If you are a small business owner wondering about what to consider when it comes to websites, here are some of the more important questions and things to consider before diving in.
Define Your Purpose, Your Vision
What is the purpose of your website? Have you defined your reasons for being on the web? What are your goals? Answering these bigger picture questions will help determine much of the content, features and functionality you need to accomplish those goals. Diving into an online presence without clearly defining your goals can become a costly lesson. Having a vision helps weed out the noise and give clarity.
Who is Your Audience?
What’s a web presence without an audience in mind? If you could boil down your audience to one key person, how would you describe that person? What makes them tick? Is accessibility important to you and your business? Defining your users / visitors will help determine the appropriateness of aesthetics, design and development.
Evaluate and Edit Your Assets
You’ve heard over and over again that Content is King. Take stock and thoroughly analyze your content. If you need professionals, hire them. Great photographs and/or illustrations can elevate the experience of your website at a visceral level. Your content is a reflection of your brand. If you can, call in a copywriter at the planning stages of your website. A harmonious relationship between visuals and copy is magical. The investment in quality and details are bound to pay off.
“Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, It’s decoration.”
— Jeffrey Zeldman
Create and Manage Your Content
If you plan on creating and updating your content, do you have a plan? How often will you update? What kind of content will you deliver? Determine if you will need help and consider creating a schedule. Search engines love fresh, new content. It gives the robots and your audience a reason to keep coming back. Share great content and potentially, it will be linked to and shared by many.
Focus Your Aesthetics
If your business were a person, how would he/she dress? What kind of voice? What is his/her personality? Each of us have our likes and dislikes but when it comes to the overall look and feel of your website — a visual experience of your brand — does your personal passion for purple, your love of handwritten fonts or “Web 2.0” effectively communicate your message and will it appeal to your audience? Research your market. Be consistent. Choose based on your primary audience, not your personal preferences.
Prepare Your Promotion
How do you plan on sharing your website with the world? Will you be sending out an email newsletter? Will you be blogging? Do you plan on using social media? Is print part of your overall strategy? Remember tactics are different from strategy. Whatever you decide to do, be ready to promote regularly and make your efforts cohesive, complimentary.
Plan on Evolution & Refinements
Websites are living, breathing creations. Think about your future. Your needs will change, your customer needs will change and your website will need to accommodate those changes. Be prepared to tweak as you analyze behavior, competition, sales, comments, etc. Technology will evolve. You may find new tools to integrate or realize a need to tweak the design. Expect to refine and improve your site to remain competitive.
Decisions About Design & Development
The design and development of your website should, ideally, be based upon all the above factors. An experienced designer will use their expertise to help define all the “whats” to create a design based in research and guided by objectives. The choices between and applications of technology — Flash, CSS/HTML, content management systems and any other tools or apps are clear with defined goals and perhaps a brutal acknowledgment of limitations and resources. Tools should never drive design.
Your website is a 24/7 window (for some a big window) into your business, your brand. It can work hard for you. If you are willing to invest in your website’s creation, utilize, maximize and envision its full potential. The cost of its creation is just the beginning. Your website will require care, feeding and opportunities to grow. Be a proud owner. Take care of it, invest in it and it will take care of you.