November 4, 2018 | Deya Bhattacharya

Web Solutions for Businesses – A Comprehensive Overview

In today’s business landscape, it has become essential for any business, large or small, to have a robust online presence. This involves not only an active participation in social media and discussion forums, but also the creation and maintenance of a comprehensive and up-to-date business website where users can go for information on the business, interacting directly with business representatives, purchasing the products offered by the business and using the functionalities the business offers to its customers. While each business has its own set of website pre-requisites based on the nature of the business and its technological and financial capabilities, certain elements are regarded as the ones most common and most essential to businesses of all kinds. Here, we discuss six of the web solutions that most businesses should look at when setting up a website, along with examples of the same.

1. Landing page

In the context of online marketing, a landing page is a single web page that a user reaches after clicking on an online advertisement or a search engine optimised result. It is also referred to as a ‘destination page’ or a ‘lead capture page’, as it is typically the web page a business would want to redirect its potential customers to. Landing pages are usually designed with the objective of converting visitors into leads or sales. For this reason, a good landing page typically contains one or more of the following elements:

  • Business resume – for those visitors who are entirely new to the website and/or the business, a section describing who the business is and what they do to help customers is a useful component to have on the landing page.
  • Events section – a slideshow or static panel featuring upcoming events hosted or sponsored by the business can arouse the interest of the page visitor, especially by including links to pages where visitors can sign up for or buy tickets to those events.
  • Call-to-action (CTA) – this is perhaps the most critical section of the landing page. This is the invitation to the visitor to do whatever the business wants him or her to do upon reaching the landing page – subscribing to a newsletter, browsing a product catalogue, downloading a whitepaper and so on.
  • Selling single products/services – if the business wants to focus on selling one flagship product or service the landing page can include a link whereby visitors can quickly buy it or subscribe to it.
  • Raising money – a landing page can be designed as a call for donations to a cause, with a link that allows visitors to directly donate the amount of their choice.

2. Website

a website is an aggregation of related web pages and multimedia content clubbed under a single domain name and present on at least one web server. After a visitor reaches the landing page, he or she should ideally be motivated to browse the rest of the website. Websites come in many forms, and some of the common ones are as follows:

  • Content Management System (CMS) – a CMS is a web application that allows users to create, modify or remove digital content. Its typical features include a provision to search for and retrieve content files by using the right keywords, revision control to make and track changes to content, and templates and wizards to create and edit pieces of content. WordPress is widely regarded as one of the best content management systems available, along with Drupal, Joomla, and ExpressionEngine.
  • News portal – this is a website designed for systematically aggregating information and updates from various sources such as online forums, search engines, blogs, and emails. BBC News is one of the most respected news portals of today.
  • Company website – this kind of website is designed to inform the reader about the company, its services and products, its achievements, testimonials received, resources, blogs, career opportunities, upcoming events, press releases, and other pertinent information. Most businesses have a dedicated company website that users can visit for an overview of what the business does.
  • Education websites – these are designed to assist visitors with acquiring skills or knowledge through the help of videos, documents or online courses, often with a link to an online exam to test their learning. Coursera, Udacity, and Udemy are the best-known education websites available today.
  • Portfolio – these websites are designed to showcase the creations of an individual or company. Portfolios can include writing samples, paintings, photographs, music compositions, advertisements or any other work sample. Website builders like Wix, Weebly and Behance enable users to build their personalised portfolio.
  • Forums – an Internet forum acts like an online discussion platform where people interact with one another by posting messages that can be viewed by all following a particular topic. Reddit and Tumblr are two of the most popular discussion forums online.

3. Mobile applications

Given the high prevalence of mobile usage today, businesses are advised to have their website or shopping portal available in the form of a downloadable mobile app. While these do not need to have all the features of the website, it should include some elements essential for users to transact with the business, such as:

  • Notifications – the app should provide the user with notifications on when a sale is going on, when a product they liked earlier is back in stock when any new products have been added when an event has been scheduled and other such relevant updates.
  • Tasks – the essential purpose of the business website should be fully enabled on the app. Whether it is booking a taxi (like Uber), buying a product (like Amazon) or ordering food (like Uber Eats), customers should be able to do it easily on the business app.
  • Blogs – if the business has a blog/newsletter/other content-oriented section that it wants its users to read, that section needs to be incorporated into the app. Medium is widely held to be one of the best blogging apps out there.

4. eCommerce solutions

One primary component of most business websites is an eCommerce option, whereby businesses can directly sell through their sites. Globally, eCommerce is booming and is projected to grow to 1.7 trillion USD by 2020.

Multiple products and service-based companies set up different kinds of eCommerce solutions, including the following:

  • Education – businesses can sell online courses through their sites, including access to white papers and ebooks, options to purchase a certificate, fees for giving online exams and options to unlock access to premium videos and lectures.
  • Product catalogues – businesses selling products ranging from books and jewellery to automobiles and electronics can have product catalogues through which users can browse to select the right products, add them to a shopping cart, move to check-out and pay by the payment method of their choice.
  • Customisable products – if a business allows users to customise their products, such as T-shirts, mugs, collectables or clothing, it can include web pages where users can select the colour, fabric, design, printed message etc. and submit the same, following which they pay as per the cost of the final customised product.
  • Subscription services – businesses that want users to subscribe to a software application, a newsletter, a resource library or a periodic product supply (groceries, cosmetics, medicines etc.) on a paid basis can include different subscription options (basic, premium, deluxe etc.) that users can select for different time periods (one month, six months, one year etc.) and pay accordingly.

It is important to be noted that businesses choosing to have an eCommerce section on their website or app should have a secure payment gateway incorporated so that all payments are processed safely.

5. Web Applications

A web application consists of a web interface performing a variety of functions, which a user accesses from a browser on either a desktop or a mobile device. Web applications can be simple, single-function applications like word processors, or offer more complex functionalities, such as the following:

  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) – CRM software usually offers a suite of functions to enable businesses to keep track of sales and business development efforts. Common functions can include tracking leads and contact numbers, tracking business from different accounts, providing after-sales support, synchronising calendars among co-users, scheduling appointments etc.
  • Instant messaging – these applications allows users to instantly send messages and files to each other or on a user group. Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are popular instant messaging services that can be accessed on both desktops and mobile devices – these apps also allow users to make audio and video calls through an internet connection.
  • HR software – these applications help with recruiting new employees, floating job openings, maintaining databases of employees, conducting induction processes and training courses, and managing employee performance. ADP Workforce Now and ClearCompany are popular HR software adopted by multiple businesses.
  • Media editing software – several web applications allow users to create and edit media files. Photoshop and Illustrator are popular applications for editing image files, while FL Studio can be used for creating and editing audio files and compositions.

6. SaaS Projects

SaaS, or software-as-a-service, is a method of accessing and managing centrally hosted software over the Internet, as and when the user requires it, with payment made on a usage basis. SaaS allows users a large degree of freedom to customise and use according to their requirements, along with adequate space to store whatever files are uploaded and created during the course of work. Email services like Outlook or Yahoo! Mail are simple forms of SaaS oriented towards personal email use. Some examples of more complex SaaS projects for organisational use are as follows:

  • WordPress – this is an open SaaS project, wherein users can create websites, host them and customise as they please while remaining under the hosting by WordPress that controls the overall capabilities and functionalities of the site
  • Microsoft Office 365 – this offers users the full suite of Microsoft Office applications. Users can create and edit content from any device using these applications, and also connect and collaborate with other users on work
  • Google Drive – this is a document storage system that permits the instant sharing of documents, media and other files that are stored on the cloud, thus reducing the necessity for bulky email attachments and permitting anyone to edit and add content instantly
  • Dropbox – this is another SaaS solution for storing, changing and sharing documents. Any changes to a user’s Dropbox repository reflect automatically on all devices, and the user can invite others to view and modify files as well
  • Slack – this is a business communication enabler that allows users to collaborate on group chats, share files and engage in personal chats as well. All shared documents can be edited and reviewed by those with access to it, and chat records are automatically archived for future reference
  • Salesforce – this customer management tool is often regarded as the archetypal SaaS solution and offers businesses a convenient way to keep all customer data on a single platform that users with the right authority can access and modify at any time

It is important to note here that SaaS refers to software licensing and delivery, whereas web application is a more general term for any application that can be accessed through a web interface. SaaS applications usually involve a fixed payment for accessing it or a regular fee based on usage – general web applications usually have free versions with most functionalities enabled, and require payment only for premium versions or particular features.

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