I Need a Website. Now What?

So you need a website. If you’ve never gone through this process before, or even if you have, chances are you have a lot of questions. Here are seven tips to point you in the right direction:

  1. What is your message? This is the basis for all marketing, and if you have a marketing strategy, you’ll already know the answer to this. Is it that you sell the cheapest widgets? Is it that your business prides itself on its unparalled customer service? Is it that you have the largest selection of whatsits in North America and you have a no-questions-asked return policy? Take a moment and think: if you had thirty seconds to talk about your business, what you would say?
  2. What do you need your website to do? Will your website provide information on your product or service? Would you like to sell your product or service online? Will your website collect money? Donations? Will it have a help section? Media gallery? Write a blog? Make a list.
  3. How will you measure success? A website is great marketing tool, but how do you know if it’s working? What action do you want your user to complete for you to consider their visit a success? Sign up for your newsletter? Fill out a form and hit submit? Make a purchase? Call?
  4. Consider your budget. What you want to spend may not be in line with what features you want.  When you do meet with a web designer, talk candidly about your needs and your budget. Your web designer may be able to make suggestions that bridge the gap between need and cost.
  5. Sketch out a sitemap. A sitemap is the blueprint of your website. This exercise also helps you wrap your mind around the entire endeavour. Remember that in your main navigation, you may not want more than 7-8 links. Any more than this could overwhelm your users. Subpages are a great way to lump together complimentary pages and keep your site neat and tidy.
  6. Scope out your competition. See what your competition is up to. See what similar businesses in different markets are doing. Bookmark sites that have features you like but also bookmark sites with design elements or features you don’t like. Your preferences will be very meaningful to your designer.
  7. Hire somebody or DIY? The internet flooded with ads for free websites, templates or websites, that you can set up with minutes and it’s logical to be tempted to take these on yourself. However it is important to analyse what is being offered to ensure it meets the needs of your business. Also consider:
    1. Free websites are tell-tale plain and generic. Although free websites may look tempting in the short run, you may pay for your free website in other ways. Sales may be lost if the website template has been used by many other businesses or if it fails to inspire confidence or seems inappropriate for your business. We all have expectations of how certain things should work or look. Whether conscious of it or not, a user has expectations of your site and if it fails to match that expectation, they may be confused.
    2. Low cost sites that set up in minutes. Some websites claim to be able to install in minutes, and if you’re a programmer who knows what you’re doing, this can be true. Frequently people with little to no experience dive into these sites and after a month of frustration have little to nothing to show for it. Look for references or examples of other people who have used the templates to see if it really is that easy. If the free or low cost route can satisfy the first three points above, why not give it a go? If it doesn’t, then you should seek a professional to ensure your site is successful. If you want to try the free route, consult a designer for recommendations of reputable options; you may pay a consultation fee, but it’s money well spent if it saves you from going in the wrong direction.

By having a good idea of what your needs are before meeting with a website designer your meeting will be more meaningful. The more planning you do in advance means a more organized project. A more organized project can mean less cost. Have a clear idea of what you want, but keep an open mind; your web designer may have some ideas to make your vision even better.