20+ Things to Consider Before Building a New Website
You have committed considerable thought and budget planning to creating your very own business website. If you think all that’s left is choosing a good web designer, then you may be in for a little surprise. If you want a successful website, there are a lot of things to be done before it is finally up and running. Before you build your site, you have to plan it carefully – poor planning will cost you time, money and effort later on. And worst of all, it may cost you customers unimpressed with your initial offering.
Below are the top 20+ things to do before embarking on a web design. Be patient – by thinking these elements through you can spend more time making your website a success and less time making up for errors.
1. Establish the aim of your website. Is it to sell items from your brick and mortar store or strictly from your online store? Is it to inform people? Is it to get visitor information so you can get leads? Your goal will determine all other decisions in starting your website.
2. Know your target market. Clarify this early on as it will affect your theme, design, content, search engine optimization, usability and your networking efforts. In short, everything revolves around your target market. Don't just build a website without keeping it in mind.
3. Establish the theme of your website. The theme should reflect the purpose of your website, and reach your target market in a way that best speaks to them. Create a theme that will describe through design and content how your business will meet the needs of your clients.
4. Know the cost. How much will it take to get your website up and running? How much will you need to maintain it per month? Over the long term, your site should make you money, not cost more than it brings in.
5. Know the time investment. How long will it take to build your site? What will you have to complete before its initial launch? What time will be involved in its maintenance?
6. Pick the right domain name. Think long and hard about the domain name you will use. It should be short, easy to remember and tell people what to expect from your website. You cannot change this easily afterward, so spend a considerable amount of time choosing the right domain name.
7. Find the right web host. In basic terms, the web host is where your site will “live” online. A good website hosting company will be able to provide your customers with fast and reliable website views and downloads. Research carefully as there are a lot of web hosting companies to choose from. Consider the bandwidth/space they’ll provide for you, what programming tools you’ll need, and the host’s security, price and level of customer support.
8. Decide who will design your website. You will be performing ongoing work with your website designer, so choose wisely. Consider examples of their current projects, their efficiency in responding to your questions, their overall design experience and capability, and the value offered for your dollar.
9. Determine keywords. During your site’s planning stages, research the keywords that people currently use to find your industry, service and products. This way you can provide the necessary optimized tags and content as the website is being built. Choose the right ratio of general keywords to specific ones to attract the most lucrative members of your target market.
10. Make your site search engine friendly. What will you need to do to make your new website show up favorably in search engine results? What amount of time and money are you willing to invest to rank above your competitors?
11. Make your website easy to use. Remember that different kinds of people will pass through your website with different levels of technical savvy. Make sure your website is designed in such a way that all users will be able to get information easily, and be able to convert quickly as well.
12. Use pictures, maps, visuals and colors. While it is still text that sells, an all-text page seems odd these days. If your page is uninteresting to look at, it’s unlikely your text will be read. When planning your site, base its overall look on your theme. Supply your designer with all the pictures that you will use that won’t be in their stock photo cache, such as company or product photos.
13. Provide security. Your users should feel safe using your website, especially in regard to leaving their information. There should be an easy medium for customers to ask questions and leave feedback. On business websites that sell products, there should be a secure form to leave important information such as credit card numbers.
14. Decide who will maintain your website. Will it be you or your staff, or are you going to outsource maintenance to an outside group? Either option has its own advantages, such as cost, control over site, time and expertise. Choose the option that is in the best long-term interests of your company.
15. Hone your message. For stronger marketing impact, your message should be consistent and touch the hearts and minds of your potential customers. By working on a message that reaches out to visitors but also inspire them to convert into clients, you will do a big service to your website and your business.
16. Craft your initial content and copy. Decide who will write the written content, including your site’s text, articles, newsletters, etc., and invest in a talented proofreader before you publish.
17. Pick the right shopping cart software. If you are selling products online, shopping cart software is a requirement for more efficient tracking of orders, payments, etc. Some shopping carts have built-in editors for easier web maintenance tasks, built-in SEO, analytics, etc. Shop around to find one with the best features for your business.
18. Bring visitors to your website. Visitors will not come if they do not know your website exists. Whether you are thinking of online advertising or real-time ads, it is a good practice to start listing the different ways you will bring people to your site.
19. Monitor your site’s performance. There are some paid analytics as well as free ones, such as Google Analytics, that will help you monitor how your website visitors behave once inside their website. These statistics tell you how many times pages are visited, where visitors come from, keywords used, how long they stayed, etc. The information is very helpful in determining which of your current practices are working and which should be changed for the better. Early on, plan who will monitor your site metrics.
20. Engage in social networking. Social networking sites have won the hearts of not just individuals, but businesses as well. Leverage your website by being seen on the top sites, such as Facebook and Twitter. As early as possible (today is a good day), start participating in some networking sites that you think match your website. Even if you are just at the planning or web building stage, make friends with people who have expressed interest in your industry. Start by being personal and helpful. Later on, when you are about to launch your site, you will have a ready audience to share your new website with.
21. Consider starting a blog on your website. Company blogs are partners of websites these days. If websites tell about the product or service, blogs tell about the people behind your company and the issues in the industry. You may want to have a blog started just after or even at the same time that you launch your website. Decide beforehand and also decide who will post and maintain your blog.
22. Think about affiliate marketing. Are you going to get affiliates to help you promote your website? Affiliates are individuals or groups who are interested in posting a link in their website leading to yours. Affiliates also promote your products or services and encourage their contacts to do business with you. Affiliates help you earn income from their efforts. Consider if you want to have this feature in your website. There will be necessary codes to set up within your shopping cart that are best incorporated while your designer is working on your site. You will need to plan the details ahead of time to have affiliate marketing work successfully.
23. Have your products/services ready. When your website is up and running, you can expect that all the hard work you put into it will eventually interest buyers. Now, are your products/services readily available to fill the demand? Before you launch your site, make sure that your products are always in stock when people order. If customers notice that your products are often out of stock, they will cease to trust you and take their orders to your competitors. Ensure that your product and/or service suppliers are efficient and reliable.
Employing these tips will help make your new web design a standout success in today’s highly competitive, but increasingly lucrative, online business environment.
Nicole McCullum is the founder of Captivate Designs, a web design company that provides small and mid-sized businesses with custom website design solutions including business web design, e-commerce web design, graphic design and internet marketing. Ms. McCullum has been featured on Inc.com as a Web Design Expert, and her web design tips and articles have been published in NY Enterprise Report and Strategy Magazine. For more information, visit www.CaptivateDesigns.com.