1. What is the goal of the site? In other words, when it’s working great, what specific outcomes will occur? Will customer calls increase? Will current/past customers visit the website to purchase new items? Will we attract new customers online and showcase sample products, to entice them into a storefront or to make a purchase? Will your client base find answers to their questions on their own without needing to contact you? Will your website generate leads by using an online inquiry form?
2. Who is your primary target audience? This is a question that warrants doing your homework and sometimes involves completing a true dissection of your market. A lot of website projects tends to go awry here because our natural instinct is too try to please everyone, or tell someone everything we know or have to offer. Dissection of your business plan and marketing objectives will help you to hone in on how to cater to the right audience. The right audience from business to business varies greatly depending on your marketing objectives. While some business owners just want to expand the sale of their most profitable items others may want to build up a sluggish product line. A one size fits all approach doesn’t work well for most business types.
Your website design should display imagery and content that caters to your primary target audience’s taste first. Identifying the demographics regarding your target audience may be helpful in deciding layout, style, imagery, features and accessibility.
3. What is your budget? First, let’s not forget that EVERYTHING is probably not a reasonable option or a smart business choice…even if you have mounds of discretionary capital available. Comparing quotes and understanding what each offer includes should be paramount. Plan on investing some time if you don’t already know the difference between a static site , a content management system, a domain name, responsive design (mobile-friendly versions of websites are expected as commonplace) and a hosting account. It will definitely make your decision easier having this basic knowledge available to help you in comparing proposals. Thinking beyond the initial design and development project, what about ongoing maintenance and upkeep? Who will do the ongoing work? How much time will need to be invested to keep things current with your business offerings? If you don’t have time or the desire to do-it-yourself, how much will it cost to pay for this service? What kind of return do I expect to get for this investment?
4. Should you stay in tune with your historic business media? This is a good question and the answer depends on several factors. What is our past or present business image? Do we desire a change in public perception or do we want to continue to add-on to our existing image? What do people already know about our business? What words, symbols or colors do people identify with our business? Generally speaking, a business with a long history likely has a lot of historic media that should be considered when designing a new or upgraded public presence.
5. Do I need a copywriter? Your copy/content is meant to persuade someone to buy a product or influence their beliefs. You might want to hire/engage a copywriter for this purpose. Copywriting can be a critical aspect in determining a website’s success or failure. Again, depending on your website goals content should be written with several considerations in mind.
Impatience- Today’s web surfers are impatient, so your content should be brief enough to capture their attention and answer their need quickly. This means writing a dissertation is in order, not a data dump. Web copy should be simple and easy to read. There is usually little need to impress your audience with sophisticated language or lengthy explanations. Introductory text should be just that, an introduction. Lengthy details and explanations should be reserved for links to more information if their interest exceeds the introductory text.
Search Considerations – Content should naturally include keyword rich data that your audience might use to find your business website, products, services or to get answers to their questions.
6. Does SEO (Search Engine Optimization) really matter? Unless you are only catering to a very specific group of people that you are already connected to, yes! The best looking website with coolest functions and featured will do your business little good if no one finds it. SEO and SEM refer to techniques for getting your website listed and ranking within the major search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing and others.
SEO – Organic, or “unpaid”, search engine optimization basically equates to using a smart, common-sense approach to get your web pages to rank well in online search results by employing a series of development techniques which include: the use of generic, or keyword rich domain names, using informative page titles, installing tools for granular SEO options to site administrators, making the site mobile-friendly, encouraging clear, concise and informative website copy/content, using alt tags on images, and a variety of other free SEO considerations such as utilizing press releases, social media accounts and free online listing services.
SEM – Search Engine Marketing usually involves a combination of organic SEO combined with paid placement or online advertising.
There are a myriad of factors that can affect your online search results. Ask your developer what they do to help in getting the maximum benefits of unpaid, organic SEO results and what they recommend for SEM services.
7. What is our regional market? Website strategies vary greatly depending on if you are completing locally, regionally, nationally or globally as well as how saturated the business industry already is. Selecting a targeted region and measuring your results will help you determine if you’ve hit the mark or if additional work needs to be done.
8. How do I communicate what I want to my web designer? After communicating your site goals, target audiences, regional market, and custom features to your designer, a good way to communicate what you want your site to look like is to prepare a list of three websites that you either really like or really dislike. Providing a short bullet list of 3 – 5 things that you like or dislike about each will go a long way in helping to get a design back that meets your design objectives within the first round. Providing sample sites will help the designer to identify the desired style, fonts, color, layouts, use of movement, and other elements. Since design is subjective and beauty is in the eye of the beholder, when in doubt, try to remember that design elements should cater more to the audiences (meeting your objectives) versus individual tastes.
9. How often do I need to update my website? A website, like any other business tool needs to keep up with industry standards and remain current to be most successful. There are really a couple of considerations here. First the website software and supporting functions and second, the site’s content. Depending on your business type and industry, changes needed to your website’s content can vary greatly. For instance, an e-commerce website may need daily changes to reflect new product offerings or promotions while an informative website may only need to be updated monthly with industry news, or internal operations changes. However, all websites regardless of type or industry should be kept up-to-date with technology. Having outdated software supporting the website can open the door for hackers and cause site functions to no longer work. We suggest that websites should be evaluated at least every two to three years to identify and avoid any potential issues and that a budget for upgrade work should be established.
10. How do I measure the success of my website? This should be fairly easy if you take the time to identify the goals of the website, but keep in mind that each website for individual businesses are different. Some of tools commonly used include evaluating your website statistics, everything from how many hits did we get to how long did they stay on our website? Website statistics can help you identify areas that work really well or need to be improved. Knowing where your visitors are coming from, how long they stayed, and what keywords they are typing into search engines can provide a good indication of what’s working or what’s not.
Other terms used in measuring performance include conversion rates, visitor engagement, bounce rates and many more. What is important is to remember to look at your website stats and use the valuable information they provide to your business advantage. Try Google Analytics – It’s free, fairly easy and intuitive and can even be set up to automatically email your web stats periodically!
Submitted by: Brenda Tarmey, Business Manager of T.H. Creations, Inc.