8th July 2014
We’ve come a long way from the days when having a website was a “nice to have” – perhaps something you’d get around to one day. And having got a site up, you could simply leave it alone; much like a listing in a printed telephone book – a regular check of the contact details might suffice and so long as nothing broke, you’d ticked that box and could move on to focusing on your core business. Like everything else with technology, this has changed remarkably quickly.
The earliest websites were static objects, with no way for users to interact with the pages. Browsing functionality was limited and designers weren’t challenged by the multiple different platforms, browsers and physical devices that have proliferated. It’s now nearly 10 years since the Web 2.0 conference which drew a line between the “old” web (Web 1.0) and the way the web was evolving. While the term “web 2.0” was hijacked by all manner of industries and has become outmoded and almost meaningless, the three key principles identified:
- the web as the central platform of internet activity
- the harnessing of collective knowledge
- the creation of a rich user experience,
still stand as helpful in describing the trajectory in which online activity continues to evolve. But a lot more has been added in to the mix with other online services, social media sites, e-commerce, integration requirements with in-house databases and email, site security, and planning an overall digital strategy for your business.
Along with the possibilities, expectations have expanded hugely. So, how do you approach a website project? Whether it’s a re-design of a current site or your first website, the more clearly you think about your objectives, your audience, and your messages, the better. Here are our seven top tips:
- Who’s In Charge?
Who’s going to be responsible for the decisions during the design and development process? And who is going to be communicating them to the website designer?
- It might be important to involve a group of people within your company, but a single contact needs to be the one who hands down the final approval for each step of the process or chaos will ensue as reworking is done and time and budgets blow out. Confusion in the design stage will lead to a confused site – the rich user experience won’t be happening.
- It’s also important to acknowledge the impact on staff time, particularly the person in charge – this is a project that will require time and time management if it’s to stay on track. Be prepared to carve out time in order to get it done to a clearly stated time-frame.
- Be Focussed
Be clear about your focus, your market and your customers.
- Be specific – you only have 2-3 seconds to capture the attention of potential customers, so don’t confuse them.
- Keep it simple and keep it interesting.
- Highlight your points of difference. Whatever field you are in, there’s going to be competition, so think about what differentiates you from the rest and how that is of benefit to customers.
- Make your content great
Great design will get you so far but you need great content too. Not everyone can write and not everyone can write for the web.
- If you are not in a position to write yourself, either find someone in your company who can, or talk to your website designer about copywriting services and be prepared to pay for them.
- Visitors to your website don’t know what you know about your industry. Think about what it is you want to say and be clear and concise.
- If you have content already, review and proof read.
- Pictures tell a story – as the saying goes, they are worth a thousand words. Use good quality images and use them appropriately for your business, your market and your brand.
- Bear in mind that your website designer should be able to advise on content but won’t be able to do much until they see it and understand how it needs to flow.
- Think about what you want your visitors to do
- Whatever your website message is, make sure you make it easy for visitors to do what you would like them to do next, whether it’s clicking a link, picking up the phone, or emailing you for more information.
- Find the Right Web Designer
Find a great web design firm that understands marketing, branding, SEO, content management, good design and usability and is prepared to spend the time understanding your company.
- Do your homework before you make a choice – anyone can hang out a shingle as a website designer.
- Don’t assume that because a company can point to a few nice looking sites that they are truly qualified to do the work – do they have staff, longevity, experience, qualifications, a commitment to the industry and to their clients, ongoing support services?
- Do they take a strategic approach to your online marketing or will you get a website that is frozen in time as soon as it’s launched.
- Become a Trusted Source of Great Information
Plan to use a News/Blog/Articles section on your new website and plan to update it regularly with information about your product, service, industry, and notable achievements.
- The goal is to keep the visitor informed and interested in ways they will find beneficial – talk about what’s happening in your world, but always in ways that will be appealing to visitors and customers.
- Remember, they want to know about the benefits for them, not a list of features you think are important.
- Take the Long View
Your website should be dynamic and current.
- It’s not a static object. Remember that approach is now more than 10 years old.
- The journey is ongoing – the website needs to be regularly reviewed, updated, tested, and refined to better meet your customer’s needs and improve your conversion rate.
Talk to Touch for an obligation free discussion about your website. We have staff who are knowledgeable and passionate about digital marketing and ready to help you.