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8 Ways To Get A New Website That's Right For You

8th April 2016
Frog holding a pencil

So you've decided you need a new website. Maybe this will be your first, or maybe you've had one for years and have decided now's the time for something new. Great. Before you do anything else, grab a notebook and a pen. You're going to have to do some ground work. Don't think that you can just order a new website and it'll magically turn up. Web developers create websites according to specifications provided by web designers, and designers take cues from you. You'll have to provide the all important content (the text and the images) that will fill the web pages, and design-wise, the clearer you are about what you want, the happier your designer will be. The sooner you are forthcoming with content, the happier your developer will be.

All too often the web framework is up and running before the client has decided what content will feature on their site. So the site is effectively ready, just content free. Another common headache for designers is overly vague specifications. 'The full works' or 'more modern' will be met with glazed expressions. Usually, those claiming they have no idea how they want their site to look turn out to have very strong opinions about layout and design once some proposals are put before them. If it's easier to think in terms of what you don't want then feel free to make a list. Keeping note of some websites that you like the look of is another way of helping a designer get an impression of what you're after, but don't just ask for 'a site like XYZ.com'.

Answer the following questions, and you'll be on track to getting a website that fits your needs, reflects your brand and keeps your web team happy.

1) What do you want your website to achieve?

People don't have websites just for the sake of it, and 'because I have a business' is not a specific enough reason. Websites serve two purposes. They convey information and they inspire visitors to take some sort of action. The purpose of your website should align with your business goals. It may be that you have a primary goal and a few secondary goals. If your primary goal is more sales, then your website should facilitate sales. There should be a clear and obvious way for people to 'add to cart' or 'book now'. If your goal is more visitors through your shop door then there should be a very clear 'Find Us' or 'Get Directions' button somewhere on your site. If you want more phone bookings then prioritise making it easy for mobile users to contact you with a single click. Want more Facebook followers? Then there should be a link somewhere to your Facebook profile. You get the idea.

2) What essential information must the site convey?

Does your site need lots of selfies or cat photos? Do you sell these things? Then probably not. There is some crucial information that potential customers need to know. Where are you? How can you help them? What are your credentials? What makes your products or services special? How much do you charge? How do they contact you? Only you know what specific information your website needs to include.

3) What keywords do you want to rank for?

Do you sell bespoke knitted animal toys? Then the phrase 'bespoke knitted animal toys' should probably appear on your site. If you want to be found when someone searches for your products and services then make sure you outline these on your site. It's also likely that you want to appear when someone searches for your business name and location. Think carefully about these terms because they will improve the visibility of your site and potentially the traffic too. This exercise will help when it comes to writing the body text and image captions for your site.

4) How will the site reflect your brand?

Your business is unique, and so should be your website. It may be that you already have company colours or a logo that will influence the look of your new site. Do you have a tone that you like to use with your clients? Is it friendly and approachable? Reassuringly corporate? Highly technical? What message does your site need to send? One of rigorous professionalism or boundless creativity? Will there be a high reliance on visuals or will the site be more heavily text-based? Who is the target audience? What will their expectations be? Professionals will expect something... well, professional, while young people will appreciate something more fun. Think hard about your brand personality.

5) Will your site require a CMS?

Content management systems allow you to make updates and post new content to your site without relying on your web developer to do so on your behalf. This is handy if you intend to feature an on-site blog or if you are going to need to make regular announcements to your customers. If all you really need is a simple, static site to inform people about your location and services then you can save some money and bandwidth by not including a script-heavy CMS.

6) How should the content be structured?

Think about how people will navigate your site. What menu tabs do you want to include? Most people will have certain expectations of an 'About' tab and 'Contact Us' tab, but other content will be unique to your business. Logical site structure and intuitive navigation are important as they affect user experience, which in turn affects how search engines rank your website. Make navigation as smooth as possible. Users should never be more than a few clicks away from where they want to be. Bear in mind also your primary goal for the website. Is it sales? Then make it easy to find the 'add to cart' button.

7) How will it differ from your competitors' sites?

You want to differentiate your business from your competitors, after all, you have unique selling points and things that make you special. When people see your website that message should be loud and clear. You can illustrate your unique offerings in the content of your web pages, but the design, organisation and feel of your site could also help distinguish your brand. Take a look at your competitors' sites and make a note of what you like about them and then what you think could be better. Was any information difficult to find? Were there too few images of the products on offer? Was the information provided too vague? Taking this all into consideration should help you create a better user experience on your own website.

8) Do you have any time or budget constraints?

The developer and designer both need to know your timescale and budget from the outset. If your budget is small then they will be able to offer you a realistic proposal rather than one with lots of bells and whistles you can't afford. Make your needs clear and they will do their best to accommodate them at a sensible price. Furthermore, if your site needs to be up in a hurry, they need to know, though of course this may affect the price.

To sum up, the more prepared you are, the shorter the delivery time for the site will be and the happier you will be with the result.