You’re launching a new business and it’s time to begin developing a website. Or maybe you’re a seasoned establishment that has decided to jump on the bandwagon by adding a web presence to your marketing efforts. Whatever the case, if you are new to this aspect of business, there are a few things you can do to help your developer make this a successful endeavor for you.
To begin with, your nephew may be a whiz kid, but he is not likely to understand the big picture of web development and marketing. Unless you are really sure he knows what he’s doing, hire a professional web designer and developer!
Next, decide what you want your site to do. Are you merely trying to help people find your business? Do you need a site that acts like a brochure to show your audience what you are about? Maybe you are hoping to use your site as a storefront and will need full eCommerce capabilities. Maybe you want to accomplish all of these goals, but the point is, you must decide what it is you need up front. If you want to attract new business from all over the world, you might invest more in Search Engine Optimization. If you plan and hope to sell lots of products, a well-planned sales page and shopping cart will be your focus. If you want to create a brochureware site, then excellent writing and photography with a pleasing presentation will be important.
Secondly, understand that you must work in partnership with your development team. A web developer is good at… well, web development. The developer is not likely to know a great deal about your business. So, first and foremost, an open communication must be established. To do a good job, you must convey your business personality to the developer. Your projected audience, or clientele’s personality will be a significant influence in developing the right look and feel for your site. You wouldn’t want a sterile, serious corporate facade if you run an amusement park, nor would you want lots of bright colors and flashing animations if you own a funeral home. These are overly obvious examples, but your business personality might be more subtle. Your web designer needs to know about this. Show them around your business. Introduce them to some of your employees and clients. Let them get a taste of who you are and who your clients are. And please, offer any established marketing materials you already have in place at the beginning of the process. This will help your designer and if at all possible, digital files will make the job more efficient.
Finally, put some thought into your content. Hire someone to write it for you and get a professional to shoot photography. If that is not within your budget, then put the effort into it yourself. Your developer can likely advise you on what content needs to go where, how much to write, and the best use of keywords within the body copy, titles, and subtitles. Take well-thought-out photos. Refrain from the old boring portrait photo in front of a door with the head perfectly centered. Shoot the subject with something interesting about the business off to one side in the background. Make sure your products are not sitting on a dirty, coffee-stained and cluttered table; show them in an attractive display, or better yet, in use.
You can fill in with some stock photography, as I did above. There are some good online resources like istock.com that are quite economically priced. Don’t use stock photos to excess, as it can make the site look contrived. These images can fill in nicely to create a particular mood for your online presentation.
And remember, a web site takes time. Once your designer shows you a picture of what the site will look like, the work has just begun. There is no “automagical” web button that turns those graphics into the site of your dreams. Graphics must be cut up, organized, and placed with the use of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) to create the face of your webpage. This is something that takes a good bit of work in and of itself. But in addition, the functionality or back-end workings of the site must be created programmatically and styled to match the mockups and tested for problems before the site can go live.
Often a company’s website will be the first impression upon a potential customer. Make it count! It can seem an arduous process, but pay attention to the details and you’ll have something useful for the years to come.