By Cynthia Boris – originally published October 2012 on http://www.entrepreneur.com
In business, you only get one chance to make a good first impression, and your company's website is no different. When customers arrive at your site they should instantly have a clear understanding of who you are and what you do. But statistics show that many small-business websites lack the basics, which puts them at risk of losing a customer with just one click.
The relationship between a customer and a business is based on trust. Is your website customer-friendly? Start with the five things that belong on the front page of every business website.
1. Contact information: A recent survey by Chantilly, Va.-based local media and advertising research group BIA/Kelsey indicates that nearly 75 percent of small-business websites don't have an email link on their homepage. And six out of 10 don't have a phone number.
Minimally, your site should have a clear email link and a phone number. If you have a physical location, consider including the full address with the state and zip code, as well as a map and directions.
2. Images that represent what you do: If you sell wedding cakes, for instance, the front page of your website should have a picture of one of your cakes. As basic as this sounds, many business sites use irrelevant graphics such as butterflies and family photos, or worse, no graphics at all.
But be mindful of how you display images. Think twice before making them spin or shake or do anything else that can be distracting or irritating.
3. Clear navigation with working links: The front page of your site should have a clear navigation system either across the top or down one side of the page. The buttons should be clearly marked with words that correspond to the content on your site and help customers quickly find what they're looking for. Also consider including buttons for shipping options, FAQs and background on your company.
It's also important to click your links on a regular basis to make sure they all work, or use Google Webmaster Tools to identify any 404 errors. Broken links not only prevent shoppers from completing their orders, they can also make it appear as if you don't care about your business.
4. An email signup box: One effective way to encourage customer loyalty is with a regular newsletter. Put a signup box on the front page of your website and offer rewards, such as a discount on a future order to anyone who submits his or her email address. Services such as Mailchimp offer simple ways of doing this.
5. Social media links: Help customers stay in touch by providing links to your social media accounts right on your front page. Use recognizable icons linked to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or LinkedIn. You can also use feed widgets to encourage instant follow-up as well as social media sharing.