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Understand your customers to build the perfect small business website

Mac on desk backlit with colours matching website displayed
(Image credit: Photo by Designecologist from Pexels)

Every small business thrives or fails based on how it treats its customers. Keep their needs front-of-mind, and you’ll strengthen trust, enhance repeat sales, and boost your revenue. Fail to understand your customer, and you’ll drive them into the arms of a competitor. 

When you’re building a small business website with one of the best website builders or one of the best website builders for small business, getting insight into your customers gives you an enormous advantage. 

We’ve talked before about intent when creating a small business website and what it means when you’re creating your site. It’s worth exploring customer intent a little more—so you can frame your website around your audience.

Let’s get into it.

The importance of seeing your small business website from your customer’s perspective

If you want to build a great, customer-focused small business website, then you need to see things as your customer does. This seems obvious—but it’s easily overlooked. If you’re a business owner, it’s very easy to only see things from your perspective, based on your business needs

Stepping outside of your own point of view and understanding the customer’s experience from their viewpoint can be challenging. It’s helpful to illustrate this with some examples, contrasting a “business needs” drive with a “customer needs” viewpoint:

  • “This product is great, look at all the features!” (business need) vs “I have a specific problem and I’m short on time, will this product solve it?” (customer need)
  • “This product is so easy to use, it’s self-explanatory” (business need) vs “I really need to get in touch with customer service, but it seems like a lot of effort” (customer need)
  • “Our resource-heavy website looks fantastic and loads quickly on this modern laptop” (business need) vs “My smartphone is five years old, why is this website taking so long to load? (customer need)

All of these business views are rational and reasonable, but they’re missing something small that makes all the difference to your customer. It’s that extra quality that makes a difference, and helps your customer see your website as a trusted part of your business brand.

It’s helpful to view all of this as part of the “customer journey.” We’ve provided some examples below that cover four key steps along that journey:

  1. Arriving at and accessing your website for the first time
  2. Navigating and finding information on the website
  3. Building trust in your website and products you’re selling
  4. Making it easy to purchase the products the customer wants

Although this customer journey assumes you’re building an ecommerce website, you can easily apply the principles to any online presence. 

The speed and ease of accessing your small business website 

MacBook and iMac on desk in home office

The one thing likely to stop your site from succeeding is the inability to access it (Image credit: Unsplash)

Nothing will stop a customer using your small business website like not being able to access it in the first place.

Examples of customer issues with accessing your small business website

  • Using an old model of smartphone, tablet, or other device that has difficulties displaying your website
  • Having a disability like poor sight, limited fine manipulation, or similar issues that causes frustration when using your website
  • Experiencing poor mobile signal strength that makes media- and resource-heavy websites slow and difficult to use

Making your small business website more accessible to customers 

The simplicity of navigating and finding information on your small business website 

Mac at desk displaying website designs, within an office

Make your website easy to move through and navigate (Image credit: Photo by Format from Pexels)

Part of winning over a customer is ensuring it’s easy to move through your website to find the most relevant information.

Examples of customer issues with searching through your website 

  • Not knowing that important information is hidden deep inside navigation menus or subpages
  • Difficulty understanding Industry jargon that obscures the features of your products and services, and how they can help the customer
  • Reading content that’s “business first” and promoting products, rather than “customer first” and answering questions

Creating accessible information and navigation for your customers 

  • Identify all of your most important content, and ensure it’s no more than one click away from your homepage or top-level navigation
  • Understand the level of knowledge of your average customer, and explain features and concepts in an easily understandable way
  • Create site search functionality so that customers can easily look up information on your website
  • Focus content around meeting customer needs, solving problems, and answering questions

The trust a customer feels in the professionalism and approach of your small business website 

woman typing on laptop at desk

Customer trust is imperative when it comes to your website - the more professional it is, the more likely they'll trust you (Image credit: Unsplash)

Customers want to feel that you understand them, and that your products align with their needs. This comes through in the tone, style, and expertise shown on your website. 

Examples of customer issues that can damage trust or reliability 

  • Noticing issues with the security of your website, like insufficient account protection or expired security certificates or credentials
  • Not being able to find content that’s linked to elsewhere but creates a “404 - page not found” error
  • Having to read “spammy” looking website content that doesn’t add value for the reader, or that contains lots of mistakes with spelling or punctuation
  • Difficulty finding good pricing information or details of a particular product

Building trust and reliability using your small business website 

  • Keep all of your security tickets and credentials up to date, and offer account protection like multi-factor authentication
  • Run checks and audits on your website to identify and correct badly linked pages or other errors
  • Focus on helpful content that’s useful to read that’s written for customers, not search engines
  • Keep pricing and product information straightforward, simple, and consistent

The ease of buying products from your ecommerce small business website 

group of people sat working on a laptop together

If it's easy to buy products from your website, customers are more likely to do so (Image credit: Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash)

Ultimately, you want your customers to buy from you. For an ecommerce website, this means making things as slick and simple as possible. 

Examples of customer issues that will stop them from buying 

  • Making it difficult to signup or access a customer’s account
  • Not providing a wide range of payment features like payment methods, fair exchange rates, etc
  • Problems with accessing ecommerce options like alternative products, shipping times, or customization

Simplifying how a customer can buy ecommerce products from your small business website 

  • Provide multiple sign up and sign in options such as Google or Facebook account access, or set cookies so that your website “remembers” customers between sessions
  • Offer a range of integrated, trusted options to make payment effortless
  • Build out other ecommerce options based on what your customers are asking for and how they’re using your website

These are all starting points for optimizing your website around your customers’ needs. Depending on your business focus, there are several good website building tools, from Shopify for an ecommerce-first approach to Wix for customization, or Squarespace for beautiful, responsive design.

The right, customer-driven approach will help you drive repeat purchases, improve your business brand, and win customer trust.

Paul Maplesden

Paul is a professional writer who creates extensively researched, expert, in-depth guides across business, finance, and technology. He loves the challenge of taking complex subjects and breaking them down so they are easy to understand. He can quote 'The Princess Bride' in its entirety and believes the secret to good writing is Earl Grey tea.