Many new business owners quickly recognise they need a website but often don't know much about what is involved. If you view your website as being a pivotal part of the success of your business, it could be worth taking the time to quickly run your eyes over the topics below.
When planning a new business, one of the first things people do is check whether their business name is available online. Having a bad domain name however can affect how easily people can contact you, so try and keep this in mind when you're purchasing your .com.au.
For example: if your business is called Edison's Widgets and you've purchased "www.edisons-widgets.com.au", it could be worth considering a shorter version too e.g. "www.edisons.com.au" or maybe a more SEO friendly domain like "www.buywidgetsonline.com.au".
By discussing your online strategy with your web designer, you'll be able to come up with the best combination of domain names to meet your businesses needs.
Occasionally people are tempted to purchase web hosting before selecting a web designer. Unfortunately this can often lead to selecting a service which is inappropriate for the type of website you are building. If you are planning a new website then make sure you discuss your hosting requirements with your web designers before purchasing something yourself. Your web designer will have worked with several hosting companies and should have a good understanding of which companies provide the best service and will be compatible with requirements for your website.
If you're shopping around for a web design company, try to be organised and work out exactly what information you think you will need on your website. Even if you need to change it later, being able to provide each web design company with the same brief will allow them to quote more accurately on your needs.
Planning is one of the most important steps of the web design process and in far too many cases this can be overlooked. You wouldn't build a house without a plan and nor should you design a website without a clear understanding of what's going to be built. This means you should expect to see some documentation from your designer early on which outlines what's going to be built. This could be wire frame illustrations, a site map flow chart, a functional spec or hopefully all three if it's a big site. Getting the planning stage right means less chance of surprises later on and provides you with more input in the earlier stages of the process.
Make Sure Your Site Looks Professional
The design of a website is one of the places we see lots of businesses try and cut corners. An unprofessional design will reflect directly on your business and can scare off potential new leads. Investing a little time and money in this area however can provide your business with an edge over your competitors and result in a much more successful outcome. Whichever way you go, by the time you're done you should have a design concept which clearly reflects your brand, is clean and simple for your visitors to use and clearly communicates your message.
Make Sure Everyone Can Access Your Site
One of the best things websites have to offer is in the various ways they can be accessed. Be it on a PC purchased back in 2002 or a brand new Apple Mac Book; on a Google Android smart phone or an Apple iPad, there are now so many devices to surf the web it's hard to keep up! This also makes it more important than ever to have a website which will work reliably across all of these devices. By using a professional web developer, they will have all the tools necessary to test your site on the most popular computing and mobile platforms to ensure that your website is accessible by as many people as possible.
Updating Your Website
It's important to keep your website up to date. A website with the wrong prices can lead to unhappy shoppers and an incorrect email address can mean a loss in potential leads. To do this it means the process of keeping your site up to date needs to be fast and easy, you don't want to have to learn how to program a website in order to keep it up to date.
This is where choosing a good CMS (content management system) can make a difference. A CMS is a piece of software that allows you to make changes to your own website. They come in different sizes, with different features and prices and your web designers will probably have one or two that they'll recommend you use. Whatever CMS you do end up choosing, make sure it's easy enough for you to use and has a good security record. After all, if you can use a CMS to change your website, so can a hacker - so try and choose something which has a good reputation and is professionally developed. Some developers will try and keep their overheads down by using CMS software which can be downloaded for free. If possible, try to avoid these packages as they tend to be supported by volunteers and as a result may have more security holes.
Making Sure Your Site Will Be Listed in Google
We know from all the website statistics we've seen that Google is the number one source of web traffic for the majority of the websites we build. This makes it important to be thinking about the best way for your site to be listed in Google's results. By choosing a web designer who has a good understanding of how Google works it will help ensure your site will be built to allow Google to easily scan all the information on your website. This means trying to avoid using Flash where possible, marking up the page information semantically, providing text based alternatives where images have been used and ensuring your meta data has be structured correctly. For more information on Google, see our previous entry on How Google Works.
Allow Enough Time to Get It Right
It takes time to carefully construct your content, plan your site, refine your design, test your website and learn how to update it using your new CMS. Most web designers will be happy to work within whatever time frame you require but at the end of the day, you'll get a better result if you allow a little more time to get everything right before it goes live.
Think About The Future
So the big day has come and your website is live but this doesn't mean you should now forget about the site and move onto the next thing. The best, most successful websites are the ones which keep evolving. So after you've launched your site you should have a plan laid out with your designer to help it continue to grow and increase the amount of business it is bringing in for you. This means reviewing the site's analytics, running A/B tests, refining your search terms, online marketing and a whole heap of other buzz words we'll cover in another entry later on. By putting these things in place, it will allow your online investment to grow and keep up a competitive edge over your competition.
Best of luck with the new site!