A website is a must for any business who wants to attract, reassure and retain customers. But it can be a big investment in cost and time, especially if you engage the services of an agency or a team of expert contractors.
Our advice? Think before you sink a lot of your precious time and money into something.
With a little forward planning now, you can build a clear picture of what your business and your customers really need. And that will help you decide on the best, most cost effective website solution for you.
There are five key things to think about first:
Who is your website for? Try to think of your audience as personas or pen portraits rather than vague Male/Female ABC1 categories. Give them a name, age, a family and work life, explain their needs and concerns. If your audience is made up of multiple personas, prioritise them so you know where your focus is.
2. Aim and objectives
Think about your business. What’s the one key aim of your website? How will you know that it’s working for you? Setting objectives or KPIs (key performance indicators) at the start will keep you on track. Look at what similar businesses and competitors are doing and think about what you can do better.
3. Your customer journeys
People don’t just land on websites as if by magic. Think about the whole picture, from searching on Google to social conversations to real world interactions. What are your customers doing and how can you deliver the right message in the right place at the right time to lead them to you, and keep them coming back?
4. Essential requirements
Use everything you’ve learned in 1 to 3 to come up with a list of website essentials that deliver everything your customer and your business needs. Your Requirements list should include expectations of technology, including whether your website needs to be responsive for mobile and tablet users, have security measures in place or adhere to certain accessibility standards.
Great website content has three key purposes- discoverability, usability and brand building. You need to make sure it is optimised for search engines, using all the right key words. That your labels, headlines, page content and calls to action are clear, simple and leading your customer in the right direction. And that the way you look, feel, sound and act online is consistent with your business values, so people know exactly what you stand for and why you’re the best choice for them.
Once you know what you want to achieve, who it’s for and what you want to say to them, you’re in a good place to consider the kind of website you need.
6. Building your website
For a lot of small and medium sized businesses, an off the shelf solution is the most cost effective option. There are lots of great online web builders like https://www.squarespace.com/ and www.wix.com/ to choose from. The important things to consider are whether the templates and functionality they offer will give the customer experience you want to build; whether it’s mobile friendly, easy for you to manage and comes with great support and regular updates.
Alternatively, you can engage the expertise of a digital agency or digital freelancers. The cost of this approach can vary enormously, with agencies charging anything from £40 to £130 per hour, and freelancer developers from £15 to £70 per hour, depending on experience. Offshore developers are cheaper at £5 to £20 per hour. Each option has pros and cons.
Web Design Agency: reliable, proven results, access to range of expertise but potentially expensive and may take longer.
Freelance Developer: Dedicated, personal attention, but no access to wider agency skills, eg user experience and search optimisation advice.
Offshore web company: cheapest, but potentially less reliable and harder to reach and communicate with your designer.
When you are making your decision, don’t forget to factor in additional costs for hosting, domain names, security certificates, web analytics and tracking, support and maintenance and ongoing search engine optimisation.
A great website can make a huge difference to your business.
Invest wisely, and good luck.