Most businesses around Australia and the world have a website. If your a business owner and don’t have one your probably saying to yourself, “I want a website for my business”. To remain relevant in today’s business environment it is very important to have an online presence. Other than social media – as the name suggests it is a ‘social environment’.
Like almost everything in business there is a process and building a website fits that criteria. Sure, you can go off and find a page builder and sit there for hours and probably many days trying to work it all out. If you started with a plan it will make it a little easier but generally, it will take many years and you will still not have a good grasp of the website development concepts.
The only real way to short cut the years of grief is to get some formal training in website design and maintenance or employ a website developer. I say a web developer but there is one condition to this. Many web developers are passionate about what they do but have little or no design skills.
Therefore its probably a good idea, if you plan to go down the developer path, to ensure the business you employ is more than just one person. Developers can be great designers but they seem to be few and far between.
I want a website for my business or else !@#$%
Planning the Website Structure
Lets now look at the general process for establishing and implementing a website for your business. As mentioned its time to plan the website. Take to Google and look at some websites you really like. Then drill down into what makes them work and if they have all the features you would desire. Remember it is helpful to look at websites in industries that are the same or similar to yours.
You are the best person to establish who is your audience and how a website would enhance participation in your business. A website is only part of your marketing plan and should never be the only method of marketing. I’m sure your marketing plan already indicates that?
Once the audience is established you can better understand what features and capabilities you will need to bring more people to your business. All the bells and whistles might impress your kids or partner but unless its something your audience is looking for then it will probably only work to slo0w the site down making navigation slow. User will tend to bounce right of your website with frustration and potentially go over to a competitor.
Good navigation helps improve readability
It’s likely you have seen a website that is hard to navigate and quite frustrating to use. Simple but well-structured linking is essential and also improves your search engine optimisation. Currently, Google links to see a small number of links to another relevant website. Probably not your competitor but a website within your industry. Many often use Wikipedia for this reason.
Broken links will not only affect the robots crawling your site but will affect the people you want to stay around and ultimately communicate with your business.
It’s at this point we should start putting some information on paper. Flowcharts are great and can be quite complex when developing a plan for your website. Even so, it’s an important process that must not be avoided and generally brainstorming sessions with colleagues you trust will ensure that a great structure.
This may stop a lot of heartache in the development process and may even save you some money because you have a clear and concise structure for the developer/designer to work from. If that developer is you then there will be less wasted time altering things when they look a little obscure.
Having potential prospects respond
Part of the previous step will help you here. Understanding how interactive form will gather data from users and send it to you so it can be used to enhance marketing campaigns.this may simply be a response or a newsletter form, even so gather data and using it appropriately may give the business an extra boost.
These methods of responses by the prospect must be easily found and should encourage participation. Some developers have a form of response on every page.
Authoring and website security
There are hundreds if not thousands of good programs out on the internet that will assist in website development. Some of them are great but many are just average. You will probably be looking for a content management system (CMS) and developers can guide you with this process.
Whichever you use it must come with good support and have an army of worldwide developers. This allows vulnerabilities to be picked up quickly and reduces the potential for hackers to grab a website and damage the content or even worse. I generally don’t like recommending systems but I have used many and found WordPress to be a pretty good resource. But again even WordPress has its problems.
In terms of security we could go on for hours, but we don’t have hours. Suffice to say, every page that you place on the internet should have adequate security (SSL or secure socket layer). This is the little lock you see in the address bar. Most good hosts will provide security with each package and it should be free. When a website includes e-commerce functionality this security type should be upgraded to an even more secure SSL.
This covers many of the important aspects of planning your website but is certainly not a complete list. I.e. what domain will you pick or have you already got one? It’s certainly not out of the realms of possibility that you can be the developer of your own website. Even so, please make an informed decision and ask Google many questions.
Not all of the information on Google is correct or guides you in the right direction so be careful. Furthermore, YouTube which is owned by Google has many video’s that provide great guidance. It pays to remember that if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is.
In the next article, we will look at developing the website content and creating web pages. Thank you for reading