It should be as easy as hiring a web company to make your site, right? Have a meeting with them, pay the bill and you're set.
"Leave it to the experts," you say as you work on other aspects of your business.
But how do they know what you're trying to communicate? How do they get access to your photos and pricing and service details? What if you want specialty functions like a booking widget or invoicing that integrates with your accounting system... hold on a minute, this sounds like a lot of work.
Yes, it is.
Even a Simple Website Takes Time
I find many clients approach me with an idea for a website. Often it also comes along with a business plan but most of the time it doesn't. Even those that are prepared on the business side, may not have put any thought into what would go on their site.
Yes, you're hiring others to create the site but there will still be lots of details that you need to provide because I haven't done any mind-reading training yet.
Think of it like you're getting a brochure made, you don't just tell the print shop how many and what size - you give them the logo, the text and pictures (or at least colours). Sure, sometimes they can advise or fill in the gaps for you but in general, the information comes from you, the business owner and the only person who knows your business best.
I've had projects get delayed after a few simple questions about content and function, or when it comes time to get the images... they always seem to pose a challenge.
So, if you're getting prepared to have a website made for your business, here are a few things to consider.
Tips for Getting a Website Made for Your Business
A person who makes websites doesn't always have marketing experience. Your website is part of your overall marketing strategy. Yes, I argue it's a necessity but the first step should be creating the marketing plan and the next step can be the website. Most of the time it's the website that's done first without much consideration to what other avenues will be used or, gasp, who the audience is in the first place!! Even if you don't have a budget for marketing advice, make sure you at least start by identifying your clients and how you'll reach them. There's this thing called Google that's bursting with information for you.
The content is up to you. Or at least the bullet points are. You know your business best and you need to be able to explain why you do what you do so well that other people should choose your business. Yes, a great content writer does wonders but she still needs some base information to go on. Think about what main menus you would need to explain your business and that will help you consider what type of further details will be required. Don't forget to think about the imagery - of course there's plenty of stock stuff out there but there's no stock head shots of you available, so that will be the minimum you'll have to supply.
On that note, get a quality headshot. It will come in handy in numerous ways from your About page to your social media profiles. You want to look professional and be taken seriously, right? Even if you have to fake it, spend an hour, tidy up and find a blank wall in your house and ask someone to take a bunch of shots from the shoulders up. As long as it's well-lit and you're smiling, that's much better than a shot you've cropped from a holiday photo with all sorts of background noise going on.
Think about what you site will do. Are people just there to find out contact info, see a bit of a background on you and find prices? Are you selling products? Will you want a blog (and who will be in charge of keeping it current)? Are you a service provider who needs people to be able to book appointments from your site? The thing about websites is that so much is possible, but if you don't identify what it is you need and why in the early stages, it can be tricky to fit them in seamlessly after the fact. Sure you can always add new pages to a site, but again this speaks to planning and strategy coming first.
How will people know about your site? It seems like this keep underlining the planning and strategy part of the process but, just because a site is live does not mean it will get visitors. Yes, organic search results are a piece of the puzzle but when a site is brand new even the best SEO will take time to bring it up in search results. (Plus, you should check out keywords for your industry to see what the search volumes are if you plan to only rely on your Google ranking...) Check out Google Places and create a listing for starters. Then think about if you have a customer database you can email about the new site? Do you run other advertising campaigns where you can include it? Are you willing to pay for Facebook Ads or Google Adwords to build an audience? Just getting the site up is the easy part, getting people to the site and responding to your call to action is the next challenge for you.
Expect your site to evolve. Even within the first year, it's likely your site will evolve. You might add a new service, or find that people keep asking for certain resources. You may find a tool that makes your business better and you want to include it on your site. Basically, your website will be a living channel of your business so make sure you know how to at least update text so that you don't have to wait for updates to basics like your hours, or your contact details.
Learn how to read your analytics. Google analytics should be included on your site (if it's not, please change web developers) and you should be able to access the data (if you ask and aren't given permission to view the data, again, please change web developers). Google is a great resource here too. It's good for you to at least be aware of your average numbers (so you have a benchmark to know when it's growing) and which pages are most popular. You want to respond to the data, where possible, by making it easy for people to find the most popular information. If you notice most of the traffic is repeat visits, then try to keep things changing so they don't get bored! Spend some time each month reviewing the data, and asking your web developer for their advice (expect to pay for the advice, of course) or at least asking Google.
A knowledgeable resource can assist in this process by asking you all these questions, finding out about your follow-up plans, and more. So if your web company isn't covering all your bases, make sure you hire someone who knows about the digital world to help you.
If I leave you with any lasting advice, it's the tagline I employed during my days in woodworking courses at school: measure one hundred times, cut once.
Planning and research are your best friends when it comes to creating a website for your business.
What To Do Next
If you want some advice about getting a website for your business, call me for a free one-hour consultation. I can even build your site for you on Weebly or Squarespace - but please make sure you at least have a professional-looking headshot and have thought about my points above, then you'll be miles ahead.