The process of building a website presence does not happen overnight and it requires a well thought out strategy. What you should be creating is a site that exudes confidence and authority that will encourage customers to come back again and again.
Check out the competition
Define who your competitors are and have a look at what they are doing. Your website needs to be attractive to potential customers and have good content. That doesn’t mean that it has to explode like fireworks when a visitor arrives. What your competitors have may not be working for them. Too much whizz-bang will turn away visitors and it costs extra.
Define Your Strengths
Review what your business does and what it’s best at. Pick out what the potential customer is looking for and ensure it’s featured in the website design. Write a paragraph or so on each feature that can be expanded into page copy during development. Think about what your customers want to know, not just what you want to tell them.
Define Your Customers
Make some notes on the type of people your customers are. Do they belong to a particular age group or level of social wealth? Employed or retired? How do they like to spend their spare time? What are their hobbies? What are their shopping habits? What other products do they buy?
Find a web designer that you can talk to who will not swamp you with technical jargon; HTML5, CSS, Java Script, SEO, the list is endless. One that does not shout about being the best superlicious agency in the world. It’s more about having empathy with the right people. The best website designer/developer will get you what you need without charging you extra for every dot on the i. They will guide you through the maze of technicalities without drowning you in waffle.
Decide on your Budget
Be realistic. An informational website with clean easy to navigate pages, a complementary colour scheme, neatly decorated with graphics and pictures is going to be cost effective. Decide on your expenditure limits that will not cause issues at payment time. Talk to your web designer. There may be ways to stretch payment invoices over time.
Getting a Domain Name
A domain name is your street address on the internet; mywebsite.com.au. You will require an ABN for an Australian name ending in .com.au, otherwise .com is your best choice. There are not too many perfectly applicable domain names left to choose from. So careful deliberation is required to get the right one for your business. The domain name plugsandbathrooms.com.au you may like but newcastlebathrooms.com.au has a higher value for people searching for that type of business in the Newcastle region. Many top level domain names like bathroom.com.au have been purchased in the past and parked as an investment to sell to the right cash-rich buyer.
Short and sweet is the golden rule but if it needs to be longer make sure it rolls off the tongue easily to make it memorable. Don’t include dashes between words. If it’s difficult to find the perfect name because they are all taken, think of something catchy. Best to include a high value keyword in the name.
Designing the Skeleton
Before filling the pages with content the structure of the whole website needs to be created. In discussion with the web developer make a decision on what you want to say. Your notes on business strength and customers will be useful here and the developer will give you ample guidance. This can then be broken down into sections and appropriately linked. For example a page on ‘Widgets’ would have a clear link to the ‘Widget Accessories’ page and other locations.
It’s important to construct a logical path through the website that guides the user to appropriate pages. When the user cannot find what they are looking for, even though they know it’s on the site somewhere, or just gets lost, they will give up and hop back to their Google search.
Clarify with your web designer that the website will be ‘responsive’. What that means is that the pages will automatically adjust themselves for the smaller screen sizes on mobile phones and tablets like the iPad.
Fleshing out the Content
Now is the time to write up your notes into meaningful text for the pages. It does not need to be a literary masterpiece. Keep sentences reasonably short, site visitors prefer text that’s easy and fast to read. Don’t fill it with long, non-essential words, and absolutely no bull. An educated reader with a little knowledge of your business sector can see through waffle. Don’t use ‘secret’ trade terms that only insiders know. Do not slag your competition. It will give the reader a feeling that you do not have confidence in your own services or products. What you do and how you do it should be inspiring. Write with the same love and care you have for your business.
Tell them what you think they need to know but also think about what they want to know. Why they might be visiting your site. Structure your text with the important stuff first then introduce specifics later in the page. At the end introduce anything that might be associated with what the page is about and offer the ability to contact you. Keep it simple. Traditionally, newspaper journalists write their stories as though all their readers are 12 year olds.
When the readers can’t work out what you’re trying to say in the early paragraphs it takes only a mouse click to leave the site for good. Web readers have short attention spans. If you think your efforts really are below par you can always spend a couple of dollars and get a ghost writer to polish your content.
Your website should reflect how you look when a customer comes through your front door. The range of colours and logo you use in your everyday business activities should be reflected in the layout design used. No logo? Get one. Ask the web designer for advice. Even the simplest text logo will work and sometimes that’s the best.
Avoid phrases and headlines like ’We are the World’s Best’ or ‘Our Products are Solid Gold’. That type of thing works ok with printed material and TV adverts but not on websites. You should be trying to create a definitive brand image that customers can trust.
Your website should come with a unique range of email addresses. Although the range of addresses is not infinite, you might want to think about what you prefer, such as service@ orders@ or bookings@. It’s your choice.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of increasing the quality and quantity of website traffic by increasing the visibility of a website to users of a web search engine. Check out the technicalities at Webopedia HERE
Start the Build Process
Taking into account all the above has been decided on, your web developer will work on a first draft for you to review. Although this will be just one or two pages showing colours, layout style, text fonts and navigation it is an important one. All the pages following on from this ‘front page’ will follow the same or similar style that you approve. So this is the time to make any changes that you would prefer to see. Once you have said OK then the main effort proceeds from that.
At this stage it’s where you will need to have all the text content edited and ready to go into the pages. Don’t forget photographs. Ideally get a professional photographer to take pictures that relate to the text you have written. Alternatively do that yourself to ease the budget, but make sure you use a good camera. Some of the latest mobile phones can take quality shots worth using. Seek advice from your web developer.
From the first draft approval you should be looking at around two to three weeks for completion to final build of the site. This depends on the total number of pages and any complexities. But, of course, if you make changes that time will extend until everything is complete and approved for launch.