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This is a headshot of Sanj Rajput.

Web designer working on his desk with colour palettes behind him

 

Having a website for a small-town business is crucial for promoting tourism, attracting new businesses, and providing valuable information to local customers.

 

However, designing a website for a small town can be challenging, as it requires a different approach than designing a website for a business in a large city.

 

In this blog post, we will discuss small-town business website design best practices that can help you create an effective and engaging website for your company. Let’s start by answering this important question we get asked all the time:

 

Do I even need a website if my customers are local?

Yes, a small-town business should have a website. A website serves as a digital storefront for businesses, and in today's digital age, it is essential for any business, regardless of its size or location. Here are some reasons why a website is important for small town businesses:

 

  • Online Presence: Having a website allows a small-town business to establish an online presence and reach potential customers beyond their local area. With a website, they can showcase their products or services, provide contact information, and make it easier for customers to find and learn about their business.

  • Credibility: A website can lend credibility to a small-town business. In today's digital age, many customers expect businesses to have a website. Without one, potential customers may perceive the business as less legitimate or less professional.

  • Marketing and Promotion: A website can be used as a marketing tool for small town businesses. They can use their website to promote their products or services, offer discounts or promotions, and showcase customer testimonials.

  • Customer Convenience: A website makes it more convenient for customers to interact with a small-town business. Customers can place orders or book appointments online, access business information from anywhere, and get in touch with the business through contact forms or email.

In summary, a website is important for small town businesses as it establishes an online presence, lends credibility, serves as a marketing tool, and makes it more convenient for customers to interact with the business.

 

A quick note on Local SEO

Having a professional website for your small-town business adds one other advantage: it helps with your Local SEO. Local SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is crucial for small town businesses because it allows them to be visible to potential customers who are searching for businesses in their local area.

 

With local SEO strategies in place, small town businesses can improve their online visibility, drive more traffic to their website, and ultimately increase their sales and revenue.

 

Search engines favour local companies in their search results. But you can’t take advantage of that favouritism if you don’t have a website. How does a search engine like Google know what town you’re in or what local areas you service if you don’t have a website?

 

Now you might be asking why Local SEO is important at all. Here are some specific reasons why local SEO is important for small town businesses:

 

  • Targeted Traffic: Local SEO helps small town businesses target their audience by optimizing their website and online presence for local keywords, phrases, and search terms. This ensures that when people search for products or services related to their business, their website will appear in the search results, resulting in more targeted traffic to their website.

  • Competitive Advantage: Local SEO can help small town businesses compete with larger businesses in nearby cities or towns. By optimizing their website for local search, they can attract customers who are specifically looking for businesses in their area, rather than competing with larger businesses for generic search terms.

  • Increased Visibility: Local SEO can increase a small-town business's visibility in search results, maps, and local directories. This can help them stand out from competitors and make it easier for potential customers to find them.

  • Improved Reputation: Local SEO can also improve a small-town business's reputation by increasing their online reviews and ratings. Positive reviews and ratings can help build trust with potential customers and encourage them to choose their business over competitors.

In short, local SEO is important for small town businesses because it helps them target their audience, compete with larger businesses, increase visibility, and improve their reputation.

Now that you understand why you need a website, and some of the marketing advantages it offers your company, let’s dive into the best practices for small-town business website design:

 

Website Design Best Practices for Small Towns

Most great website designs have certain key features. It’s become best practice for great web design companies, like REM, to include these features by default in all its small-town designs:

 

  1. Start with a Plan: Before we even begin the design process, it is essential to have a plan in place. Identify the purpose of your website, define your target audience, and establish your goals. Your website should be designed to meet the needs of your audience and align with your goals.

    Setup a time to talk with our Marketing Director if you need help defining your target audiences and setting up your marketing and sales goals.
     
  2. Keep it Simple: When designing a small-town website, it is important to keep it simple. Avoid clutter and prioritize the most important information on your homepage. Use a simple color scheme, clear typography, and consistent branding throughout your website.

    REM websites are expertly designed by our in-house designers. You’re not getting a cookie-cutter template. With REM you get a custom website that is specifically designed to help convert visitors into customers. We don’t let design clutter get in the way of communicating with potential sales leads.
     
  3. Be Mobile-Friendly: With the rise of mobile usage, it is essential to design your small-town website to be mobile-friendly. Use responsive design techniques to ensure your website adapts to different screen sizes and devices.

    All REM sites are mobile-friendly and will work well on almost any mainstream browser or device. This gives you access to the largest potential group of clients.
     
  4. Optimize for SEO: To make your website discoverable, it is important to optimize it for search engines. Use relevant keywords in your content and meta descriptions, ensure your website has a clear hierarchy, and use descriptive URLs.

    If SEO, or digital marketing in general, is a priority for your company, let your REM representative know right away. We can bring our marketing team in to consult on the design from the very beginning.

    By the time your site is done, it will not only be beautiful and easy-to-use, but it will also be setup perfectly to launch your online marketing campaigns.
     
  5. Provide Valuable Content: Your small-town website should provide valuable content to your audience. Showcase local attractions, events, and businesses to promote tourism and engage visitors.

    REM also offers content creation services as well as content marketing. If your staff are afraid to write online, or they consider writing to be a tedious task right up there with going to the dentist, then our team can help!
     
  6. Prioritize Accessibility: Your small-town website should be accessible to all users, regardless of their abilities. Use alt tags for images, ensure your website is navigable with a keyboard, and use high contrast colors for readability.

    REM websites come with accessibility basics included, but we can also upgrade your small business website design to be fully AODA compliant. If you are interested in a fully accessible site, just let your REM sales rep know.
     
  7. Incorporate social media: social media is an excellent tool for promoting your small town and engaging with visitors. Incorporate social media links and feeds on your website to encourage social sharing and interaction.
     
  8. Use Calls to Action (CTAs): Calls to action are an effective way to encourage visitors to act on your website. Use clear and concise language to guide visitors towards your desired actions, such as booking a hotel or visiting a local attraction.

    While we are on this topic, it’s also important that you work with other businesses in your area so that you can link to their websites for relevant services.

    For example, if you run a small-town yoga studio that is doing retreats, you should have links to local healthy-eating restaurants. Maybe a local store that sells yoga equipment. How about a link to local hotels or a bed & breakfast in case guests want to stay somewhere before or after your retreat.
     
  9. Test: Once your small-town website is live, its important to continuously test your site and make sure all these key features are easy to find and use. Monitor your website analytics, gather feedback from users, and make improvements as necessary.

 

In Conclusion

Designing a website for a business in a small-town requires a different approach than designing a website for a business in a large city. By following these small-town website design best practices, you can create an effective and engaging website.

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This is a headshot of Shauna Ramsaroop.

3D Illustration of a computer with office and website-related icons around it

 

It’s been over a year of some businesses struggling to stay alive as a result of the pandemic. This year has taught us how to restructure our teams, building work from home infrastructures, taking every precaution in the book for essential workers that are required to physically be around each other. This year has truly taken a toll on our businesses, unfortunately some were forced to close their doors, but many were able to adapt, and with the inevitable changes that we face moving forward we see new opportunities and new businesses rising from the ashes of COVID-19.

 

As we continue to soldier forward, now more than ever is the perfect time to re-evaluate your business’ online presence. Do you have one? Do you have social media accounts? If you do, are you easy to find? Are you attractive to your target audience? Are you reaching your target audience? These are a lot of questions I know, but having an online presence is the most important thing you can do for your business today and it’s extremely important to make sure you’re doing it right.

 

Websites

I know this sounds strange, since most companies do have websites, but it’s something that we need to bring up, having an updated website is incredibly important these days. Here are a few questions I suggest you ask yourself in regards to your website:

  1. When was the last time you did a redesign on your website?

  2. Is the information that you have on it accurate with the services and products that you have to offer?

  3. Is your site responsive – meaning does your site automatically change based on the device it’s being used on?

  4. Is your contact information up to date?

  5. Do you have links to your active social media accounts on your website?

  6. How are you ranking in terms of Search Engine Optimization?

  7. Is your website AODA compliant? Should it be?

  8. How are you informing your clients of changes on how you do business?

These are all very important questions that you need to be asking about your website, and if you don’t have a website yet, these are most definitely questions that you want to ask when designing your new website.

 

Search Engine Optimization

This is one of the most common questions that we are asked about from our clients and prospective clients: “How do I get my website to show up on Google’s first page?” Search engine ranking is one of the most sought-after results and there are things you can do on your website to help increase your ranking such as having a responsive website, blogging, redesigning your content to ensure you have proper heading structures in place, and optimizing images that you have on your website. If you’re looking to boost your ranking, give us a shout – we’re here to help!

 

Social Media Marketing

The concept of social media marketing for businesses has really taken off over the past year. Businesses have turned to social media applications such as Instagram and TikTok to attract potential clients and highlight their products and services. Are you making the most of these applications to help generate business?

 

eCommerce

In a previous blog we touched on some of the eCommerce tools that we have available to you, with the increase of curbside pickup methods, businesses are now required to offer their products available to purchase online and picked up at a specified date and time. We have built solutions to help businesses meet the needs of their customers – allowing them to browse online, request quotes, and make purchases. This functionality has almost become an absolute requirement for the survival of businesses.

 

In conclusion the reality of face-to-face interactions is dwindling and it’s incredibly important that the world can find you online, not only should they be able to find you, but they should be able to KNOW you based on your website, social media, SEO and eCommerce platforms. Having a well-rounded online presence will directly increase your sales and we’re here to help you make sure you’re well prepared to tackle the new normal of business. Aside from our tools, our team is here to support you throughout your journey, make educated recommendations, provide you with industry knowledge to help increase your profits and guide you through your marketing efforts.

 

If you’re an existing client and are looking for suggestions on ways that you can improve your online presence, or if you’re a new business looking for some guidance feel free to reach out to us at [email protected]. We want to help you be the best you can be!

 

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This is a headshot of Shauna Ramsaroop.

calendar with the date of January 2021 on it

 

In a recent article published by a reputable news source there was some information that was incorrectly provided and we’re here to set the story straight. The article stated that the deadline for all businesses that were legally required to have AODA compliant is in June 2021 – this is false.

 

As of January 2021, all websites for companies in Ontario with over 50 employees must adhere to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

 

What are the ramifications if your business is not compliant? It’s a pretty hefty fine– executives can be fined up to $100,000 each day a site remains non-compliant.

 

If you’re not sure whether or not your website is or should be compliant, feel free to reach out to us. Also, for more information on the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) feel free to check out some of our blogs that highlight key information!

 

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This is a headshot of Christine Votruba.

Laptop top-view with January 2021 calendar deadline on it

 

Did You Know:

 

Businesses & non-profit organizations with 50 or more employees should have made their website and web content accessible by January 1st, 2021?

 

It’s not too late! Make your website AODA compliant.

 

Visit aodawebsites.ca

 

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This is a headshot of Shauna Ramsaroop.

Laptop, tablet and phone on a table showing REM's home page.

 

A great home page layout makes the web page more interesting to look at because the viewer’s eyes will want to dance around in the page. It’s definitely easy to get lost on a home page and we want your viewers to enjoy the experience.

 

Just Breathe

People underestimate how important it is to give your layout white-space. By giving your users/viewers time to digest each section while clearly separating them at the same time, allows them to really take it all in; here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • White-space emphasizes how impressive a photo is and gives it intrigue.
  • Use the right amount of white-space:
    • Too much: the user will have to scroll through or “get stuck at” empty space.
    • Too little: the user might start feeling claustrophobic if things are squished together.
  • Our website as an example, the Home Banner:
    • On the left-side is a big photo that showcases one of our clients’ website on a laptop, smartphone and tablet. There’s a good amount of space between it and REM’s logo. Never over-crowd logos, they need space all around!
    • Notice how the white space makes it really easy to read the headline, which is the 1st heading.

 

Layouts

Make your layouts dynamic, symmetrical and appropriately proportional. This will show that you as a company are structured, organized and thoughtful. Your layout will determine the home page’s information hierarchy. Here are some ways to accomplish this:

  • Vary your layout throughout; use columns to put multiple items in a row.
  • Use a grid. In our website’s case (and in most of our clients’ website’s case), the grid is based on 12 columns. Notice how we use 3 columns in some areas such as the buttons below the banner, the featured portfolio and the blog teaser.
  • Maximize the use of your browser’s/device’s screen size, while still having proper white-space. Using our website as the example, notice how the angled grey background, large photos and Google Map take up the full width of the browser.

 

Headings

We often talk about headings, especially when it comes to having AODA compliant websites. On the home page, it keeps your viewers engaged and when sized correctly the end result is a sequential experience that your viewers will subtly perceive. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Heading 1: biggest, stands out and as I’ve mentioned, the very first thing at the top that clearly states what we provide: web design and development. Important and useful for SEO.
  • Use the correct sequence for SEO and AODA purposes (For more information, read this blog post about “AODA – Colour Contrast and Headings”)
  • Headings in a home page are very useful for separating sections.

 

For our website, the headings start off the following areas:

  • “We Provide Web Design & Development” introduces the website and attracts, using big imagery.
  • “We build exceptional websites…” some vital text for SEO and to give users more of an idea of who we are, who we serve and what we do.
  • “Some of our Featured Work” with highlighted projects.
  • “Blog” teasers of our blog posts.

 

As you can see in our three-part series there is a lot that goes into designing your home page – it’s the most important page and we truly want to make sure that we support you and guide you through the process. It is a lot to stay on top of, and our designers are here to help organize and guide you through the process.

 

We want you to succeed; we sincerely love it when you do! So, if you’re looking to change up your existing website or looking to design a new one, feel free to reach out to us! We’re here to help.

 

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This is a headshot of Shauna Ramsaroop.

Mockup of tablet and smartphone showing off REM's home page

 

Now that we have gone over the foundational aspects of a home page, we can dabble a bit into Branding. Your lead Graphic Designer will help you establish the overall look and feel during the design process. It’s the most fun part in my opinion because this is where you truly get to express who you are through emotions that your viewers feel when they view your home page! When we talk about look and feel we are referring to the colours and fonts – one key thing to remember is consistency.

 

Colour Us Simple

Using our website as the example, our primary colours are orange and dark grey. There are shades of much lighter grey throughout to complement the imagery and the primary colours. Notice that orange is used sparingly as it’s a very strong, prominent colour which naturally draws the eye. Hence, it’s only used for important elements such as action buttons that we really want users to click on and to highlight certain headings. The colours are not only on-point with branding, but they’re also AODA compliant.

 

It Feels Like Home

“Feel” aka overall tone is something you do not want to miss when it comes to your home page. It’s important to think about what you are trying to convey. Is your company approachable, friendly, laid-back, corporate, luxurious, natural, etc.? As our website as the example, we convey that:

  • We’re technologically savvy by showing current devices (laptop, smartphone, tablet, monitor). And our website is responsive and looks great on every browser/device.
  • We’re fresh and creative using modern fonts, angled backgrounds and shapes. Our creativity is also shown in the work we’ve done for our clients.
  • We’re reputable; our portfolio shows we’ve worked with well-known companies.

 

Although it sounds quite simple, determining the look and feel for your website and home page is a lot harder than it sounds. Our designers are here to help guide you through the process. As we build our relationship with you throughout the process, we’ll be sure to nail it down.

 

If you’re thinking it may be time for a refresh let us know; we would be happy to give you some ideas!

 

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This is a headshot of Rob Matlow.

large AODA lettering with info for a free webinar in December 8

 

Our first AODA Webinar last week was a huge success! Thanks very much to everyone that attended!

 

Join us for the next free AODA webinar on Tuesday, December 8th at 9:30am.

 

Our AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) certified Graphic Designers: Sean S. and Christine V. have put together an interactive presentation discussing what it is, how it affects you and your business, and its design factors. There will also be helpful resources to help make your website complaint.

 

This is a virtual event in Zoom hosted by The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce; please sign up in advance to get the link and details before the event.

 

Register to the event now by going to The Chamber’s event page.

 

Stay tuned for even more future webinar dates! For useful info and facts about AODA visit aodawebsites.ca.

 

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This is a headshot of Rob Matlow.

large AODA lettering with info for a free webinar

 

Join us on Thursday, November 19th at 9:30am for our free, AODA webinar!

 

Our AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) certified Graphic Designers: Sean Sanderson and Christine Votruba have put together an engaging webinar that explains what it is, how it affects your business and its design factors with resources to help make your website complaint.

 

Hosted by The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, the virtual event will be held through Zoom; please register in advance so that we can send you the link and details prior to the event.

 

To register visit The Chamber’s event page.

 

Stay tuned for future webinar dates! For more information visit aodawebsites.ca.

 

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This is a headshot of Shauna Ramsaroop.

A bunch of polaroid photos on a table

 

Thoughtfully used pictures on websites go a long way. Not only are they used for decorative purposes and to spruce up the look and feel of your website. When strategically chosen and placed, images and graphics become a source of understanding the information presented on your website.

 

When it comes to AODA and the WCAG 2.0 it is imperative that images, videos and any content that isn’t text have some form of alternative text (Alt-Text) allowing them to be accessible to those with visual impairments. When using a screen-reader Alt Text become important so that computer programs can recognize and correctly describe images on a web page. When our designers and developers create AODA websites a significant amount of work goes into ensuring your images are correctly placed and have suitable Alt Texts attached in the code to ensure compliance.

 

When choosing images for your websites, our designers are sure to follow W3C’s Image Classification rules to ensure Alt Texts are assigned according to the images placed on your website. Some of the classifications are as follows:

  • Informative: Used to represent concepts or information

  • Decorative: Used to enhance the aesthetic and do not convey information

  • Functional: Used to represent functionality on the page

  • Complex: Used to simplify the representation of complex data

 

Our Customer Success Team will ensure that moving forward when you’re updating your websites, you are prepared to make use of our tools to easily update/add Alt Text to any images that you place on your website moving forward. This way you’re ensuring that images are accessible to those with visual impairments or those with other various disabilities.

 

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This is a headshot of Shauna Ramsaroop.

Graphics comparing good versus bad colour contrast

 

When designing your website, we enjoy being adventurous with our clients, especially when it comes to the colours you choose. Your website truly is your brand, an online reference to who you are and it’s extremely important that your design and colour scheme match who you are and what you stand for. When designing websites that need to be AODA compliant our designers and developers need to go the extra mile to ensure the colours you choose are both representative of you and fall within the compliance parameters of WCAG 2.0. This could be a tricky feat and here is why.

 

Colour Contrast

People with colour deficiencies and low vision may have difficulties viewing your website depending on the colours that you use. It is incredibly important that the contrast ratios comply with the requirements allowing people to receive information from your website visually. When choosing colours and fonts our designers and developers must following the following regulations:

  • Contrast– minimum ratio of 4.5:1

  • Bold & 14pt or 18pt + colour contrast ratio of 3:1

  • Add text labels to colour pickers

  • Use texture to complement colour information

  • Text on images should always use as high contrast as possible

  • Incidental/Decorative items such as logos are exempt

  • Colour Contrast Checkers: Web Aim Color Checker & CCA

 

Visual Hierarchy

Another very important aspect of AODA compliance is the ability to visually organize design elements in order of importance. This becomes mainly apparent when someone is using a device or screen reader to navigate content and information presented on a web page – typically this is done by tabbing on a specific type of keyboard.

 

In order for devices to navigate the content accordingly, headings must be strategically placed to allow a reader to comprehend the content, our designers and developers ensure the information is presented in an organized manner by making use of the correct Headings on a page:

  • Heading 1 – Only to be used once on a page

  • Heading 2 – Must be at least 1-point size smaller and follow an H1. Can have different styles

  • Heading 3 – Again must be smaller than H2. Is to be used as a subheading for H2 only

  • Heading 4 – must be smaller than H3. Is to be used as a subheading for H3 only and so on

 

When adding content to your website or designing the layout, it is extremely important to keep these regulations in mind. If you have any more question in regards to AODA compliance, or the information from this blog, please reach out to us!

 

Make your website AODA compliant! Visit aodawebsites.ca

AODA Websites logo

 

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