A website is a great branding and marketing tool for any small business. It is also essential for a business strategy to ensure its brand, location and products are \u00a0found in search engine listings. In 2009 it became easier to design your website. Businesses had the choice of do-it-yourself website builder' tools or open source software like WordPress etc. The open source software may require some initial setup help unless the business owner is technically savvy. In 2009 ready-to-use templates also got more sophisticated in the appearance of the finished product, i.e, the published web site, and at the same time got easier to use for the end user. Another new trend for 2009 was getting a design for your website or logo as a contest through "crowdsourcing" with sites like 99 Designs, CrowdSpring and Genius Rocket. For businesses that do not yet have a website, their goal for having a website in 2010 should be: Discovery: Make sure your business can be found on the internet by users searching online for a business in search engines, maps and local Engagement: Save your customers time by providing them an easy way to get information on your business. Sales: Get sales and leads from engaged visitors Service: provide information and tools for website visitors who have already made the purchase 2010 will be the year of both the website owner and website visitor. Businesses will rediscover the marketing power of their websites. Users with an extensive choice of information on the internet will give their blessings to simply designed sites with easy to find information. Search engines will bless sites that are updated more frequently with ranking blessing. Social media integration will help websites spread their information far and wide and savvy website owners will use analytics to continuously tweak their websites based on visitor behavior. Entry pages, bounce rate, click paths will become easier lingo to follow and use for business purposes. 2010 will be a call to action to those business owners who used the build -it-and-forget it policy for their websites to wake up and get the online marketing and brand engine going. If you don't believe me, search Google for your competition or look how your customers are reviewing you on social sites like Yelp. 2010 Trends for web design Find me on the Internet: Year of the Web presence As 2009 comes to an end and small businesses look to 2010, and an online presence will become important. Highly competitive businesses use technology like websites, online marketing tools etc to succeed (Small Business Success Index June 2009). With over 47% of small business not online 2010 will be an important year to get their business online and have a web site. Low cost or no cost ways to get a web site increase With the enormous variety of web site tools available for small business, it may be easy to start a web presence for almost no money at all. Hosting providers offering free websites tools, blogging software providers like Blogger, Wordpress etc also let you start a web presence easily. Small businesses could try these free tools to experiment and then advance to a customized hosted option. A hosted option with your own domain name would be more credible and more brand friendly for your business. Updating frequently. Realizing the power of a Blog as a business tool In the previous years Small businesses had set up websites and did not update them often. Even if they are not online businesses in 2010 these businesses will pay attention and update the content of their websites more frequently. More businesses will add Blogs to their existing websites. This will give them an additional way to interact with customers. Customers can comment and give feed back on the blog. An added bonus is that these businesses have a better chance to be in search engine results as blogs are updated more frequently and search engines like blogs. Customers will like this as they get a chance to comment and also get to know the business in a very friendly and conversational way. See Lisa Barone's\u00a0 tips on cleaning up your website. Flashy out;\u00a0 practical in 2010 will be the year of simplicity. Information on the internet is already overwhelming for users. Websites that quickly provide the information without too many flashy promotions will get more visitors. Of course the exception is if you are in the entertainment business. Personalized experience Greeting your visitors when they visit your website will become expected in 2010. Giving them a personalized experience based on their interests will make them WOW your business. No longer just limited to sites alike Amazon, show visitors what they looked at and recommend products they may like or content that is related. Are you for real? Security is increasingly a concern and the importance to establish credibility will continue to be important. Visitors will look for security seals, ssl certificates, secure forms (using https:) and also validation seals. This is even more important if you are selling products online and collecting information. You should make sure you add your website to the web master tools of Google, Bing and Yahoo. Security of your website will be very important against hackers and malware. To prevent this keep your website software always updated. Do you know who is knocking on your web site door; Web Analytics are a crucial tool Websites without analytics is like running a business without accounting. Websites will focus on using web analytics tools to learn which content is more popular, who is visiting and from where. Tools like Google Webmaster tools will be important to find stats for indexing. \u00a0Read Clate Mask's article on using Web Analytics tools. Widgets and Apps Widgets showing collaboration between your website and other properties will become expected for websites. Some examples of using widgets is adding your latest Twitter comments, best selling products, most popular articles. This will extend to the ability to share the content using widgets like Share This, Add this allowing the website content to be shared by the visitors to their own networks. Some great info on Lisa Barone's post here. Can I call you now? Adding Interactivity to your website Chat and calling buttons on your website will be back. If people find something interesting on the website, features like 'Click to Call "and chat or send a message will reemerge. This will also be an important analytical tool so as to track where the lead came from by using different incoming phone numbers. Earlier, these tools were only affordable by large corporations in 2010 these tools will become affordable by more small businesses. More website owners will start using \u00a0Skype , Google Voice or several commercially available options. More Multi-media will be added to web sites Videos and photo galleries will form part of websites . Small business will use cheaper and convenient options like FLIP HD cameras to tell the behind the scenes stories of their business and products. Uploading them to video sites like YouTube, Blip.tv etc for videos, and Flickr for Photos and embedding them in their own website and will have the advantage of being seen in both the website and the photo or video network. In 2010 using websites like BlogTalk Radio businesses will show their thought leadership through podcasts and even their own live TV show using web sites like Livestream. Links links links Websites home pages will morph into portals to cater to a wide audience visiting them. Links between websites and other local community websites, events, news will be part of the website content strategy. Media rooms i.e sections of the website where small business owners can showcase coverage of their business will be an essential part of the website. Business websites will show their support to local and community causes. Content will include links to industry trends and news. In summary if you are a small business owner you should be prepared in 2010 to show personality in your business by using your website and multi media tools to tell your story to your customers and prospects. Keeping an ear to the ground to learn about the conversations about your business like product reviews etc will become very important. You may get media and press attention by exposure of your business in social media channels. Any effort in 2010 you invest in your website will be highways to your getting more traffic customers and a better bottom line. 2010 is the year of the small business web site.