I work with a lot of people who are looking to set up websites (as this is most of my business). Very few of the people we meet with, or who end up becoming clients, have really thought through the implications of setting up a website. As a result of several of my meetings with people I have drawn up a list of 5 things that really should be thought about before either developing a website in house or having an external company do it. It will save everyone time and money and mean that expectations are more easily met.
1. Goals – These are vital in business. If you meet a business owner who does not have goals for their business – they probably won’t be in business much longer. You NEED to know the goals for your website. without these you could waste a lot of effort into something that will not give you the return on investment that you had hoped. Here are some typical goals for websites
- To get people to buy something.
- To get people to fill out a contact form or call.
- To reduce the number of support calls received.
- To increase awareness of a product or issue.
It is common, and in most cases beneficial, to have more then one purpose for a website. In these cases it is really important that you have primary and secondary objectives so that the design of the site can reflect that. If we use dell.com as an example you can see that it is a multipurpose site
The primary area (as indicated by the blue) is used to advertise promotions and trying to get people to buy. The secondary area (shown in red) is to give people access and knowledge of their support options.
2. Design (and User Experience). As Joseph talked about in his article , design is the make or break aspect for any website or web service. If it is difficult to use people will not do it! So by asking the designer to do a few simple things you can guarantee a ordered, functional and use friendly website.
- Keep it simple. Don’t over complicate the text, images or layout – make it easy for people to get to where they/you want them to be.
- Lay your site out in a way that clearly defines the primary, secondary and tertiary content areas.
- Branding – stay true to your branding so that the website is recognizable to your customers. In some cases you may not have a branding style guide – the creation of the website is the time to start with some uniformity.
Design is a important topic – if you want to read more about it click here.
3. Budget. Know how much you want to spend – be realistic. If you want a simple website with a few pages and a contact form expect to spend a couple of thousand dollars. But if you think you need something more interactive, with more features then a basic site – don’t expect to pay $500 for it. Remember, as with most things in life – you get what you pay for. I have done quotes for clients who want extremely complex sites and when I talk to them about what time and cost that was going to take – we were missing each other by a factor of 10! Remember website creation (especially enterprise sites) is not something that everyone can do effectively – there is skill, time and cost involved.
So know what you want to spend and once you find a company or developer you can trust – be open about it. It saves everyone time. In this last 3 months alone I could have saved potential clients and myself about 3 days of meeting time by clarifying budget at the beginning. One example where this worked out was when a client told us they wanted us to rebuild a popular social networking site – but they only had $1,000 to do it. We kindly explained that this particular site had probably cost in the region of $10 million to build, and so had to turn down the opportunity to work with him.
4 Content Management Systems (CMS). Get advise or do some research about which CMS you want the site built on. There are loads our there; WordPress, Joomla, EZ Publish, Drupal, Typo3 etc. Which is the one that will work best for you?
In todays market a CMS is a non-negotiable. It gives you the website owner an easy way in which to stay in control of the content of your site and keep it up to date without having to pay someone who knows code. Usually a CMS is as simple to use as an online email system for a majority of the content updates. Gone are the days you need an outside contractor or company to update your site, you have complete control. Also by investing in the right CMS – you are future-proofing yourself as these systems all evolve to keep up with the relevant technologies, so 2 years down the road you will still be up to date with the system you use. You may need to do a re-design but the content management system will still be there!
5 Analytics – This is a fancy way of saying – ‘know what your users are doing on your website’. There are free services such as google analytics that allow you to see how people are using your website and even show you which of you goals for the website are being completed. By having this information it can help you to be much more responsive to your market and increase the traffic, define where the traffic should go and help you reach your goals.
This is just the beginning list – there are other things to think about, such as security and hosting but I hope it helps you in your journey to a more effective website!
One last thing – think like a customer – what would the important things be for you on a website to encourage you to buy or fill out a form?
This work is licensed under a Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License