What you need to know about your business website

Hanging out your shingle used to mean putting up a sign to let people know that you were in business. The best comparison today is setting your website live.

As a business owner, you’re constantly getting hit with options for creating your website and whether it’s SquareSpace, Wix, WordPress or something else, you can choose the one that makes the most sense for you and get started.

But while it’s (relatively) simple to get a site up and running, it’s not so easy to figure out what it needs to contain.

Here is a quick guide to creating a site that connects with your clients, and some of the documents that you may be required to display in Australia.

If you’re a real newcomer to the digital world business.gov.au has your back with a Digital Business Kit designed to help the Australian services sector upskill. Find it here.


Start with an audit


When you’re thinking about what your website needs, take the time to learn from the mistakes of others. Hit the internet and make notes as you navigate around. Look at what makes a website easy to use or not and don’t forget to check out sites from your phone as well. What works for you will work for your clients, so this is a really valuable exercise.

Once you understand what information you want to be prominent on the site, then figure out where this will feature. Depending on the services you’re offering, this information could include your contact details, an About Us section, your blog or a link to your published work and information on the services you offer.

Hint: Don’t forget to audit the websites of people who are offering similar services to you.


Understand what you want people to do


Once your clients visit your site, you need to know what you want them to do next. Maybe it’s to call you, maybe it’s to complete a contact form, or you’d like them to download a white paper you’ve authored, or head to your blog. Whatever the action is will impact the way you order the information on your site. Make sure that item that will enable this action is easy to spot, whether it’s a phone number, a link or a heading.

Hint: Once clients are getting in touch with you, it’s a great idea to get into the habit of asking them how they found you. This is a great way to know if your site or other digital properties are having the desired effect.


Know your legal obligations


As a lawyer with a focus on intellectual property (IP) and a speciality in helping businesses get up and running, Pod Legal owner Jamie White knows a lot about what your site needs to do to stay within the bounds of the law. While, of course, this advice is general and not intended to replace counsel intended for your circumstances, he’s shared some helpful pointers for business websites operating in Australia.

As with so many things legal, White says that looking after your online presence is largely about managing risk, and this can be legal risk or commercial risk.

“Legal risk may include breaches of the Australian Consumer Laws, for example, stating that no refunds are available. Commercial risk may be by way of exposure associated with allowing a customer to use paid-for content, without having clearly set out terms and conditions,” said White.

Figuring out the risk facing your business means thinking about what could go wrong, and Jamie admits that this is no easy task- and it’s a great idea to engage a lawyer to handle this. At a minimum, pay careful attention to your website ‘Terms of Use’ document, which is there to “manage general liability associated with the website”. If you’re taking payments for services through your site you’ll need to post additional policies, including purchase terms and a refunds policy.

And remember that being careful with data is very important! If you’re collecting client data, for example, email addresses for a mailing list, you need to be mindful of what you’re sending.

“Only include in your email list or database, information relating to those who have consented to receive commercial electronic messages from your business,” said White. “Otherwise, a breach of the Australian Spam Act is on the table.”

Read more about complying with the Australian Spam Act.

Your business website should be a place your clients can come to find what they need. It doesn’t need to be complicated, and happily, putting one together is more straightforward than ever. Just make sure you take the time to consider the potential complexities before everything’s online.