Pretty much every business start-up will consider having a website when planning to launch their business. Websites are a very cost effective way to get your brand out there and can serve to bring in new custom and keep your current customers up to date with what your business has to offer. However many small businesses don’t take enough time to carefully plan a strategy for their website, instead they send a logo and a few aesthetic considerations to a web designer and think that will do. What they end up with may well look nice but often will not perform to its maximum potential.
Websites should make you a decent return on your investment, you can use them to drive sales and capture customer data for future marketing efforts. Unfortunately it is rarely the case that if you build it they will come, you need to constantly market your website and invest in attracting high quality, targeted traffic that will convert. Getting your website design right from the start will help you to save time and money by avoiding costly redesigns.
With this in mind here are ten essential tips to consider before you develop your businesses website…
List Your Websites Objectives BEFORE the Design Process
Before you think about anything else you should consider how your website can help you meet your business objectives. Consider how you are going to capture potential customer data and how you are going to influence your visitors behaviour to increase the chances of converting your visitors onto sales or leads. Make sure your customers can navigate the site easily and find everything they are looking for.
Every businesses objectives will be unique to themselves and so every businesses website objectives will also be unique. Think about your customers and how to serve them best, brainstorm and research this area as much as possible. Ask yourself what kind of information are they looking for? What kind of colour scheme and graphics would appeal to them? What are your competitors offering on their websites and what could you do differently? Get as much information as possible and then start to decide how you want your website to look and perform.
Research the Competition
Go and look at your competitors websites, note what you like and don’t like about their sites. Make a few test purchases to see how efficient their checkout system is and how they use the opportunity to up-sell or cross-sell other items, you don’t have to buy anything just test the process and then bail out before the transaction is complete. See how they capture customer data and make use of calls to action to influence visitor behaviour. What kind of web presence do they have? Are they making good use of social media and if so how are they doing it? Sign up to their marketing list and see how they use email to market, keep making notes of what works and what could be improved. How to they draw attention to offers and content? How often is the site updated? Gather as much information as you can to help you develop a strategy that will compete well from the start.
Do Your Keyword Research
Think about which keywords your customers are going to be searching for, list these and then divide these into the most likely customer modes. Ideally we want to be targeting customers who are already in buying or comparison mode but we don’t want to ignore those in research mode as they may well convert at a later stage when they are ready. Also analyse your competitors sites to see which keywords they are targeting, you can use tools like the Keyword Density Analyzer to get an overview of which keywords your competitors are targeting on-site and also pay attention to the sponsored results that appear when you search for a term in Google.
Once you have a list of keywords that you think would be good to target then use the Google Keyword Tool and enter the keywords to see how many people are searching for them and what the level of competition is for each keyword. This will give you a high level overview of the value of each keyword. For a more in depth explanation of this tool have a look at our article on how to use the Google Keyword Tool.
Plan Your Sites Architecture
By now you should be developing a much clearer idea of the types of features and sections you want you site to have. Now start to think about what each section of your website will contain and how these will link to each other. It is very important that your customers can navigate your site with ease and find what they are looking for quickly before they give up and try elsewhere.
Draw a flow chart diagram of how the sites architecture and then look for ways to improve on that design to make things even easier for your customers. Use descriptive section titles and give an overview of the content on each sections landing page, consider the use of drop down menus for larger sites so navigation can be made easy without cluttering up your websites look and feel.
Make sure that it is easy for customers to contact you and that any payment, delivery or privacy policies are easy to find and understand.
Decide how much control you require
Now you have an idea of how your site will function you need to decide how much control you need to have over it. Think about how often you will need to update the site and how quickly you will need any updates to be actioned. Some web designers will retain the rights over the websites code so only they are able to alter it, this can get costly and often minor updates will be left incomplete until there is enough work to be done to justify the cost. It is nest to make sure you own the rights to your websites code so that you have the freedom to choose another web designer if required or to be able to make updates to the site yourself. E-commerce and larger sites that require regular updates should be built using a content management system that will allow you to make changes quickly and easily in real time. Also consider how quickly your site will be to upscale and grow with your business so that you are able to add new products and services as required.
So that’s the first half of the list, hopefully you have found some useful information to help your on-line business thrive. The second part of this list can be found here.
I’d love to hear you tips, experiences and advice on this subject. Don’t keep it to yourself, join in the conversation in the comments below!