A bit of time spent planning before you start working on a new website can save you time, money and headaches.
Here are a few points to consider before you set up your website:
1. Put someone in charge. It doesn’t matter if you are planning to have someone outside or inside your company doing the work on your website – you need someone to be responsible for keeping the site up to date and performing well. Websites aren’t set and forget sales generators – they need to be regularly updated and fine tuned, or you will find your leads slowly dwindling.
2.Have a budget, and a timeline. Developing a website can quickly eat up more time and money than first anticipated – so make sure you map out a detailed agreement with your developer before you hand over any money. Get your developer to produce and commit to a project brief and a timeline for implementing it, including a definite launch date for the site. Make sure it includes all of the features you want your site to contain, and that there are regular reviews built in.
3. Know who you are selling to, and what your site needs to do for you. Do your customers want to buy online and have their purchase sent to them? Do they just want to research your product or service and then make contact in person? Do you need a shopping cart, or don’t you? How tech savvy are your customers, and how important are bells and whistles to them? A thorough profile of your customers and their needs are critical to designing the right site to appeal to them – and can save you a bundle of money if you can eliminate unnecessary website features.
4. Make sure updating your site will be easy. If you plan on managing your site inhouse, choose a developer that provides a Content Management System (CMS) so you can update the site yourself. If you only plan on periodic updates to your site and you want to outsource, make sure the costs and scope for this are included in your project brief with your developer. You don’t want to be stuck paying through the nose every time you want to advertise a special on your own site!
5.Check out your competition. Look at your competitors websites, and assess what you need to do to be in their league or better. There’s no point spending time and money on a site that won’t stack up again your competitors.
6.List other sites you like or dislike. This is a great help for your developer, and will prevent your designer coming back to show you something you can’t stand! Tell your designer what you like or don’t like about the sites, and remember they don’t have to be in your industry. You are just looking for design and functionality.
7.Carry your brand through. Your website is more than just an electronic brochure, but it should still look like your website. Give your existing marketing material to your developer, so that they can design a site that ties into your brand and the way you present yourself.
8.Work out what will be regularly updated, and what will be mostly static. Choose a few areas on your site that you update regularly – at least monthly. You might have a news section, specials, a library of articles, or an archive of your newsletters. This is important to maintain your search engine rankings and keep your site looking current for your customers.
9. Get your site ranked. There’s no point having a great website that no one but your existing customers can find. Work out how you are going to go about getting a great Google ranking, and then do it from day one of your site going live. It takes time to build up a good search rank. If you don’t have someone inhouse who can manage your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), find a reputable company to manage it for you. StewArt Media (Google them!) are a favourite of ours, or your developer may be able to help you with this.