How to set up a new website for your café
Sara Lindsay, Digital Content and Social Media Manager
Many small café businesses choose to market their coffee shop on social media alone. A well-maintained Facebook page or Instagram account can be an ideal, low maintenance way to ensure your business has an online presence. But maybe you are looking to elevate your digital footprint, or you’re a new start-up that wants a little more than just social accounts – if these sound like you, then read on for practical tips on setting up your own website!
Setting up a website sounds like a technical task, but there are lots of easy to use website builders with pre-made templates to choose from. Many also take care of the domain names and hosting too, so everything is in one place. When you are choosing a provider, do take advantage of the free trials that many offer to make sure you are happy with the ease of use before you commit. Some well-known website and hosting providers to try are Wix, GoDaddy and Squarespace.
Before you get started on building your website, think about your domain. Your domain should be your company name and should be very easy to read out and remember (try to avoid hyphens; make the domain all one word if you can e.g. hollystearoom.com as opposed to hollys-tea-room.com).
Once that’s in place its time to start planning out your website! Here are our top tips to set yourself up an easy-to-navigate and well-optimised website!
1. Plan Your Site Map
Once you have chosen the platform you will use for your site, you need to have a clear plan on the information you want to show and how you will lay it out. The best way to do this is to devise a site map. Scribble your ideas into a notepad or plan out on a separate document before you build it as you will probably find you need to refine things from your first idea.
Plot out what needs to be on the site from your perspective. Then think about what your customers need to see. Are you giving your customers what they need? How might they use your site and what does that journey look like.
Planning out the customer journey will help you put yourself in the customers’ shoes and make sure your site easy to use.
2. Think Mobile
Whilst most of us will build our website on a desktop, we must always be thinking about how our page will display on mobile. At very least, 50% of your users will navigate your site on mobile, so you must make sure their experience is just as good as the desktop one.
Most site builders will allow you to preview your page in various device modes, so it is absolutely essential that you utilise this feature to make sure your page displays well on mobile.
Take a look at how your images are displaying on mobile – are they tiny? If any have images text on, can you still read it? Is all your alignment correct? Look out for little things like this as they can have a big impact on user experience.
3. Headings & Keywords
There are lots of different things you can do in help search engines to find your site and show it to those who are searching for businesses like yours. This is called Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and it’s always worth optimising your site as best you can to maximise the number of site visits from interested customers.
One of the key things you can do to optimise your site for search is make sure you are using relevant keywords throughout your website. ‘Keywords’ are the words your prospective customers would type into a search engine in order to find your site. Google prioritises the words in the page headings and subheadings, so do make sure your important keywords feature there.
For example, if you own a café in Glasgow and you sell artisan sandwiches, cakes and pastries, you are going to want to make sure that you have the words I’ve made bold in your site copy, especially your headings. When users search those words, Google will match them with your site and hopefully show your site on the results page.
Make sure you use the style Heading 1 as the main heading on your page – this is the priority heading and only one heading of this style should appear on any given page. Subheadings should use the style Heading 2, 3, 4 and so on.
4. File Sizes
Another simple thing you can do to improve your SEO, is to make sure you are not uploading unnecessarily large image files. Large files will slow your page load time down, a factor that search engines do not like.
Try to upload JPEGs where possible over PNGs (PNGs are larger and should really only be used if you need to have a transparent background to your image). There isn’t any need for images to be larger than about 1500 pixels wide.
5. Alt Text
Speaking of images, try to include image alt text on important images (pictures that are simply decorative, you don’t need to worry about). Image alt text is where you describe, in words, what the picture is of. This will usually be an option you can add when you upload a picture to your image library.
There are two reasons for this. First, this helps a screen reader or other assistive technology to describe the image’s content to those who may otherwise be unable to access it. Secondly, it improves your SEO and helps search engines find your images when users perform an image search.
Take a couple of minutes to add in the alt text and your page will be more accessible and it improves SEO – win win!
6. Meta Data
On most sites you should be prompted to input some basic meta data for each of your webpages. Sounds a bit technical, but it’s basically a few lines of text that helps search engines index your site. The easy and important ones to include are your Page or SEO Title and your Page Meta Description. This is the text that is likely to appear in the search engine results page, so you need to be clear about what that page is about and use relevant keywords.
A good framework to follow for your Page title is: Page Name | Site Name | Short description. For example, you might have: Lunch Menus | Rosa’s Café | Sandwiches, light bites and snacks
For your Page Meta Description, you can go into a little more detail (keep it 140-160 characters), but you still want to ensure you are using keywords where possible, while concisely describing what the page is about. Don’t just fill your description with lots of random keywords – make sure your description is just that – a coherent, descriptive sentence that will entice a searcher to click through to your site.
7. Calls to Action
Finally, when your building out the content on your website, ensure you are always thinking about the action you want the user to take. Maybe it’s to download a menu, book a table or get in touch – whatever that ideal action is, make sure you are making it easy for the user to do it. By this I mean, include very obvious buttons, with clear actions on them (like ‘view menu’ rather than ‘click here’). You need to make it as easy as possible for people to navigate your site, so help them as much as you can!