Websites are changing.  They still play a key marketing role – for people who don’t know your business (or who don’t know enough about it), your website establishes credibility.  But what a website can do for a small business, that’s even better.  Read on:

What your business’ new website looks like matters:  You have only a handful of seconds to convince a site visitor to stay.

How well the site functions may be even more important.  Navigation – the ease of moving around the site – is important, but your new site’s functions will be determined by what type of business you do.  An e-commerce site needs different capabilities than a site that is little more than an e-brochure.

Whether the site is being built for a new business or to refresh an existing one’s presence, there’s planning to be done beforehand.

“The business owner must know the messaging before I can start work,” says Chicago graphic designer Traci Jendo, principal, TJS Design Inc. (  “My client needs to know what to say, who to say it to, and what the ‘feel’ of the message should be.  That input drives the design.”

That input also requires the business owner to have thought about what the business should accomplish, the marketplace, and the business’ strengths and weaknesses.  Also helpful:  An awareness of what’s possible.

There is help available.  Jason Burton recommends Website Magazine as a “good resource” especially for smaller businesses.  Burton, president of Chicago Technology Consulting, provides tech-based support for a handful of small businesses.

“Websites,” Burton says, “are changing.”  Today, for example, it is more important to recognize that your business’ website “isn’t just a website but is a part of your business’ online presence,” which, he continues, means your site must integrate with your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and similar platforms.

There are other changes Burton says to know as you plan a new website:

* Even Google likes SSL encryption.  The encryption is especially important for e-commerce sites, but also because Google tends to give a higher search rank to sites properly protected.

* We tend to browse on our phones and tablets rather than desktops, which means your site must display well on mobile devices.  In fact, slightly more than half of web traffic comes from mobiles.

Not surprisingly, Google, is transitioning its search rankings based on a Mobile First Index.

* Video.  It can be acceptably done with a cell phone, which is nice because video is one of those website pieces that can affect search rankings.

* Chatbots, the conversational “Hi, Jim, can I show you a tie to go with the blue shirt you selected?” boxes that appear on a variety of sites are becoming more useful.  Chatbots may or may not be appropriate for your new website, but they can be cool.

Burton ( knows the possibilities – but also knows it is important to not over push small business needs.  Many of us won’t need the latest techy stuff on our sites.

We will need graphics, though.

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