It can be a very exciting stage of your business when it’s time to build your website. It can also be quite overwhelming and confusing!
Hopefully this article will help you understand the options and processes involved.
The key to getting started is asking yourself some hard questions – be honest now and save yourself pain later.
Why does my business need a website? Why do my customers need my website?
Don’t gloss over this obvious question – really drill down and understand the why. This will help identify the what. Perhaps you’ll need to do some formal or informal market research. If you have existing clients, try offering them an incentive to complete a survey.
What are the main objectives? What needs to be built?
- Simple brochure site
- Crucial marketing tool – SEO?
- High end design
- Some functionality, eg;
- Appointment booking
- Simple shopping cart
- Third party integration
- Full eCommerce
- SEO or SEM
What percentage of your time or what staffing costs will it take to make the site an ongoing success? What resources do you have to manage it?
For example, who will;
- Write content
- Update content
- Write blog posts
- Format required images
- Manage integrated social platforms
- Handle new web enquiries
- Handle complaints
- Moderate comments/testimonials etc
Not to mention, who will market the site? ‘If you build it…’ they probably wont come! What are your marketing strategies for the website? Blast your database? Social? Traditional advertising? How much will this cost?
Can you manage what you’re trying to achieve at a profit?
Establish your skill set. Are you;
- A bit techy?
- A word smith?
Who will build it?
- Freelancer, or
So let’s assume a scenario where you don’t have a huge budget or overly complicated requirements and so won’t be spending 10s of thousands with an agency developing custom features or brand strategy etc.
You might be going the ‘simple’ site DIY option, or perhaps engaging a freelancer to help you – but you won’t be relying on them to provide a great deal of strategic input – mainly technical consultation, design and development. So you’ll need to provide a good brief!
If you’re not in a creative space, don’t overcomplicate design. Standards are emerging for a good reason – it’s all about the user experience, and standards provide a way of setting user expectation and educating them. Stray too far and you just confuse them.
Don’t underestimate the power of imagery. Possibly the most important (and easiest!) way of representing, or defining your brand. There are plenty of great stock libraries out there, my favourite are pixabay.com (free!), istockphoto.com and adobe.stock.com. If you don’t have an eye for choosing good imagery – which is most definitely a skill, as there are a lot more crap images than good ones – then pay a designer who does. Be wary of wasting your time with services like Fiverr and AirTasker – cultural understanding can be paramount in this context – unlike outsourcing coding.
Content is King – it’s hard to imagine how this will ever change. Understanding your customers and knowing the content they want and the format they want it in is a given – making sure it’s concise, well structured, well written and easy to navigate is what can set you apart.
Finally, I will just talk a little about responsive design – if you don’t know what this is, I’ll explain. Since the release of CSS3 in 2012 and the way it handles media queries, browsers can now determine the size of a device’s screen, which means you can totally change the design, layout and content of a web page based on the size of the screen it’s being viewed on.
I don’t have to dig out stats on mobile phone usage – we all know it’s huge and in many instances it’s taking over desktop completely, so a good mobile experience is getting pretty crucial.
So just make sure you factor in responsive design when embarking on your web project – you should expect the template or framework that your building in to be responsive by default. The key features being a responsive menu, sometimes called the ‘burger’ menu, as well as your content rows and columns having fluid widths and stacking accordingly.
The thing to understand is that as soon as you start customising anything, there is the roll on effect of having to modify the CSS for each responsive break point and do lots of testing to make sure the responsive design works well.
I hope the above helps you as you navigate the task of building your online presence. There’s a lot to consider, but if you approach it the right way and seek the right assistance, it should be a very enjoyable and exciting experience!