The internet is a big noisy place so it’s easy to get contradictory advice about what features to include. And browsing through websites to see what you like can be just as confusing, between myriad platforms, varying designs and different content strategies.
To simplify things, here’s what we at Virtual Assistant Israel consider to be the 5 things you need to determine before you even speak to a web developer:
1. Will your website be updated regularly? If you plan to update your site with blog posts, new information or additional pages, your website should be built with an open source CMS (Content Management System) such as WordPress, Drupal or Joomla. These platforms are easy to use and don’t require any technical knowledge in order to make simple updates. Calls to your web developer for changes and improvements should be infrequent or non-existent. (This will not only save you time and sanity, it won’t cost you a thing to make changes when needed.) If you don’t plan to update regularly and prefer to have a website built in HTML or in another language, make sure you have the login and password information for the site. Just in case you want to switch developers down the road, this access information will come in handy.
2. Do you need to be found on Google? Some websites serve as calling cards for customers/clients who already know about your business and are looking for more information. For these websites, SEO does not have to be a priority. But most businesses are dependent on search engine traffic in order to be found. For these companies, SEO should be a big part of the content strategy. One of the biggest mistakes businesses make is creating all of the content for a website and then calling in SEO professionals. If you already know that one of your marketing priorities includes coming up in searches, bring someone on at the very beginning to create a website which is optimized for search engines. You’ll save both time and money by considering SEO from the start.
3. What do your website’s visitors really need to know? You know your own business so well, you may have the urge to tell the customers every little detail. But of course this is counterproductive, since an overwhelming and overcrowded website will just encourage people to hit the back button. Instead, plan carefully which information to provide and keep in mind the conversion funnel. If you want your visitors to sign up for a newsletter, watch a video, buy a product etc. you need clear reasons why they should do so and straightforward calls to action. Superfluous information can be removed altogether or at least relocated off the homepage. A blog can serve as a dumping ground for the more specific content that you still want potential clients to see, yet does not have a place on the main area of the website.
4. What style do you envision? A web designer once remarked to me that clients never know what they want until they see something they don’t want. Asking a designer to put together a web design without clear instructions is likely to cost time and money in major revisions. It’s better to have a conversation with the designer before work starts about things like color, style and technical details. If you have a logo, you will want a website design that complements it. If not, it is recommended that you get a logo designed before you do anything else, since you will need it for other purposes as well. Working with a graphic designer to design a logo is far easier than designing a website. Showing your web designer a logo that reflects your style will aid them in creating a website that reflects your style as well. You want a consistent style across all your paperwork and online identities and a logo is what ties it all together.
5. How will you be integrating social media into your website? These days, any business worth its salt will have some social media presence. Do your research to determine which channels are most relevant for promoting your business (tune in to our site for next week’s blog as we will cover that exact topic) and then set up accounts and start engaging. When you build your website, make sure to include social media widgets. Choose between simple links to channels or widgets which show some of your posts and/or followers. If you plan to market through a newsletter as well, don’t forget to add a sign-up box. Also consider whether you want to do some automatic posting from the website to social media and set that up as well. (An entirely automated social media strategy won’t succeed but that doesn’t mean you can’t send out the occasional automated or semi-automated post.)
Once you have answered all of these questions, it’s time to get in touch with a developer to discuss how your dream website can become a reality. It’s generally a good idea to speak to a number of developers to compare their recommendations and pricing. Choose a developer who understands your vision and is committed to making it happen. This will make for a smoother process and a higher quality website.
Submitted by Hadassah