Why websites are so important?

I set out writing this blog to challenge the ideology that a website should be the centre of your marketing universe.

I found NO research to support me whatsoever. It seems most people on the world wide web believe that your website IS the centre of your universe. Well what do I think?

Aside from most of these opinions being from businesses that are, guess what, trying to sell you a website, I do think they have a point.

Buyer behaviour has changed so much over the years, changed to adapt to a digital age that we find ourselves in. We tweet, we do Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, the young uns do TikTok and Snapchat, it’s so hard to keep up. But with so much drawing your customers online, you either respond or you don’t and you risk being out of touch with the world. 

So why a website, shouldn’t you just do social? 

Think about your own buying behaviour; you see some stuff advertised on Facebook, like the look of it but never heard of that brand before, ‘I’ll just ‘Google it’’. You land on their website… BOOM! That’s it… that’s your first impression! The one that needs to be reassuring, reminding them why they’re
visiting, inspiring them to buy and then persuasive enough to make them take action. 

So if your website is a bit shabby, a bit clunky to navigate, not well written and not maximising
opportunities for calls to action, guess what, the positive impression is just not going to be there.

You might have the best products or services in the world, but one look is all it takes to make a
judgement of confidence in that brand. So back to the original question, is your website the centre of your universe, yes, it is, but first is your brand.

Branding – who are you?

Your brand is the centre of your marketing universe. If you’re a small business owner everything you say, do and allude to is part of your brand. You find yourself commenting on someone’s political views, oops, now your brand is forever associated with that can of worms. 

So think about your brand, what do you represent? What are you good at? What are you trying to achieve? Why should anyone care? The media upon which you convey those messages, your website being at the centre, serves to reinforce, remind and reassure people that, with you, they have made the right decision.

Setting up a fabulous website

Selecting a creative supplier is a daunting task, handing over your hard-earned cash to someone else is quite an honour for your supplier, so it is down to them to make the selection process an easy one.

Some things to look out for when you are choosing them.

  • The way they speak to you. Are they passionate about what they do? Do they deliver their pitch enthusiastically? If they’re not bothered about themselves, they won’t be bothered about you, so presentation is a number one thing to look out for.
  • Their past experience. Do they have a good track record? Could you contact some of their customers and find out how they perform? If you like what they’ve done, that’s a good starting point.
  • Check them out financially. There are loads of tools online which enable you to do a quick background check of their finances. But don’t be scared if they don’t have much money in the bank, businesses have to start somewhere, just set up a bit of protection for yourself and suss out your payment terms in advance.
  • What’s their own website like? If they’re at the top of their game, they should have a winning website with a nice customer experience.
  • Are they value for money? Price always comes into it along the way, but guard against the cheapest option, because you know what they say, ‘you pay peanuts….’

Once you have satisfied yourself that they meet your criteria and you’d like to move forward, then it’s time to write your brief.

Writing a website brief:

Some things to include:

  • Highlight what you want your website to do for your business. What goals are you trying to achieve? These could be things like, sell products, generate leads, give you a web presence, update and refresh your look, whatever it is, highlight these in your brief.
  • Highlight the functions that you need it to have. Do you need it to take bookings or payments, are you wanting to run courses or webinars through it? Does it need to have a blog function?
  • Highlight your businesses key strengths? What are you about? What sets you apart from your competition?
  • Share the details of your target audience. Who are they, what do they do, where do they live, how old are they? What gender? What are their potential interests?
  • Share your key messages and selling points. What value do you bring to your customers? Why should anyone do business with you, what challenges and pain points do you solve.
  • Be sure to provide any existing branding that you have. Things that already exist in your creative arsenal, logo’s, brochures etc.
  • Share any accreditations and key logos such as customer logos for testimonials for example.
  • Provide guidance on imagery that you would like to use. This might involve going out and taking some if you haven’t got any to start with. Stock imagery is ok, but ideally you would want to have your own assets.
  • Share any competitor website or other websites that you like the look of.  Anything which gives the designer a heads up of the sort of thing you have in mind will help the designer not go too far off the mark.
  • Share any existing hosting/domain information. If you haven’t got anything set up, discuss the best options for you with a trusted expert.
  • Finally, be sure to let them know if you are up against any deadlines. 

Sitemap/navigation structure

Once you have got your head around the list of things above, it’s time to start planning the website structure. 

Top tip: I use a hierarchy chart in PowerPoint as a rough and ready way to lay out and visualise how your website is going to be structured.

An easy site structure example;

Starting with a home page, list out the pages that are going to sit underneath this top level. About Us, Products/Services, News, Events, Contact Us, Careers are all good starting points. 

The next level down depends on the complexity of your business and its products or services. Ideally try to pull them together into a small number of categories and then you can drill down further into individual product pages.

A rule of thumb is three clicks. People should be able to find what they are looking for within three clicks of a mouse, so try to minimise the number of levels.

If you are going to be adding new written content to the website, convert your site plan into a word document with a heading for each of your proposed pages. You can then write your content below each heading and this will make it easier for you to slot the text into the web design.

With products/services that require an e-commerce function, providing your products/services in an excel spreadsheet that can be uploaded to the website would be ideal. Your web designer can help you with this.

What is a content management system?

You might find your web designer/agency of choice starts spouting about content management systems, and you find it a little confusing? 

A content management system is a platform that a website is built on, which enables you to edit and manage the website from a back-end dashboard.  You’ll get used to using terms like ‘back-end’ don’t worry. One of the most popular of these is WordPress. It is so commonly used that there are gazillions of different templates available to peruse and even buy if you are so inclined. Check out www.themeforest.net

Your pro web agency might blink at you a fair bit if you suggest buying a template, but if it does what it says on the tin, for me, why reinvent the wheel? You can start from a template and customize it to suit your business, so it’s entirely flexible.

What are the alternatives to WordPress?

There are alternatives to a WordPress site, which, depending on your business, might be totally fine for you. The majority of web hosting company’s offer a free website with your domain. The likes of WIX, Mail Chimp & Shopify exist to get you online as quick as possible, so why wouldn’t that be attractive?

But for now let’s focus on WordPress.

Your beloved web designer should set you up on the system with a user profile of your own so that you can edit the site as you wish. The key system settings are;

  • Posts – this is where you go to write blogs that appear on your blog page.
  • Media – this is where your images and uploads are stored
  • Pages – this is where you create and manage your pages
  • Appearance – this is where you manage customisation such as navigation, menus, colour schemes and themes
  • Plugins – there is a whole world of plugins available that will help maximise your website, from e-commerce plugins, SEO plugins, email marketing plug ins, you name it.
  • Users – this is where you can create multiple contributors to your site and manage permissions
  • Tools – this is good for exporting and importing site data for back ups
  • Settings – A plethora of settings relating to how your site is read, whether you allow comments on your blog, privacy settings, and more

Your web designer will run through the back-end of the system and show you how to maintain your pages. Hopefully that’s all you will have to do because they will have taken care of most of it for you. 

So you have your new website, what’s next?

Your website needs to do it’s thing for a bit. Google will start to index the pages and you will be able to see how well your website is performing organically. By that I mean, without any advertising or extra SEO.

It is highly likely that you will need to invest a little more time into making the website visible on the search engines, and you’ll do that through SEO or advertising. Let’s save that blog for another day but for now, if you need any help pulling all of this information together or it seems like such a huge task for you to do by yourself, please get in touch and let’s see how we can help.

Find out more about the services that The Design Grove offers, or get in touch with us.

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