If you’re a business owner, the chances of succeeding in this difficult economic environment without a web-site are slim.
In our digital age, your company web-site will likely be your client's first interaction point. A majority of consumers now base their shopping habits according to what they hear about you on-line. These trends will continue to accelerate as more and more people immerse themselves in the digital world of the internet realm.
There are a plethora of web-site solutions available to you today; so much so that it can become overwhelming deciding which to choose. Many do it yourself platforms such as WIX & Squarespace offer attractive packages that seem affordable & easy to use.
While these platforms may be ideal for some businesses; they should not be considered substitutions for considerable thought & planning with a professional.
Poor planning will cost you time, money and effort later on. You should be able to get free consultation from a reputable firm. They can guide you through the process and give you years of valuable insight.
Cost will usually be a primary factor in determining which web-site platform to choose from. A starting price from $400 to $500 is usually what you’ll be looking to pay initially.
Keep in mind that this is for a standard web-site. Many companies like WIX breaks up this amount into monthly payments. Also keep in mind that you will be spending considerable hours customizing the template they give you. You should also watch out for hidden fees you may incur later, or limited options you think you don’t need now but may need later, as you seek to expand your web-site.
The amount of thought & planning you give to your web-site will be the determining factor on whether or not your efforts pay off. You must look at your web-site as more than just flashy design, but as an intimate extension of your business where clients connect and interact with you in the digital realm.
Think of ways to use your web-site to offer personalized service to your loyal clients. What kind of interactive tools can you integrate that will make them want to stay on longer and return again? Can you offer them on-line support in the future if need be? A member forum perhaps or on-line community like Facebook where members can interact. Can they sign-in to your web-site and access certain services or loyalty programs?
Try to look at your web-site as a growing network that has room to expand, as you discover more and more e-solutions for your company. You may think you don’t not need it now, but be sure that you’ve planned in case you ever do.
In the digital realm of limitless possibilities for your business; this is the hallmark of successful web-site planning.
Below is a step-by-step guide covering some of the most important aspects to consider when building your web-site.
Find the right web host. The web host is the environment or physical location where your site resides. You can liken the host to a building and each apartment being a different web-site located within that building.
This is the world of coding, programming, servers and databases; the very foundation of your web-site structure. You’ll hear terms like C++, PHP, Apache, MYSQL. These are your building “blueprints” and also encompass, and work alongside the more widely know terms of web-site HTML and CSS. This is also the level at which most web-site security takes place.
With most hosting companies you will not have to deal with this (and by no means should you have to as it’s tedious and boring stuff), but it’s still important to at least know what environment your site is built on. For future growth and security purposes, it’s also important that you, as owner of the site, can access these levels if need be. Many companies don’t allow this option, which basically means they hold the “blueprints” to your site.
This could potentially become a problem later, in case you decided to move hosts or needed access to the source code.
A good hosting company will provide full user access to you if need be, up to the server level. They should be offering 24/7 support by phone and e-mail, training, and on-going maintenance and software patch updates. They should have an active security and back-up/recovery process in case your site gets hacked. Also consider the bandwidth/space and any additional prices that could incur.
A good company should also offer secured e-mail hosting as part of the service package.
Think long and hard about the domain name you will use. It should be short and easy to remember. It’s a process to change this afterward, so spend a considerable amount of time choosing the right domain name.
Design & Interactivity:
The new standard of web-site design is what’s called “responsive design.”
It’s an approach aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices (from mobile phones to desktop computer monitors).
There are rumors that some major search engines may stop indexing web-sites that are not responsive by 2015.
Try to make sure the design you pick is streamlined and easy to navigate. Your site should be designed with the overall purpose of providing easy to access and structured information for your clients. Make sure you incorporate calls to action on the front page, which leads us into interactivity.
Once a potential client gets to your site; now what?
- Calls to action
- Sales conversion points
A call to action can be as simple as a “get a free quote” button that leads to an on-line form. How about a call to action to get your users to register to your web-site for exclusive offers, sign up for newsletter, or like your Facebook page. A call to action button could also be a friend referral form or review on YELP.
The more interactivity your web-site has, the more people will stay on and want to return. The ability to rate articles, upload pictures to a competition, chat with other members or on forums are ideal examples of interactive components.
A sales conversion point is where we start dealing with e-commerce systems & on-line sales, which we will cover briefly.
Building a quality e-commerce system is one of the most lucrative business out there. A virtual store is easier to maintain & cheaper than opening a traditional storefront. You can very well be operating a small business from the comfort of your home, while engaging the global audience through your virtual store 24/7.
Be sure you plan this carefully taking into consideration future growth, payment process, shipping process, virtual store policies, etc.
Deploying a web-site is not the same as deploying a fully-fledged on-line shop. Make sure you are dealing with someone who has experience as both a web developer and e-commerce specialist.
How much functionality does your e-commerce platform offer you? Does it offer multiple payment options, payment gateways, discount codes, unlimited products, product specs, etc.?
Make sure you think about everything a customer may encounter while shopping from your virtual store, from product browsing, to size availability and product specs, to payment & shipping methods.
All of these details will be critical factors to consider when looking for an e-commerce system.
A quality web-site & e-commerce system can start at $900 up to $2,000.
Google Ranking & S.E.O.
Search Engine Optimization (S.E.O.) is a broad term referring to processes and practices that allow search engines to index you higher than your competitors.
Some of these practices are initial web-site settings like search-engine friendly URL’s, creating a site map, & researching key words pertaining to your industry. There are also on-going processes like blogging dynamic content, video content, cross-linking, & optimizing tags & headers.
Search engines are recently giving more indexing priorities to web-site with a lot of videos, as well as social network pages from Facebook/Twitter.
True S.E.O. encompasses an integrated strategy beyond just your web-site, to include all your social networks and video channels.
Learn as much as you can about these process to ensure that you are doing all you can to rank higher in search engines.
Metrics are the data that tell you how well your internet marketing efforts are going. The most popular metric tracking tool is Google Analytics, which breaks down your user engagement and interactivity in easy to read charts and graphs. They even give you real-time data about who's on your site.
Metrics is as important as your web-site and allows you to track your web-site hits, most popular content, user channels, demographics, and much more. It is essentially your web-site success gauge, which tells you everything you need to know to improve your viral strategy.
As you may be understanding by now, building a quality web-site is much more than just the do-it-yourself kits being promoted all over the internet. Although this option may be the prefect solution for you, it still doesn't hurt to get a FREE consultation from an experienced developer.
At Creative Flow Media, we are working to empower entrepreneurs with the digital tools they need to stay ahead of the competition. Whether you are building a new web-site or have an existing one, contact us for a completely free consultation to see how we can improve your site’s performance.