10 Things You Must Consider Before Building A Website
1. What do you want to do?
Too many people do not truly understand what they want when they set up a website – particularly if doing so by themselves. It’s very easy to get it wrong and create an unsearchable blog when you actually want a functioning platform that’s capable of accepting payments or bookings.
One common mistake made right at the start of the process is choosing the wrong WordPress (the most popular website and blogging management system on the web). There exists WordPress.com and WordPress.org (helpfully near identical in name), the former is hosted by WordPress and acts more like a blog, whereas the latter allows you to host your own website or blog, upload the CMS and add plugins – things that allow you to customise functionality and add features – to your heart’s content.
2. What do your customers want to do?
So you’ve decided to set up a business – or at least digitalise an existing business. Do you know who your customers are? What they are looking for? How they will search for it?
Market research needs to be done very early on but it’s also something you should never stop doing. People age, preferences and habits change, what works now won’t work in 10 years… all obvious, yes? You’d be surprised by how many businesses forget about this.
3. Professional help may be needed
It’s not rocket science: if you want something done properly, you ask someone experienced and skilled in the necessary field to help. The problem with building a website is that an awful lot of people think they are experts – “how hard can it be?” being the phrase often uttered by the clueless.
Yes, TV adverts tell us we can all be webmasters but they don’t tell us that some people simply have no eye for design, no real ability to communicate efficiently or no clue how the internet actually works. There’s no shame in it either! Most of us can read and write but we’re not all novelists – for good reason.
4. You get what you pay for but watch out for sky-high prices
Your daughter’s boyfriend who once set up a MySpace page for his band may offer to build you a website for £50 but that doesn’t mean he’ll do it well. At the same time, some agencies charge thousands of pounds for a tiny website that is certainly more style over substance. Find someone that suits both you and your budget.
5. Domain name
You may have thought of a fantastic business name but that doesn’t necessarily mean you were the first one. Have you ever tried to come up with a new letter for the alphabet? A new word? A new colour? Fun games but ruddy impossible.
Brainstorm business names, create word clouds and think creatively – too many new businesses waste hours trying to come up with a clever business name that can be aligned with their service or products and therefore “automatically work in search”. This is a bit of a myth. The internet is too crowded and competitive for this to work these days – focus instead of being unique, interesting and memorable.
Quite simply, an architect wouldn’t build a house without drawing up blueprints – why would anyone build a website without first deciding on its structure? Your sitemap is hugely important for SEO because it makes it easier for search engines to find all of your website’s pages (remember: they rank all pages not just whole websites).
7. Design and content
The size of your business will dictate how you handle this. You may have people in the business who are capable of populating your website or you may even want to do it yourself. Just remember the you-get-what-you-pay-for mantra. If you cut corners and avoid professional help you may end up with a website that looks like it’s dragged itself out of the 1990s.
8. Know that it takes time
Building a website, even for seasoned pros, takes a long time. Even when it looks built, it won’t be ready. You’ll need to set aside plenty of time to test your website on desktop, tablet and mobile BEFORE opening the doors to internet traffic. The last thing you want is your first customers shooting you down on reviews.
9. SEO, social media and email marketing
Just because you’ve taken the time to build it, doesn’t mean visitors will just come. When your website does go live you’ll need to switch your attention to marketing techniques. People will not find your website by magic: your SEO won’t kick in properly in the short term so you’ll need to consider alternatives. If you are a brand new business then growing your identity through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the likes, or via email marketing, are just a few options. Paid search can give you instant visibility on the web but it can get pretty costly, depending on how competitive your industry is.
Once your website is up and running and receiving traffic through a variety of referrers the job is done, right? Wrong. Never let your website stagnate. Search engines like to see “active” web properties, with content and features regularly added or updated to the benefit of users.