As a small business website owner, you recognize that the purpose of your website is to generate leads. Even with a stellar SEO campaign, a beautiful website design and low bounce rate, your online presence will not be successful without a well-planned contact strategy bolstered by one-on-one conversations with potential customers.

You can't leave it up to your visitors to provide you with information. Most people don't want to give their phone numbers or email addresses to you because of the fear of spam.

People don't want to wait for a return phone call to answer their questions. Instead, they want to get the answers they need with as little effort as possible.

Consider the following tips to make your business more approachable and gain the trust of potential customers:

1. Create a flow for your visitors. When it comes to website design, it is all about usability.

Follow proven design strategies to ensure that your users can move through your site as easily as possible. For example, the phrase 'contact us' may sound generic and boring, but it works. Remember, visitors are not reading your website, they are scanning it and they have been trained to instantly recognize those two words.

Place your contact information at the top, right corner of the page, where it's expected.

2. Make things easy for your visitors. This can be done by keeping contact forms simple and giving visitors a clear call to action.

Once a user has overcome the fear of sharing personal contact information, it is your job is to remove as many obstacles as possible.

3. Consider an instant chat feature for your website. Instant chat has been around for a while, but is only beginning to become more widely used.

The lowest website threshold is instant chat. It requires the user to supply very little personal information and allows you to provide quick and personal customer service. Everyone wins.

Copyright 2011 dzine it, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Typography for the web has really come into its own in the past few years.

Unfortunately, many website designers lack the specific training and years of focus on typography that experts in other disciplines, like print publishing, have long had. However, that doesn't mean that you can't find fantastic web-safe fonts for your small business website.

The following four font elements necessary to convey your company message in an easy-to-read fashion:

Readability

The aesthetics of your website are useless if the content is illegible. When choosing a font for the copy on your site, simple is better. Keep things clean and avoid over-complicated type.

Save the creative efforts for headlines and pull-quotes. Your body copy should always be clear and easy to read.
Consider a medium-weight font, around 13px, in either a simple serif or sans-serif. Unless you are going for a very specific look, it is considered bad form to have more than three different font families on the same page.

Mood/Message

Your font is just as important as the images on the page.
Like any other page element, your fonts portray mood and emotion, just like your website's color scheme and graphics. For example, heavy fonts convey strength, while lightweight fonts give the impression of openness and space.
Coupled with scale and color choices, your font can become a powerful tool to convey feelings and attitudes.

Crossovers

It is important to remember that not everyone accesses the web in the same way. There are many combinations of device hardware, operating systems and screen resolutions, each of which will render fonts differently. This is another reason why it is important not to overcomplicate your typography.

Good web typography means knowing when to be flexible. That may mean choosing a different font for mobile devices or adjusting font sizes and contrasts for small screen displays.

In short, fonts can greatly affect the aesthetics of your site and can convey a lot of meaning.

Copyright 2011 dzine it, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Redesigning your existing website is something that your business should consider doing at least every three years. Internet trends and styles change and if you wait too long to update your website, it can end up looking dated and stale.

When it comes to redesigning your site, look at other existing websites, particularly those representing your competitors or peers, and take note of what you like and what seems to work best. However, it is important to consider the user and what they expect to gain from the site.

One way to ensure the customer satisfaction with your website is to use what's called a user-centered design. This proven process considers the requirements, expectations and skills of the end user at each stage of the design and development process.

By getting users to provide input into each step through the user-centered design (UCD) approach, businesses can avoid time and cost overruns.

Wireframes

When you analyze user needs, you will produce a list of content elements and consider the layout and the functionality of the design. Developing wireframes at this point is the way to go.

Wireframes should consider how users navigate the site. If you plan to adapt the website for mobile or tablet use, now is the time to look at that as well.

Information Architecture

Next, give careful consideration to your content by categorizing it into a coherent structure that people can understand quickly and easily. Information architecture will lead to the design of the site's navigation.

Aesthetics

Next, you can start thinking about the design. Start with simple aesthetics and do user testing.

This stage helps you to save time when you get feedback that something isn't quite right and you need to start again.

Finish

As with any creation, the final stage is to apply the finish. You should think carefully about accessibility in terms of colors, contrast and font sizes.

This approach will result in a better website than a cut and paste job through competitor analysis. However, you're not finished yet. Your website should continue to evolve through user feedback.

Copyright 2011 dzine it, Inc. web design All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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