In this digital age, an effective website can make or break your small business. Yet many small business owners still see a website as a necessary evil, and don’t really give their online presence the time or attention it needs. Sure, you aren’t a web developer. But as the owner, you are the best person to make the final decisions on important elements such as content, navigation or the customer sales path?
Whether you are about to embark on the web design process for the first time, or are approaching a redesign of your existing website, here are the 5 keys in building a high performing website. Once you have a clear decision on each of these points, you can create a strong brief for your web designer.
Know the Point of Your Website
If you are designing your website because you feel you “have to,” but don’t have a clear idea about the value it can bring to your business, stop. You are not ready to build your site. You need to step back and decide what you really want your website to accomplish.
Here are some things to think through: Will it be a point of contact for potential customers? Should it generate enquiries? Will it serve as a digital showcase for your products? Will it be a space where you can assert your authority within your industry? Could it cut down on employee hours by automating sales, transactions or customer communications? Do you want to generate income from ads or affiliate referrals?
There are best practices in web design and content associated with each of these answer. So be clear about what purpose your website will serve, both to your business and your customers. You will get a better site that way.
Decide if You Will Use WordPress Custom Design or a DIY Template
These days, you have two options in building your site. You can use a template or theme that you or your team can easily install and update by yourself or you can get something custom designed and developed that completely meets the look and needs of your business. There are benefits to both, and your choice depends on your budget and needs.
Choosing to use an off-the-shelf template or theme is an affordable option and a popular choice for start ups and small businesses with limited budgets. It can be sufficient for brands that need a simple site. It can also be a flexible starting point for business owners who possess some technical skills. The downside is these sites usually come with limited functionality and can be time consuming and tricky to modify if you don’t have a great deal of technical knowledge. They also tend to look like a lot of other sites out there.
Investing in a custom website designed from scratch, on the other hand, has the advantage of allowing you to define almost every aspect, both in visual design and technical performance. This customisation also comes with a higher price tag, a longer development time, and (most likely) the need to have your developer do future updates or upgrades. But many companies find it worthwhile.
Think Through Your Content Organisation
Whether your site will showcase your services or is an ecommerce platform selling multiple products, it is important to organise your content into logical categories or sections that allow visitors to easily find what they are looking for. Nothing is more off putting to a customer than not being able to figure out how to contact your or make a purchase.
Look at sites you like and notice how they have arrange the navigation. Will that work for you? What would you do differently? Think what would be most intuitive for your audience.
Along with content organisation is thinking through the pages. Do you want a few pages or will you have a “deep” site (one that has hundreds of pages). What are the most important pages to have in the primary navigation? What do you want on the site, but that don’t really need to be prominent? Thinking this through will save countless hours down the line.
Know Who Will Create and Manage Your Website Content
Content is not a one-shot deal. You need to develop it, and then you need to refresh it regularly. Who is going to do that? You? Your marketing department? A freelance writer? This is one of the most critical decisions to make. Your website will require carefully crafted content for each product or service offering in your company.
Whatever the answer, understand that for the initial web design, you will need to be heavily involved. No one knows your business better than you do. While it may not always be practical for you to create each piece of content, you will need to take the time to convey detailed information to a copywriter to ensure they create copy that accurately reflects both key information and the general spirit of your brand.
What About Website Maintenance?
Constructing a website involves a great deal of work, from design to technical elements to content creation. But it doesn’t end there. Websites always evolve. Visitors and search engines want to see updated content. You need to decide who will update content, and who will do the technical updates (which happen fairly regularly). It could be you, an in-house staff member, you could get a freelancer to do it, or you could pay your web designer to do it. It may be that different people will be responsible for various areas of your website. The important thing is to create a plan that will ensure no area gets overlooked and your site stays fresh and appealing.
Decisions on these five things in hand, you are ready to build your website!