How important is a website to running a modern food business?

Alex Smith
MD, Alara

Our website is central to what we do now and will become increasingly important. We use it as a business and information tool so it has the company history and gives information about product provenance as well as allowing consumers to buy directly online.

We also offer a tailored muesli service that allows people to mix their own product and we are about to launch a web-based service called Local to London. We believe a website should offer an extension to your standard service.

We are based in King's Cross and customers who live nearby can order and pay for products online and we will then deliver by bicycle. We are also in the progress of updating our website so it is more user friendly.

A key aspect will be to make it easier for browsers to see where they can buy because this is the section looked at most. The website gets 4,000 hits a week and 1,500 are purchasers, so this aspect is very important.

Judy Bell
Founder and chief executive, Shepherds Purse

We are in the process of redesigning our website but it has served us well. Customers like to know about the business and we use it to highlight our culture, but we have probably put too much information on the site.

Ease of use is the most important thing for a website. It needs to be colourful and informative, but more than anything else it needs to be quick because if people are on it for longer than necessary they will eventually switch off.

It is important for an artisan company such as ourselves to get our story across. We have a lot of loyal customers who want to be updated on what we are doing so we want to put a regular newsletter on the website giving information about new products.

We are also trying to increase interaction with our customers, which is something a website can be very useful for. For example, we intend to introduce a feedback page to the site.