Think your small business doesn’t need a professional-looking, effective web site? ┬áThink again.

Leading provider of website packages for small business, 1&1 Internet, Inc., reports that 45% of U.S. consumers have changed their minds about ordering from a small business based on the quality of its website. So if the online presence of your small business is a sloppy, poorly-designed site designed by the brother of your spouse’s best friend’s sister who “does websites,” you might want to rethink your approach.

While a custom-built site might be beyond your financial reach, there are plenty of services available now that provide website packages with business-specific templates and tools designed to allow even the smallest enterprise to have an effective, well-functioning website. Regardless of how you decide to build and maintain your website, the key to converting visitors to customers is to provide an inviting, well-functioning site that delivers both quality products and service.

Keep these points in mind and you’ll stay on the right track.

1. Professional design. You only get one chance to make a first impression and that impression is made when a customer lands on your home page. Make it look good and tell your potential customers at first glance: this is a real business and it is professional.

2. Well-written copy, free of errors. Typographical errors, misspellings, bad grammar and poorly-written copy tell your customers either that you don’t know better or that you don’t care. Either way, you will lose customer trust and possibly sales. Be careful and have someone proofread your content.

3. Accurate product descriptions. If your copy doesn’t accurately describe the product, your customers will be disappointed. Not only will they send the product back, you will have lost their trust.

4. Accurate photos. Make sure the photo depicts the exact product you are selling. Your customers are moving quickly and they assume the picture they are looking at is the product they are buying.

5. Accurate links. Broken links and links to the wrong products will frustrate your customers and send them running.  Be sure to sign up for Google Webmaster Tools to help you monitor this.

6. Easy ordering. Don’t make your customers work to figure out your ordering process. Make it fast, clear and secure.

7. Offer Multiple payment methods. Shoppers have different payment preferences. Offer as many choices as you can practically handle.

8. Fast and affordable shipping. In today’s market, where many e-tailers offer free shipping every day, make sure you are offering the cheapest and most efficient shipping you can afford. And keep in mind: savvy shoppers simply won’t tolerate businesses trying to make money on shipping and “handling.”

9. Easy returns and free if you possibly can. Think about it, people who love the convenience of online shopping hate the hassle of returns and not to mention the expense. Make it as easy and cheap as you can.

10. Honesty, quality and service. If visitors to your site don’t trust you, they aren’t going to order. Here at Working Person’s Store, we market work clothing, work boots and gear for working people from our local bricks-and-mortar store, a widely-distributed print catalog, and a website that draws customers from around the world. Regardless of how we market our products, honesty, quality and service are not just marketing watchwords; they comprise the core of our business philosophy. When we designed our website and as we work hard to maintain and improve it, we keep that mission at the forefront of our efforts. Our customers appreciate this, and we think yours will, too.