It still amazes me the attitude of some business owners to their websites. ‘My brother’s wife’s cousin is doing computer science course and he’s putting something together for me’. I honestly get concern for SME’s when I hear this type of thing as this ‘serious business’ person has just outsourced the face of their business to a student he doesn’t know and is proud of himself for doing so.
To put this in perspective lets Consider This:
85% of people now look at your website before doing business with you.
In fact this statistic is not that startling when you consider your own behaviour. What do you do when someone tells you about a business or the wife suggests ye go to a restaurant? Yes you Google it just like everybody else, well 85% of us.
So does that put having a poorly designed, dysfunctional, error ridden, non-mobile friendly website into perspective? I guess you never know about the people that never contact you. Ignorance is bliss.
The purpose of this article:
Like anything in life this there is good and bad. When you browse the internet some businesses have great websites and some… well, you have to ask yourself what were they or their web developer thinking?
This article is designed to achieve one purpose for you and your business. It is designed to allow you to manage and control the building of your website and to ensure you get the best result. If you do not have the correct infrastructure in place your site will underperform.
Many web developers don’t do things correctly and this will allow business owners hold their developers to account. You need to take responsibility for your own website as it is your business that will be effected the most if it’s not right. Therefore, in order to make website views a good thing, both you and your web developer need to be invested in your project.
Here’s your guide to success:
Follow a Process:
Building a website like a house is about following a process and making sure that you cover the areas important for success. Unfortunately, not all developers do this, so I will tell you here what you need to do. If you abide by the following process it will greatly increase your chances of success!
1) Set your website design objectives
What do you want your site to do for you? – you need to decide!
Make sure you and your website designer are clear on your business objectives and hence, the objectives for your website.
Your website should help you achieve your business objectives, not run separately to them. A good website design company will help you strategise your website. It can often help to check the background of the web development company you are speaking with. Do any of the personnel involved have experience in marketing or strategy formulation? Your website is more than just programming.
2) Be a Purple Cow
Seth Godin wrote about the Purple Cow and illustrated that it’s not just about copying your competitors. You need to find something distinctive about your business and portray that on your website. For example, if you are an online clothing store, find a purpose, product range or branding strategy that makes you different and something people will talk about. Essentially, differentiation is key for a sustainable competitive advantaged.
3) Is your site’s design communicating about your business?
This is closely linked to the previous point. A website is not just about throwing up content or products. Think about it and have a clear plan of what information you want visitors to receive and how you want to engage them when they’re on your site.
4) Search Engines Ambitions
Be clear about what you want from search before you start your website. Also, doing your keyword research before you plan your site can let you know what people are searching for in relation to your business. This is a great foundation to aid you in how to structure your website. If your site is based on what people want and are searching for, then you are off to a great start.
5) CMS Website Platforms
The platform your website is built on is imperative and needs to be suitable for your needs. For example many hosted solutions have huge limitations. An example of this is if you want to grow your online store to a sizeable amount of products but start small. Beginning with something smaller may be beneficial, but if your platform does not enable potential future growth, you may be defeated before you begin or cost yourself a lot more in the medium term. You need a scaleable platform in many cases.
Here are 3 different types of website platform solutions:
- Hosted solutions
These platforms not only allow you to design your website on them, but they also host your site. In many cases you can drag and drop your webpages together and it is possible for even a non-web designer to put a website together. Some graphic designers who have no programming knowledge still use them. However, these hosted solution have limitations. Primarily, you are limited to the functionality of the hosted solution. Many clients have come to us asking for some feature to be added to the website, but unfortunately it’s not possible as the hosted solution does not provide it. Also, many of these solution have limited design capability and you can never reach the website design standards of open-source platforms that allow you to design freely.
- Open-source Platforms
These includes platforms like WordPress and Joomla. WordPress (the most commonly used open-source platform) for example, is a full content management system for you to manage the backend of your website. The great thing about an open source platform like WordPress is while there are template designs that you may use if you wish, you can also do whatever you want to your site both design or functionally wise . It is possible to build just about anything in any way within WordPress. Using it in most cases is highly recommended.
- Ecommerce Websites Platforms
There are many Ecommerce systems out there and which one you use can depend greatly on your current needs and future ambitions. This is so as issues like your budget, the functionality you need, the size of your site and more affect which system is best for you. If you want a high functionality website and carry a large amount of products, Magento is definitely a great solution. If you want to build on WordPress and want a more lightweight solution Woocommerce is also a good solution.
6) Design Stage
A big question when hiring a web designer is are they actually designing your website? With many hosted solutions anyone could put a website together, but trust me, you can tell every time that this is what has been done. Proper website design is done by designers not programmers, or not neither. Design is not only about being pretty!
There should be a specific stage for design before any webpage is built. Here, the client has the flexibility to do anything he wants and is not working within the constraints of a template or an already built page. If you were building a house wouldn’t you like to see the plans first before starting to build it? If your answer is yes then you know what we’re talking about.
Quick points on website design page structure:
- Easy Navigation: It should always be easy for users to find their way back and forth around your website.
- Meta Data: This is essential for good website search performance. This includes your page title and description and getting this right is key. This also determines how your website will be displayed on search engine results pages. Make sure your website developer engages in this process with you.
- URL Optimization: The URL of each web page should be generated in such a way that it should justify the meaning of the content on that particular page. It should also be search engine friendly to your search objectives. Your url should contain words not random letters and numbers.
- Hierarchical Headings: Always make sure to use proper heading tags like h1, h2, h3 and so on. Having a structure of a main title and paragraphs with titles. Your web designer should then Htag them. It will help the user as well as search engines to read your content in an easy and effective manner.
- Targeted Keywords: Emphasise your targeted keywords using tags to grab the attention of search engines.
- Image Tags: Make sure to include images with your content along with the proper alt tags.
- Blog: Make sure you have a blog. This is essential for search engine performance and also if used properly can attract a lot of traffic through social media. Also the structure of your blog is key. Ensure that when you publish a blog its creates a separate url or web page address. Search engines read pages so it is key that each topic has its own page.
- 301 redirection
When you rebuild your website if the urls or website page addresses change make sure that you have them redirected so that you maintain the search engine performance credit that you have built up.
My Key Tip: Get a good web design company that follows a proper process as outlined. This will ensure that your website delivers for your business.
This article is written by Alan Brogan, MD of The Digital Department. The Digital Department, based in Cork, is one of Ireland’s leading web design and Ecommerce website providers. http://thedigitaldepartment.ie/
Keep in touch as we continue dredging more information for the Website Files.