When you are ready to buy a new car, you’ve usually got a pretty good idea what you want. You’ll know that you want a sedan, an SUV or a sports car. You’ll know what colour you want to get, and some of you will even know what make and model you want. You’ll definitely know your budget, and you’ll also have some features you want added.
Okay so you know where this is going, but I have to say it.. Most business owners haven’t really thought about what they want when they ask for a website to be built or redesigned. There’s a lot that defines how your new website is going to be, the look and feel, the layout, the content, the functionality. This also defines your business, and one of the most prominent features your customers are going to see. The website designer and developer can make you whatever you want, and some of the things in this guide will be really obvious, but some of them are going to make you really think. Building a new website is a collaborative project where you as the client play a huge role. This guide will help you to prepare and fast track the development of your new website with your chosen web developer, and help you save both time and money.
# 1 – KNOW YOUR DOMAIN NAME
You’ll also want to figure out whether you will be doing business internationally, so is a .COM web address more appropriate for your business? Or do you want to secure all the domain names similar to your business name to protect your identity? In any case, you should prepare yourself with at least a couple of options that you will be satisfied with to represent your business online. When you have a couple of options, run them through an availability checker.
- Put together a list of 2-3 domain names you would be happy with to represent your business online. Consider .com, .net etc.
- Run your domain name through a reputable availability checker or talk to your developer
- When purchasing your domain, ensure the domain registrant is the legal business entity
#2 – KNOW YOUR LOOK AND FEEL
Chances are your business is reasonably well established and you’ve got a good understanding of your branding. You may have had a logo professionally created by a graphic artist or even through an online logo developer. You’ll know what colours are representative of your business.
Going deeper though, your website developer is going to need to know exactly what the look and feel of your brand needs to be. If you want a specific font and colour set to be used, be prepared with what that is. Of course a site can be mocked up for you with what the developer thinks the look and feel should be, and you can change things from there, but this will cost time and time is money. If you’ve had a logo created, you would hopefully have a copy of the logo files in various formats. Most developers will hit you up for a copy of the logo in the highest resolution with a transparent background. This allows them to resize the image and overlay the logo on any kind of background, whether it be another image or a plain colour background.
- Be prepared with your colour scheme and logos
- Have a think about the look and feel of your new website and take down some notes
- Get together some example sites that you like, and designs that are similar to your tastes
#3 – KNOW YOUR SITE LAYOUT AND CONTENT
To a web designer and developer, it’s all about content. The content guides the development of the site, what goes where, and how it’s all going to fit together. Depending on the size of your project, a website designer and content writer can work with you to understand your business, what you want to achieve with your website and the messages you are trying to convey.
Though if you are a small business, this approach is generally out of reach due to cost limitations which means the responsibility of creating the content falls back on you, the client. It’s not just about content either, the developer will need to understand what pages you want in your website (think of pages such as ‘About’, ‘Services’, ‘Testimonials’, ‘Products’, ‘News’, ‘Contact’, etc.).
Again, it’s a good idea to do your research here, check out what your competitors are doing and what is working for them. You may opt to simply have a one page ‘brochure’ site, many businesses do this and it gives you a presence on the web (as well as your own domain for emails), but for a more complete website then you’re going to need to put together a sitemap. A sitemap is basically a list of the pages in your website. If you can visualise your concept, then you can put pen to paper and piece together the initial structure of your site.
- Pencil together a site map with all the pages you want
- Create some content for each page
#4 – WHAT FUNCTIONALITY DO YOU NEED?
This is almost the biggest question you need to ask yourself… What type of website is this? Your website can be quite static – as mentioned in the previous section it can just be a one page brochure. At the other end of the spectrum however, your website can be your number one salesperson.
A new website can offer literally hundreds of functions for your business, so you should have a good understanding of where your new website fits into your overall business strategy and the role it will play. And just like one of your staff, your website can be measured and have KPIs to ensure an adequate ROI.
This section’s checklist shows some examples that should get you thinking about what functionality you want your new website to have.
- eCommerce, selling your products online
- Product information, eg. Documents for download
- Brochure site – one pager which is essentially the same layout as a paper flyer
- Email server
- Blogging functionality, interactive commenting etc.
- Image galleries
- Google Analytics integration
- Integration into email marketing systems (eg. Mailchimp)
- Social network integration
- Customised dashboard with vital stats (eg. Traffic sources, mail campaign statistics)
- Photo Galleries – sliders, etc.
- Contact forms
#5 – WHY DO YOU WANT A WEBSITE?
Well, this is the BIG question, and you need to think about it. I was going to ask this question first, but I wanted it to be the last question on the list and for you to think about it further after reading this post.
Why do you want a website?
There is a lot to this question, but if your immediate answer is along the lines of “because every business has a website”, or “I thought I should”, then you’re not going to be in the right mind space to succeed. Your website is another business tool, and you can measure the performance and success of this tool. You’ll want to be able to articulate what success looks like. Ask yourself, what do you want to achieve? Is it additional sales for your business via the website? Are you looking to recruit staff? Are you wishing to add potential clients to a mailing list via a website form?
Some premium website development houses will quote your new website based on the value it adds to the business, which is an interesting concept for some business owners to get their head around. Though ask yourself, if you add a new website as a sales channel which can actively bring sales in for your business, meaning you don’t have to employ that new sales executive for $80k per year, then how much is the website worth to your business?
Understanding why you want a website is critical in the entire process. Knowing this will help you to understand your complete set of requirements, your target audience, your structure and your content. This will guide the process from start to finish, and most importantly it will allow you to measure your ROI and whether or not the project has been successful.
- Know the answer to the question “Why do I want a website?”
- Note down the business strategies that the answer gives you
- Allow this answer to influence and guide your project, as meeting the objectives of your answer will allow you to measure success
The amount of pre-work required before reaching out to a website developer may seem daunting, and as a business owner I know I like the idea of handing off a concept to someone and it coming back to me all completed – so hopefully this hasn’t scared you away from taking the journey to getting your new website to represent your business online.
The aim of this blog post is to help business owners take the next step to getting a new or updated website with the most information possible, in order to get the best value for their money.
Hopefully you’ve been able to get some value out of reading this blog post. I’d love to hear your feedback, or if you have any questions please comment below. If you’d like to talk to us more about your new site, then please feel free to contact us.