“You’ve taken the biggest step of your career and bravely risked everything to become the owner of your own destiny. But, now that you have taken that leap of faith, what’s next?
Well hopefully by now you have decided on the products or services you are going to offer and developed a brand to communicate your values and proposition.
At a guess your new business offers solutions to the needs of your target audience – for instance you might be a solicitor offering help to those with a legal problem or a coffee shop set up to fuel the local people with caffeine – in the 21st Century, what’s the first thing that most of us do when looking for a solution to solve a problem? We search the internet. “I’m not on there”, I hear you say! It’s OK, developing a website can be both a complex and costly process but a bit of insight into what you should be considering before passing over your money can go a long way.
Here are the five key decisions you need to make when creating your business website:
1) What’s it all about?
Ask yourself what is the purpose of your website. What end result are you looking for? Are you seeking to gain brand awareness (If so, make sure you’re website looks professional)? Sell online (be sure to exude confidence and trust to your visitors)? Or maybe to inspire people to do something (having great content is the key)?
Just because it looks pretty doesn’t mean it will make your business successful and don’t fall for the Field of Dreams idea that “If you build it, they will come” – they won’t come to your website without good reason.
Making a content plan is a great way to focus and maintain your goals during the development of the website. Your plan should include the specific target audience, the objectives you want them to achieve (e.g. finding the right information, contacting you or making a purchase online). The content plan itself can take the form of a bullet list of the points each page of your website needs to make in order to sell you to your target audience.
2) Does it flow?
How annoying is it when you go to a website and find yourself going around in circles, ending up back at a page you’ve already visited or just unable to find the information you want?
Consider how you want your visitors to navigate around the website. What are the key elements of the site that you don’t want them to miss? Best practice suggests that a visitor should not have to do more than 3 clicks to find the information they are seeking and that you shouldn’t give people more than 8 or 9 options to choose from at any time.
Ideally, you, or your web designer, should create a specific and justifiable schematic showing the structure of your website, known as a site map, which identifies all the pages your website will need to have and how they inter-link.
3) Is it really you?
You should have an image in your mind of how you want your business to be perceived. Ensure that you share this vision by clearly describing your brand and its values to your web designer so that they can capture and communicate this in the design of the website.
Your website needs to represent your business as web-based research is often the first step of the decision making process. If you are a modern, young and vibrant company make sure your website is too!
One classic starting point to understand your visual identity is to gather a list of five or six websites that you like and think if they were representing your business they would be accurate. They don’t have to be industry competitors and the list should be the ones that are whizzy and flashy just for the sake of it – think about your target audience and what might appeal to them.
4) Call to Action
Once you have got some visitors to your website what is it that you actually want them to do? It might be to request a quote, order, call you or download a document – whatever it is you need to signpost the visitor to ensure that they don’t leave before doing so.
Consider your calls to action and make sure that they are clearly visible on every page and easy to use. Don’t forget to be persuasive, perhaps even incentivise the decisions your visitor’s make – offer them a good reason to delve deeper or contact you. For example you may want to collect people’s email addresses, offer them a useful, high-quality, free e-book that gives them some valuable advice for no money, just ask for their details in exchange.
5) Keeping it Current
Once you have your brand new shiny website up and running on the World Wide Web it is not a time to sit back and gaze loving at it! It needs to be updated regularly, ensuring that new content is added to demonstrate that the company is alive and kicking and to assist with Search Engine Optimisation.
This is something to consider when initially choosing your content. For example if you opt to include a blog, news articles or live social media feed to your website, you need to ensure that this is being updated regularly. How regularly? In some cases daily, so consider wisely.
Ensure you have enough content to keep the site interesting but not too much that you can’t cope with keeping it fresh.
Do-It-Yourself or Hire an Expert? Or is there another way?
Now you have an idea of what to consider, your next decision is how to get your website made and there are three obvious routes – do it yourself, hire a professional or buy off-the-shelf.
If you opt for the do-it-yourself route you can find plenty of tools out there to help you build your own website, but remember these are just tools, they aren’t the skills or expertise to design a website – you’ll need to provide that yourself!
Hiring professionals is a great way to get exactly what you want but if you’re working to a tight budget in the hundreds of pounds rather than thousands, then it’s unlikely you’ll hire much more than a willing amateur.”
Startacus would like to thank the folks over at Starting Point for their excellent advice! If you would like to learn more about what the services the provide, including their ‘out of the box’ professional websites, pop yourself over to their website and see for yourself.
If that sounds an appropriate solution to your website needs why not take a look at Starting Point Website Plan