Every Black business owner needs to get their website right. Not now, but right now. Many of us want to support Black-owned businesses, but sometimes, business owners make it challenging to do so.
I’m sure you’ve had the following experience a time or two (or three): Someone tells you to check out a Black-owned business. You google them, go to their site, that is if they even have one, and quickly close the tab.
You’re either overwhelmed by the theatrics, underwhelmed, or simply aren’t able to get the information you’re looking for.
In efforts to help out some of you who may be entrepreneurs who may be in this situation, here’s a list of Do’s and Don’ts for getting your website right and helping your business grow.
Tip #1: Have a website. This seems like a no brainer but you’d be surprised. There’s nothing in the world worse than googling a business or asking an owner for their website only to find out that it doesn’t exist.
Oh wait, there may be something worse: clicking onto a website and finding out that the page is down or under construction. If you’re Black and in business, you should have a website. In fact, make that your top priority for 2016.
Tip #2: DIY and make it modern. A decade ago, if you didn’t know programming and code, there was no way that you could create a nice looking website on your own.
More than likely, you had to spend thousands of dollars to hire a web designer to create a digital platform for your business. Well, that’s no longer the case.
You don’t have to sit around and wait for some time management-challenged designer to create and then make the necessary updates and changes you need.
There are several platforms that will give you all sorts of options you desire to do a DIY digital platform. From WordPress (our personal favorite), to Wix, Weebly, Squarespace and Shopify, there are several user-friendly and modern platforms that will help you present a 21st century digital face to your customers.
Tip #3: It has to be responsive. When a site is mobile responsive, that means that no matter which device you are using to view online content – your computer, smart phone or tablet – the experience is seamless.
The first template we used when launching Shoppe Black a few weeks ago, was NOT mobile friendly.
The initial template we used was free – which means that it didn’t have all of the sexy bells and whistles that our current theme has. 82% of the thousands of views we’ve received on our site globally have come from mobile users.
Let’s face it, we’re a mobile society. Don’t turn off potential customers because your website is not responsive to their cellular phones or tablets.
Tip #4: Aesthetics are key. In the land of visual culture, aesthetics are QUEEN. When it comes to aesthetics, as a people, sometimes we win. and sometimes we lose. There’s a way of expressing Blackness without being so literal.
In this day in age, we don’t need to saturate our branding with an excessive amount of djembes, RBG flags, kente cloth, black fists, and Adinkra symbols to prove how Black we are. We can articulate BLACK sans “tribal” prints.
Create a clean website, with even cleaner looking images, logos, and aesthetics that will translate well to any customer. Leave the tacky and trite images for the an era bygone. Embrace your inner Afrofuturist and go beyond the expected.
Tip #5: Photography is EVERYTHING. Do something about those pictures. It irks me to the core when I go on websites and see blurry, dark, poor quality images.
Granted, I’m a curator by trade, so my eye tends to be a little less tolerant than the average consumer. However, I think with the invention of Instagram and the smart phone, everyone now has the capacity to try their photography skills on for size.
If you have a website, invest in some high quality photos that truly speak to the caliber of your goods and services. I’ve been known to not patronize a business strictly because I was turned off by their images. Hire a professional photographer.
Check out the images of highly successful brands on platforms like IG. Use free online stock photos. Invest in a good camera. Watch some tutorials and take your own photos.
Whichever route you take, please, pretty please, just say no to posting subpar images on your site.
Tip #6: Keep the content current. So you have a website. The aesthetics don’t look like something out of a Black liberation parade circa 1972. It’s mobile friendly. People like the way it looks. There’s only one problem: You haven’t updated it in years.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of creating something nice and then ignoring it. I’ve fallen victim to I.M.W. (Ignore My Website) myself – shantrelleplewis.com. If someone were to go to my professional site, they would think I haven’t curated an exhibit or done anything significant since 2013.
Of course that isn’t the case – I’ve been featured in national and international press, curated two highly successful exhibitions, traveled to multiple countries, received awards, launched two companies and a whole lot more. But you couldn’t tell based on my site. Moral of the story: Keep it current.
Tip #7: Link your social media. COINTELPRO and Big Brother aside, it’s critical to have a social media presence. Don’t lose out on any potential marketing opportunities because you haven’t linked your twitter, facebook, tumblr or instagram accounts to your website. The goal is to get more follows, more follows, more follows!
Tip #8: A facebook page isn’t a website. Having a presence on social media is awesome. We all need it. But a facebook page shouldn’t substitute having a website.
You communicate how serious you take your business when you have online presence. It tells your customers that you believe enough in your brand to invest in its online presence. Get a website. If you don’t have one yet, see Tip #1.
Tip #9: Keep it real. All races and ethnic groups spend money. We know that. We also know that it’s not always smart to pigeon hole our clientele. Some of us cater specifically to Black audiences. Many of us don’t.
We can be a Black-owned business with diverse customers and still be a shining example of what it means to be Black and in business. What’s NOT cool, however, is when you click on a website that’s supposed to be Black owned and not one, single, solitary image is of a Black person.
That’s just wack. Newsflash: Sometimes that turns customers off too, especially your Black customers who came to you for the specific purposes of supporting their own.
If attracting Black customers is not important to you, cool. But if it is, diversify your portfolio a little more and let your website reflect it.
Tip#10: Hire a Professional. There are maaany professional web developers in these streets who can create a beautiful site for you. It usually won’t cost much either. As a serious business owners, investing in a professionally done website should not be a hard decision when you consider the potential return on investment. Shameless plug: Shoppe Black offers web development services.
Here are a few businesses that pass our Shoppe Black Website Test with flying colors:
Justice of the Pies | Chicago based Pie Maker
Lolo’s Seafood Shack | South-side Chicago Based Restaurant
Tastemakers Africa | NYC based Travel to Africa App and Content Platform.
Leisure Life NYC | Casual Vintage Inspired Men’s Wear Boutique
DCity Smokehouse | Washington, DC based Restaurant
William + James (self-promotion is the best kind) | NOLA/Philly based Haberdashery
What updating tips did you find useful? Need any additional support? Leave a comment or email us at email@example.com.