So, you want a website for your business, or want to renew an existing one? Here we’ll run through things that you should consider before engaging with any freelancer or web development company.
It’s important to have considered these or be at risk of being sold something that you don’t really want, becomes expensive to develop and won’t actually work for you. This is by no means an absolute definitive list, but it should serve as a good basis to get you started.
It’s important to identify the actual purpose of the site that you’re creating. This may sound obvious, but people often go to create a site because they believe they should have one with no clear objective. This will tie in closely to your marketing strategy.
What’s your story?
Have a think for a minute about who you are as a company, what really defines you, where you came from and makes you different from everyone else. When designing a website it’s essential that your personality and style shines through. People like to invest in a company that has a story and personality, it helps them connect with the company on a more personal level.
There are so many templates that can be bought these days and they all follow the same form and style with a few colour changes. To attract people’s attention you should aim to stand out from the crowd. If you’re worried the costs will escalate, maybe cut down on the content pages and simplify to a really striking but effective single page site.
There are plenty of ways to keep down cost but achieving an effective web site.
Who is your target audience?
Are you targeting the general public, small businesses, large corporations, the younger, the older, or all of these? Knowing this is vital for figuring out what sort of information you will need on the site, for example, how much depth you’ll be going into within your content.
Where are you expecting traffic to come from?
This is important as it’ll help to shape the content that will need to be included. If you’re relying on natural search rankings, there will need to be a further-reaching content strategy for your website compared to tackling social media and directing traffic to your site from there.
If most people are coming from social media, you may well just need some basic information on the services you provide, some portfolio pieces and contact information. When was the last time you went to a company website and spent your time reading page after page, top to bottom, of the website before making contact?
What type of content will you be putting out on social media?
Are you more likely to put out photos/images of products, or fun events that your company has organised and general day to day short and sweet material, or are you likely to want to be writing really useful content to catch the eye of potential customers? If you’re going down the content writing strategy, you might want to simply create information pages and link them appropriately within the site and/or you’ll want to be creating a blog to link to.
Note that creating blogs and content is time-consuming and to be beneficial should be regularly updated. Could your time be better spent elsewhere?
Do you need a storefront?
Are you planning to sell goods from the website? If so you’ll need a storefront. Before you begin on this journey, however, you must consider how you are going to get traffic to the site and ensure you have a solid strategy to get people there. Too often people create an e-commerce site without thinking about how they are actually going to get the traffic they need to convert them to customers.
What’s your user flow?
From a simple one page site to complex sites where there are lots of user interaction, it’s vital to nail down the user flow. This describes the path you want a user to take through your site.
For a simple one page site, that would potentially be user reads content, goes to contact form, fills in the contact form and is informed that you will be in touch soon.
For something like an e-commerce site, you’ll want to describe how the user will progress from hitting the homepage to completing an order. Once the order is completed you might want to try and continue to engage the user for example and that would all be included in your user flow.
While the freelancer or agency you choose can help really dig into the finer detail and flesh out these user flows with you, having a good understanding of your user flows will help massively during the design phase. As well as this it’ll help you come up with ideas or problems that you might not have thought of before.
Scope out your competitors
Take a look at your competitors’ websites to get some ideas. Note the word “ideas”, you don’t want to simply copy what they are doing. As mentioned earlier, you need to define what your story is and how you differentiate. Make a note of things you like and dislike about their sites, where you could see yourself doing better than they do. Can you create better content, graphics, improved navigation structure etc.?
Make a list of sites you love
Take a look around the web and make a note of sites you love and why you love them. Look for ones that you love the colours of, another for its content, another for its graphics, one for its organisation and so on. This will all help during discussions around the design and, therefore, user interface/user experience of your new site.
Have an idea of a budget in mind
It’s understandable that people don’t want to show their hand when it comes to a budget for a website, however, it’s a good idea to have a budget in mind so that any prospective freelancer or agency can work towards. This helps you get the most bang for your buck. You can work through your needs and if necessary discuss cutting pages out to focus on improving others. It is, therefore, a good idea to keep an open mind when going into discussions to get the absolute most
Discuss the budget and what you can expect to get out of it early on. If comparing quotes don’t just compare price and site features. A cheaper quote might get you every piece of functionality you want, but at what cost? Are they using a template rather than a bespoke design? Are they really invested in getting the most out of the website for you, or are they wanting to throw a template up, hand you the keys and run wishing you all the best on your travels?
Wrapping things up
The purpose of this article is to try and spark ideas for what you’ll want to achieve with any web site that you go on to create. Having as much of this answered beforehand will help ensure you get the most out of your new site, really helping to explain what you want to achieve to any potential freelancer or agency you decide to engage with.
Many of the points and questions are very closely interlinked and a change in one area will likely affect another. With all your cards out on the table, the impact of adjusting any key area can be understood from the start. This helps to produce a clear specification for your new website build.