What you should know before you get a website for your business
Investing in a website for business a smart move and in some cases it’s essential. A website could open a vast array of online possibilities; you could be expanding to an online store, arranging your appointments, gaining online traction for advertising or simply use your website to gain awareness. Before you dive in, here are a few useful things that you should tick off about website design for business.
Purpose and the desired outcomes
I’m big on knowing exactly what your website should achieve and it is usually the first question that I ask my prospective clients. To a large extent the purpose and the desired outcomes determine how the website is designed, built and marketed and that determines the overall cost.
Purpose could simply state whether the website is an online shop or a brochure website and outline the technical functionality of the website.
The desired outcomes are more complicated. I’ve come across businesses that expected their website to take all the business and more away from their competitors. That’s just not going to happen. I remind my clients that the desired website outcomes have to have to be based on solid market research. No website will generate more business than there actually is in the market. Realistic planning avoids disappointment as is simply a part of a good business strategy.
Probably the most time-consuming part of building a website is to create meaningful content. Even if the content already exists in some form in the business, then it has to be prepared and often re-written to form meaningful website content.
Producing that content also requires intimate subject knowledge and familiarity with your business. When you read on a web designer’s website that the first step in the process to build a website is to “get to know your business”, then that is meant sincerely. Without knowing your business well, no web developer will be able to write meaningfully about it and its products.
Producing written content that is factually accurate and in line with your brand, values and character of your business is one thing, writing it well is quite another. My advice is to get your website developed by someone within your country and by someone who has access to a professional writer.
Rich media like images and videos are important to communicate the uniqueness and character of your business and brand. Consider using your own photographs on the website rather than stock images. If you do then a professional photographer of videographer are a must. Even if the images that are above average, they may just not be good enough to create impact for your website.
Don’t underestimate the cost in time and money that creating good content requires.
Website Design and Build Budget
Just like content, the design and build requires specialist skills and knowledge. I have seen few effective websites that have been built by amateurs, although I’ve also been surprised by what can be achieved. Designing and building a good website is time-consuming, even if you use online web platforms like Wix or Squarespace.
With the build you have to consider the build platform. My experience is that most businesses are not too concerned about that, but it’s really important. Some platforms e.g. Drupal and WordPress may require more maintenance than online platforms, but are fast and flexible if you want to expand the functionality of the website. In contrast, the hosting costs of online platforms like Wix and Squarespace are usually quite high and less flexible for expansion. I like using WordPress since it is both flexible and well supported for expansion and there is no question about the ownership of the website. It can easily be transferred should that be necessary.
If the purpose of your website is to win more business for the company, then it has to be marketed. A website can be seen as the shop window to your business and as such it has to be shown to your target prospects.
You now have to work with an SEO and online marketing company to get the website seen.
That includes not only getting the website as close to perfect with “technical SEO” (your web developer should do that), but also noticed with on-page and off-page marketing. Off-page SEO is a vast subject and there are many varied approaches to it. Some may work for your business while others may not. Knowing which methods work is the task of your SEO Partner. Analysing, and making adjustments to content and method are usually required as is on-going link-building and content creation and marketing.
Then there is paid advertising through Google PPC and other paid online advertising. To be effective and especially cost-effective, knowledge of your particular product and market is essential.
Who to partner with
Time, cost and effort aside, the most important decision you can make in creating and effective website is whom to partner with. And don’t be fooled, it must be a partnership. Creating an effective website is an on-going commitment and process. Do it right and your sales may go through the roof. Do and average job and your money spent will be wasted.
The company you will work with has to take time to understand your business and objectives. They have to work closely with your sales and your marketing department, your photographer, your content creator.
SEO and web design are very closely linked. I believe that they should be done by the same company or businesses that work together very closely. They have to have the one common goal: “to make your website achieve and surpass your purpose and desired outcomes.”