The success and profitability of your business is important and, as a consequence, so is its website. Online presences come in many different forms, shapes and sizes. However, website visitors will make a value judgement on the quality of a company’s offering based on their first contact which, more often than not, will be the website.
If you’re considering getting a website for the first time, or planning on revamping an existing one, it’s important to consider certain elements of the site itself and the project as a whole. When we buy a car we consider things like mileage, fuel economy, number of seats, features, etc. before making a decision. A professionally built website can cost as much as a used car so it pays in the long run to give it careful consideration.
In this first of a two-part article we’ll examine six tips for a successful website and the kind of things you should think about before you approach a web design company to develop your website.
What is your website for? What does it need to achieve? How will you know it’s been a success? Come up with at least three measurable, concrete objectives that will inform you whether your investment has been worthwhile. It may be ‘To increase sales’, ‘Raise the profile of the company’ or ‘To generate more enquiries’. Having measurable objectives will ensure the whole project is working towards something, i.e. it has a purpose. For more examples of how to achieve objectives you can see more information here in another article ‘What is a website for?’.
Who will be visiting your site? This is an extension of your overall business strategy – knowing your customer. If you know who your customers will be you can influence the design and written content of the site to speak to them. You can’t speak to everyone so have a firm idea of who your website will appeal to. Bizarre as it sounds, your planned website isn’t for you or your company – it’s for your customers. Keep them in mind throughout the planning process and the whole project.
Branding and logos are a deeply personal thing and, sometimes, they are the things that stand out about a company more than anything else, e.g. McDonald’s, IKEA, Coca Cola. If you don’t have a logo, what do you want it to say to people? Is having a recognizable one an important part of your business strategy? Is simple best or do you need a motif (e.g. Apple’s apple icon) that can be spread across different marketing materials? If you already have branding, is it looking dated or has it become unrepresentative of where your business is now? But, also consider, that your company message and standard of service is as much a part of your branding as a logo.
Is there any special or complicated functionality that you’d like your website to do? This may be a booking integration, a payment checkout, an animation or a tiered privilege sign-up facility. Try to identify these at the beginning of the project to check for feasibility and how they can be best integrated into the website. Suggesting a previously unmentioned complex piece of functionality halfway through a project could cause clumsy and user-unfriendly integration issues within the website’s architecture and mean that you’ll be charged more from your design company for its implementation.
After the website has gone live who will be looking after it? Most design companies will be happy to manage your site for you for a retainer fee. If you’re planning on doing it yourself, you’ll need a content management system such as WordPress. But, having the ability to manage the site yourself doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have time to do it. As you know, running a business is enormously time-consuming so be honest and realistic with yourself and consider if you’ll be able to find the time to post blogs, update products or add case studies. If the answer’s ‘no’, pay someone else to do it for you. A poorly maintained website can be a security risk open to hackers and no updates for months creates a bad impression to potential customers. A website is a business tool and tools need to be used.
Picking a web design company
This can be a hard choice a bit like picking a reliable builder. The main thing you should be looking for is an agency who is interested in your company, understands your vision, listens to you, is thorough with planning, offers new ideas and makes you feel confident that they can achieve what you’re looking for. Decide on a budget, arrange a meeting and see what quotes come back. If a quote is more than your budget look to see what they are offering for the money. It may be that even though the cost is more than you wanted to pay but the value is better than you expected – balance up ‘cost’ and ‘value’. What you get for a £1500 website might be within your budget but be ineffective in achieving desired outcomes. A £2500 website could be more than you wanted to pay but may be more likely see a return on your investment and generate more business than a cheaper one.
The other important thing is that you like the people you’ll be working with. You’re going to be engaging closely with your chosen company for a while and will continue to have a relationship after your website has gone live – it’s important that you ‘get on’. Here are a few more tips on how to choose a web design company.
Hopefully, this overview will give you a few ideas to consider before you begin your website project. In the next part, we’ll look at the kind of things that you should think about after you have chosen your web design company and are discussing the project scope with them.