If you are a business looking to set up your first website, here's some things you should consider. Design. It is vital that the website has a clear, effective design. On no account attempt to design your site yourself, unless you have a clear aptitude for design.
I have seen so many small businesses attempt to design and build their own website, and very few are able to do it well. The amount of customers you will lose with a poor design is huge. Make sure the design is not overcrowded - too many companies like to cram in every single piece of information about their company which just overloads the visitor. At the end of the day the function of the website is to get them to contact you. And remember a website is not for life - design tastes change, new functionalities are invented, and in general we see customers completely overhauling and redesigning their websites every three years or so. What do you want your website to do? To generate leads? It is more than likely, if you are in a service orientated business, that you may want your website to create leads ie get the visitors interested so they contact you direct which will then put you in a position to turn them into a client.
This could be done by offering free downloadable reports in PDF format in return for their details. Then you could follow up with a phone call or letter to them. Be an information resource for your customers? It could be that you want your website to be an informative source to your existing clients, including all relevant technical data, product reviews ,online catalogues etc. Be an online ordering site? You may want your customers to change to online ordering as this undoubtedly saves in personnel costs and other overheads.
There are numerous things that your website can do and you need to think it through carefully when in the planning stage instead of trying to be all things to all people. Do you want search engine traffic? If you want to generate new customers through search engines there are many factors you need to pay attention to. First you need to know which keywords your site will target and to do this you need to do your keyword research using sites such as www.wordtracker.com, www.
goodkeywords.com, and Google's Adwords interface. This will help you build up an idea of what people are searching for in your market and the search volumes, so that you can compile a short list.
On page optimisation: It will be necessary, using the information generated from the keyword research, to optimise the website for these phrases. A web designer will be more than capable of doing this. Incoming links: A further critical factor in getting good search engine ranking is the oncoming building of incoming links to your website. This should be an ongoing process and time should be made each month either by you, or instruct someone to make it their responsibility to obtain links to the website.
Website functionality. Your website should be functional in the following: Navigation: This must be clear, informative and easy to use. Each visitors should instinctively know how to quickly get to the various parts of your website. Browser compatibility: Your website must work efficiently in all popular browsers, which include Internet Explorer, Safari and Firefox. Clear design and branding: The overall layout design of your site should be a clear, clean design and should promote your company's brand. Balance: Include in your website the right balance of text - break text up using pictures, as people dislike reading large blocks of text online.
Communicate clear benefits: Your website must communicate the benefits of using your company - your unique selling proposition. Too many businesses make the mistake of telling the visitor all about themselves when they really need to communicate to the visitor how they can help solve their problems. Testimonials and client lists: Far too often I see customers bury their gleaming testimonials and client lists away in a corner of their website. If you have good testimonials and impressive client lists then use them throughout your site. Testimonials should be scattered throughout the main pages as they tend to make an impression, yet no one particularly goes searching for the testimonials page on a website.
Do you have an interesting story to tell? If you have a story of interest to tell about your company - maybe how it was born, or interesting case studies where you have helped a client, then tell the story. People enjoy stories - they delight and captivate and can be used as successful examples as to how your business can help them. If you think through all the factors above, you'll have a more clearer idea of how your website is going to look and operate, and you can then pass this information on to your web designer and you will be more likely to get a finished website that you are happy with and that does what it should - increase your business and add to your bottom line.
Robin Porter is CEO of kent web designcompany Arpey Internet, which specialises in small business web site design and helping small businesses get more business online.