Many business owners get really excited about creating their websites, and get completely wrapped up in the design process. Usually this results in fancy flash sites that are difficult to use, take forever to load, and drive customers away.
The website is not about the needs of your business, but about the needs of your customers. What do they need to know about how your product or service will solve their problem or meet their need? What additional information would they benefit from learning from you? What do they need to know before they pick up the phone and contact you?
Every business is unique, and will have a different purpose for their website. Some will have an online store, while others will have three simple pages, relevant product and contact information. An effective website is one that meets the needs of the target market.
If your business has an existing website, it might be time for an update or a complete redesign. It's time to take a critical look at the website your business currently has online. Of course, if your site experiences a high number of daily hits and has a high conversion rate (converting 'hits' into leads), you may not need to revamp it. However, I recommend you always look for opportunities to improve.
Does your website look professional?
There are millions of websites out there, but unfortunately many look sloppy, templated, and unprofessional. In all areas of your business your first impression matters and this includes your website. Prospects who know nothing about your company will judge your product or service based on how your homepage looks and feels. A well-designed website will attract customers and begin to build trust and confidence in your offering.
Has your business grown since you built your website?
If it has been a while since you built your site, chances are your business has grown and so has your customer base. This is great, but you need to check in with your current website and make sure it still provides accurate and relevant information about your products and services.
It also may be time to take your site to the next level. Here are some suggestions:
Online customer support
Online purchase of products or services
Frequently asked questions
Customer feedback form
E-mail newsletters or auto-responders
Free 'expert' information
Where does your website rank when searched on Google and other search engines?
When you take the time to build a website, you want to make sure that people can find you when they search the major online search engines. If you are a dog groomer, you want your site to be in the top 10 when people search for dog care and products in your area. You want your site to rank higher than the competition on the list.
If you didn't design your site for search engine optimization (SEO), then redesigning it to rank higher is a smart investment for any business. I'll explain more about SEO and using keywords later on in this article.
Unless you're a web designer, I highly recommend outsourcing the creation of your website to an experienced person or firm.
The reason for this is simple. It's really hard to create a site that looks and functions professionally when you have little experience in web design. Plus, you're busy running and growing your business, and building websites can be a huge drain on your time - especially if you're building your first one.
Whether you choose to hire a design firm or build your site yourself, here's a step by step process for creating a website for your business:
1. Decide what your customers need from your website.
Just like any of your marketing materials, when creating a website you need to first stop and think about your target audience. In this case, you want to consider how your market is going to use your website, how web savvy they are, as well as how much information they need to know about your business before they contact you.
Who is my target audience?
What is the purpose of my website?
What do viewers need to know to convince them to make contact?
Will I need to sell products or services online?
2. Register a domain name that's easy to remember and then select a web host.
Choose a domain name, and register it online.
A domain name is your 'address' or 'location' on the Internet. It's the phrase a customer will type in to find your website. Your domain name can be any combination of letters and numbers up to 63 characters, and followed by an 'extension' like .com, .ca, or .biz.
A good domain name:
Is short and easy to remember.
Is simple and easy to spell.
Reflects your business.