As the popularity of the Internet continues to grow, many age-old businesses have started taking the dive into the digital realm. The first step for most of these businesses is to create a website. In fact, this is the first step for a lot of new companies as well. Some businesses create a website before they even have a product to sell. The problem becomes that these businesses are not asking, “Why?” “Why do we need a website?” “What are we trying to accomplish?”
If you don’t know the answers to the above questions, you are not ready to start building your site. Don’t start a website until you have a plan (keep in mind, this is coming from someone who sells websites). Everything you buy in life is purchased for a reason. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that you should not build a website for your company. In fact, that is not even close to what I am trying to say. Building a website for your company can be incredibly beneficial. All that I am advocating is that you have a plan before jumping the gun.
Tools are used to help you achieve your goals, but you need to know how to use them properly. A hammer is useless if you don’t have a nail and the skills necessary to use the tools to build something great. Similarly, a website is useless unless you have a plan and the resources necessary to implement it.
Let me resort to my first question: Why are you building a website? Here are some of the answers I hear on a regular basis:
“I want to increase business” – Everyone wants to increase business. This is far too ambiguous of a goal to set for a website. Be specific.
“Everyone else has a website. It just seems like the right thing to do.” – I’m going to stay away from any cliché “Everyone else is doing it” references, but, as you probably guessed, this is not a good enough reason.
“I want my business to look more legitimate.” – Once again, too vague. What is the point of looking more legitimate? Is it too increase business? I refer you to my first point.
Website goals need to be specific and measurable. Often times, you can derive more specific goals from your broad goals. You know what you want to achieve, you just need to be more specific. A broad goal is “I want to increase business.” A more clearly defined goal would be, “I want my restaurant to increase phone reservations by 20% in the next month” or “I want to add an online ordering function to my business in order to gain 50 extra customers a month.” These goals are specific and measurable, which provides for a solid foundation for the website. If your company is trying to increase phone reservations by 20%, the website will be designed with this in mind. A website is most often designed to create “conversions”. A conversion is essentially what you want a visitor to do, or your goal. This can be anything from calling your company to buying a product directly off the site. An effective website will be designed to increase conversions. Designing a site to increase phone calls will be a lot different than designing a site to increase online sales. Knowing what your conversion factors are allows you to measure your success. If you simply say, “I want to increase business,” how are you going to measure that? Of course it can be done, but it is much easier if you have something specific to measure. An increase in business is not specific enough and can often be attributed to random variables such as seasonality, and even luck. Additionally, broad goals make it harder to design a conversion-optimized website. Of course, you will need people to visit your site if you expect to see any conversions. This leads me to my next point.
You might as well spend thousands of dollars to place an advertisement in the middle of the desert where it will never be seen. If you don’t have traffic to your website, you have a problem. Before creating a website, make sure that you have a plan to get traffic. “Traffic” on the Internet is the equivalent of potential “customers” in brick and mortar shops. A website without traffic serves no purpose.
I’m not going to explain too much about driving traffic because that is another topic on its own. I will say that you need to have a plan to send targeted traffic to your website once it is up. The keyword here is “targeted.” The people visiting your site need to have a genuine interest in your product or service. If you are working with a marketing company, such as Upper Division Marketing, they will help you start sending the right traffic to your site. Before sending traffic, it is important to make sure that your site is ready to handle the traffic.
No one wants to visit your site just to hear about your business and why they should buy from you. Your website needs to provide something of value to your visitors. This is the only reason people visit websites. When was the last time you visited a website for any reason other than receiving something of value? Never.
Providing value can be as simple as providing information, as long as you do it properly. You need to make sure that what you are providing aligns with what your visitors are looking for. Take a second and think about why your customers are visiting your website. Are they trying to learn more about your products? Are they trying to find out what times you are open for business? Visitors come to your site because they are looking for something. If you do not give them what they are looking for, they will leave. It is as simple as that.
You can present the same information in many different ways, and your presentation will make a huge difference. Proper presentation encompasses a lot of things. This includes presenting your information in a way that is:
Visitors to your site should not have to work to get what they need. You wouldn’t make your customers work, would you?
Your website says a lot about your business, so you need to make sure you are saying the right things.
It is easy to get carried away with all of the fancy features and opportunities in the world of web design. Trust me when I say that there is a lot of cool stuff to mess around with. That being said, you need to focus on your brand. A website is a huge part of the branding process and should be an accurate reflection of your company. There are many things to keep in mind, but here are a few:
A big part of understanding your audience and what they want from your site is understanding how your audience accesses your site. You can obtain a lot of good information from Google Analytics, but by that point it may be too late. A responsive site is designed to accommodate users on all different platforms and devices. Websites render differently in different browsers and on different devices. You need to be ready to accommodate any user, whether they are accessing your site from Mozilla Firefox on a Tablet or from Google Chrome on their PC. You will often hear people talking about making sites that are “mobile-friendly.” This is just the tip of the iceberg. Responsive sites are ready to display on any device, so let’s just call them “friendly.” Creating a responsive site is usually the role of the web developer, so if you are not designing your own site, you don’t need to know too much about it. You should, however, know that a responsive website is very important.
So, now you know the thought process for planning a website. A website can be an amazing tool for businesses. A website can help your company grow, reach new customers, and serve as the basis for future digital marketing efforts. Ponder the points I discussed above and try to relate them to your own business.
Of course, if you want to save yourself some effort, you can always hire a professional to walk you through the process. Feel free to contact us if you would like to work with Upper Division Marketing on your website development process. Our team can walk you through the planning process all the way to the design and optimization.