website builder with deep integration, to make it effortless to promote your business and sell your products on these social media networks.

Consider Shopify for social selling, and Wix for social media marketing.

Audience intent: Are my customers accessing my business website on mobile devices, tablets, and smartphones?

Look for website builders focused around responsive mobile web design. This means your website will look great on every kind of device—essential if you’re focused on selling to consumers on-the-go.

Consider Squarespace, Wix, or WordPress.

Audience intent: Will my customers be interested in add-on information, services, and interaction?

The key here is to focus on interactive widgets that you can easily drop into your web pages. This might be functionality that’s built into the website, or that’s available via a plugins ecosystem.

Consider WordPress for the widest range of plugins, and other website builders for self-contained widgets.

Search intent: Will I focus on information-rich, educational content to rank in organic search?

Getting your website noticed through organic search and search engine optimization starts with great content. You’ll want a website builder that has a strong focus on blog writing, knowledge bases, resource guides, and similar functions.

Consider WordPress or Wix.

Choosing the perfect small business website builder

All website builders have pros and cons. Squarespace features beautiful, responsive design. Wix integrates well with social media, and has in-depth training guides. WordPress boasts enormous configurability and a vast ecosystem of addons and plugins. Weebly provides some great budget options if you’re watching your expenses.

Starting with intent helps you narrow down these options so that you can make a better choice. Putting your business and audience needs front-and-center means that you can prioritize features and functions. The best website builder is the one that best matches your goals, not the other way around.