So you have got your brand identity sorted and your business is starting to pick up momentum. Now you need to take the next step and create an online presence for your business or brand, but where do you start?
For the next part of the Investing in your business series I would like to take you through the in's and out's of getting your business online to really help your business grow.
There is a seemingly unlimited amount of options for creating websites from simple click and go services such as Wix or Squarespace through to dedicated blogging platforms such as Wordpress all the way up to completely customisable content management systems such as Craft.
There will be a number of options for you to use depending on the scale and scope of your requirements so the best place to start is by getting a clear idea of what you need from a website and start to create a brief for when you find a designer you would like to work with.
When planning a website project you should keep a few things in mind.
HOW MUCH ARE YOU WILLING TO INVEST IN YOUR WEBSITE?
This all depends on your business needs, and how much ROI you will get. For example a brand that just needs somewhere to point customers to online to get in touch will likely need a much smaller budget than a business whose primary sales channel is online (That’s not to say that a brand can’t invest greatly in smaller sites that really push the boundaries of design and technology). Keeping this in mind when discussing with your designer may also help them to guide you early on in the process to the most cost effective solution for your business or brand.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF YOUR WEBSITE?
A website can be one of the strongest tools for your business, if it is done right. This means it not only looks on brand but is functional. It needs to help your target audience achieve a goal, and be enjoyable in the process. These goals should relate to growing your business. Common goals could include “generate brand awareness”, “increase customer engagement with your brand” or “generate revenue through product sales”. Whatever the goals are, being clear about them from the beginning will help your designer to really focus every aspect of the website on achieving them.
DOES YOUR WEBSITE NEED TO DO A SPECIFIC TASK?
This again relates to your business’s dependency on being online. Do you need to collect customer data? Will you require people to log in to your site? Will it connect to other services such as a CRM system. Will you be taking payments online? The more complicated the functionalities the more it will increase costs and time to complete. The return of course is that your users or customers get a much better service.
WILL YOU BE MANAGING THE SITE?
Once your site is online will it be updated regularly? (There are real benefits to having new content published regularly on your site especially with search engine rankings). Knowing how much control you want over it will also affect the scope of the website. For example if you just need a landing page with no updates then a static website could work well. You may want to add a weekly blog post which would require some level of content management or you may want full control and the ability to build pages yourself. You may also be looking to sell online, in which case you would need to manage your stock, payments and customers through the site. There will be different platforms and solutions for whatever level of management you require so make sure to let your designer / developer know.
WHAT KIND OF WEBSITES ARE THERE AND HOW CAN I USE THEM FOR MY BUSINESS?
The beauty of websites is that you can pretty much do whatever you require with the right technical knowledge and design. Now you have an initial idea of your requirements, let’s go through what types of websites are available and how your can leverage them for your business?
THE SINGLE PAGE WEBSITE
These are a great way to get your brand online quickly. If you don’t require e-commerce functionality or need to have customer log ins etc a single page website could be a good option. They allow you to really focus on pushing a brand message or campaign for example. Single page websites don’t have to be restrictive due to their size either. With third party services such as MailChimp (free until you reach a certain number of subscribers!) you can collect subscribers and start to engage them through email marketing. This could be ideal if you were launching a product and wanted to build up hype around it before launch for example.
Another scenario could be that you offer a service and would like people to be able to get in touch. A one page website would be more than enough to sell the benefits and have a contact form for them to leave a message. A single page website, which sits under a separate domain name could also be a handy marketing tool for a one off campaign or seasonal promotion to help support your main site.
THE BROCHURE SITE
Building on the content of a single page website, brochure sites allow you to showcase your product or services, as well as expand further on your brand. This could be an option if you run a restaurant or cafe and would like to let people browse your menu for example. Usually brochure sites will consist of 5-6 pages consisting of a homepage to quickly tell users what you are about, additional content pages to explain your service or product further and a contact page where you could include sign up or contact forms.
A CONTENT MANAGED SITE
If you plan on having an online marketing strategy to help improve your search engine ranking a content managed site will probably be required. There is a bigger development commitment involved to set up a content managed site, however it will be a benefit in the long run. Sites that have a blog or journal are usually content managed, and there are a number of platforms to build a site on depending on how you plan on using your website to promote your business. A content managed site may also be useful if you plan on building an online portfolio for businesses that provide a service such as architects or property developers.
Having a blog also helps to build up your brand voice and position on online, providing you with content that you can then push out across social media to start a conversation with your customers. Using a content managed site, alongside social media is a very effective way to connect to your audience.
THE E-COMMERCE SITE
If you plan on selling online then you will require an e-commerce platform to build your site. There are a number of options to get set up online from out of the box services such as Shopify right up to custom platforms such as Craft Commerce. They have varying pricing structures from monthly subscriptions to one off payments for the platform. Before committing to an e-commerce project it is worth properly scoping out your options, especially how you plan on scaling your business as there is a much larger setup cost involved. These projects are well worth investing in however as they provide you with a direct revenue stream
SOFTWARE AS A SERVICE AND WEB APPS.
Web technology today allows you to build complex systems that integrate user, and service data from many sources allowing you to create online services for any task imaginable from simple online resources right through to the success stories like uber and airbnb. All of them focus on using web technologies to meet users demands, both in the real world and online. A site like this will require a long term partnership where the main functionalities are developed through multiple rounds of ideation, user research, prototyping, development and shipment. Working iteratively to build up a complete online product.
So to round up, before you approach a designer with a website project try to get as much information about the scale and scope of the work. Providing as much information as possible will help the designer or agency to come up with the best solution, which could eventually save you money. If you know roughly what you need to achieve a designer or developer can also suggest things you may not have thought as they will have a better understanding of the potential and limitations of web technologies. You will get a better end product working with your designer and developer to help them account for things like business goals and content strategy as well as providing a well considered user experience that will help to support your brand or business.