Website Design – the 10 questions to ask before you start
In this age of modern technology, Internet is by far the largest medium for product, service and company research. By now, most companies have a website but is it enough to whet your customers’ appetite or is it doing the opposite, and chasing them away?
At some stage companies will decide to change their website. There can be a whole host of reasons for this including:
• Don’t like the look and design of the site
• Too cluttered or poor navigation
• Information is inaccurate or confusing
• Built on a system that you can’t update
• Simply you want a change or an opportunity to include some new and cool features
Before you invest in a new website, it is crucial to plan in advance so your new website ticks all the boxes that your old one didn’t. Indeed there are an exhaustive amount of questions you need to ask yourself before you build your website. Following my experience, I have posed 10 questions to you to ultimately evaluate before you build.
1. Have you found a suitable web host?
The web host allows your website to be ‘live’ and accessible across the World Wide Web. The reputation of a web host is extremely important as you need a host that is reliable and not prone to technical issues. When choosing a web host consider the bandwidth/space they’ll provide for you, their security, price and their level of customer support – trust me, if your website is down, you need someone who is extremely responsive. The location of your web host is also relevant for the principal market you are competing in. If for instance you want to appear high in Google search rankings in UK (.co.uk), hosting your site in the UK is highly recommended to increase the success of SEO.
2. How is your current site performing?
If your site is fortunate to be at the forefront of using the latest Web tools, you will have set up a service called Google Analytics in the backend of your website. Google Analytics is a tool generated by Google to give you statistics about your website’s traffic, tell you how many times pages are visited, where visitors come from, keywords used, how long they stayed on your site and so forth. It gives fantastic insight in to your current site to see what is working well and what isn’t. For those that don’t have it, ensure you add it for your new site to monitor and adjust your site where required.
3. Are you familiar with Content Marketing?
You may be familiar with the phrase “content is king” and if you’re not, you soon will be! There are several elements to make a website successful but the quality of your content is possibly the most important. You need to ensure your content is aimed at your target audience, ensure it’s interesting and keep it current. Not only will this engage your audience and lead to more enquiries but Google reward those that have strong, quality content that is relevant to your search terms. Have the bones of your content ready before you build to avoid it eating into your development time. To regularly update your website (which I strongly encourage) using a website that has a Content Management System (CMS) is very user friendly and makes editing and site maintenance child’s play.
4. Have you set clear objectives and goals for your website?
What is the aim of your new site? What are the challenges with your current site? What do you want your visitor to see or do when they visit your site? Have you a promotional plan when the website goes live? Having clear objectives at the beginning will ensure your website is doing exactly what you want it to do. Whether you want them to read your case studies, sign up for an electronic newsletter or enquire about products, identify them in advance to ensure your website is optimally built for such. Following go live, try not to allow your website to stay static and collect dust. Have a schedule between your team to regularly update your pages, news, website features and so forth. It will encourage repeat visits and amplify your quest for strong Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
5. What is your budget and timeline?
The sky is the limit with websites so have your budget in mind with some contingency should you decide to opt for new features or effects. Assigning a strict timeline is a fantastic approach to getting your website up and running within a few weeks. The strictest deadlines are usually kept when there is an event or product launch you are working towards.
6. How can you increase your Inbound Marketing?
Give your sales team a break and start bringing your customers to your website. Don’t expect customers to continually check your site, you need to give them a reason to. Before you invest in a new website, have a clear objective internally to update your site regularly using Online Marketing tactics such as regular news updates and fresh content, engage in email marketing, social media and webinars, update supplier directories, use Google PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising and publicity – anything that will drive your customers to check your site regularly.
7. Is your site SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) friendly?
The World Wide Web is a massive conglomerate so you need to help people find you. In the UK and Ireland, 90% of all search engine traffic is through Google so it is the most applicable search engine to optimise for. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is where you optimise your website to ensure you are ranking high for key terms and phrases specific to your website. It involves a number of tactics to ensure your site is optimised so before you build, ensure your site is one that is fully optimised for high rankings. If you are concerned that your SEO is not achieving the rankings you’d like, you can always opt for Google Adwords also known as Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising where you can exclusively target the people you want to visit your website.
8. Is your website well designed and easy to navigate?
Clear and easy to navigate websites are a joy to be on. The key to preparing user-friendly navigation is finalising a site map before you build. It allows you to tease out all the pages so your visitors find what they are looking for quickly and easily. In the visible sense, it is important you look professional. Website designs are entirely subjective but the most popular sites are often those that keep it clean, simple yet modern.
9. Have you had a snoop at your competitors’ sites?
It is essential to do your research before you build and commit to a final budget. Visit competitor sites and do a SWOT analysis on how you perceive their sites. It will provide an excellent foundation when providing an initial brief for your website.
Check out what are the latest developments in website design and development. Using flash for instance is no longer recommended as it isn’t recognised in Apple products. In fact more and more websites are now becoming responsive to adapt to the huge surge in smart phones and tablets. Responsive websites are those that automatically adjust to your screen for optimal visibility. Ask your web developer for the latest trends so you’re not missing out on the most up to date features.