If you are thinking of buying your first Website or building your own and have been browsing the Internet looking at all the options, then you may already be a bit confused by now. The following pages, therefore, offer some advice that, hopefully, will take some of the mystery out of buying or how to build a Website. There are, basically, eight main areas you need to consider when purchasing or building your own Website;
- Domain Name Registration i.e. www.yourcompanyname.co.uk.
- Purchasing Website Hosting.
- Website objectives
- Designing your Website.
- Website navigation
- Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
- Writing compelling Copywrite
- And finally, marketing and promoting your Website.
For your Website to appear on the Internet and for you to send and receive Emails using your new Domain Name, you will need to purchase Website Hosting. However, Web Hosting is not usually something you need to consider when using a Web Designer to develop your Website. If using a Web Designer, the first years hosting ought to be included in their initial costs. Also, some services, such as our Web Builder service, include Hosting as an integral part of the service, in which case, there is no need to purchase Website Hosting. Our HostStarter Hosting Plan also includes a free, quick install of the very popular WordPress Content Management System (CMS). It is probably prudent not to purchase any Website Hosting Plan until you have decided who or what will be used to build your new Website. When it comes to choosing a Hosting Company, our advice is similar to what we recommended when registering your Domain Name. Since there are literally thousands of companies on the Internet offering Web Hosting and offering more or less (more below) the same service, we would advise choosing a supplier based in your own country. Although, in theory, it shouldn’t make any difference, issues such as time zones and cultural differences may become a factor later on in your relationship. Ideally, it is better to have your Domain Name and Website Hosting with the same supplier. If there are any issues, you only have one telephone number to contact! For business Websites, you should avoid using free Web space offered by many Internet Service Providers (ISP) and other Internet related suppliers. Apart from looking unprofessional (caused by excessive use of advertisements etc), free Web space is not favoured by many Search engines. It can be quite difficult to get your site noticed, so why create unnecessary hurdles? When selecting a Website Hosting Plan, it is very important to confirm what is, actually, included. As a minimum:
- you should have access to your own Hosting Admin Panel.
- be able to create POP / IMAP Email accounts.
- be able to view automated Website Statistics.
- have a least one MySQL database.
To use as a good comparison, you may wish to look at what is included in our HostStarter Hosting Plan. At £1.50 per month, it is one of the cheapest to be found anywhere in the UK.
Building a Website is no different from decorating your house. If you are prepared to spend as much time sanding down the paintwork, filling in the holes, priming the paintwork and washing everything down, as you do decorating, then applying the same principles to building your Web site will be a breeze. It should be no surprise, successful Websites are directly related to the amount of effort put in to preparation. The first thing you need to decide is; what are the objectives for the Website. Is it for:
- Generating new business leads.
- Somewhere to point existing clients at.
- To give you some sort of web presence.
- Or to help keep marketing costs down.
- For improving the general prestige of the business.
- Or to help in the day-to-day running of the business
- Perhaps a combination of all of the above.
Ultimately, your objectives should dictate the type of Website you build. A good example is our own Website Design industry. Larger Web Design Supplier Websites concentrate more on their client base, whereas, small Web Design firms, such as ourselves, concentrate more on giving clients more detailed information and prices about their services, resulting in many more web pages. Small businesses want to know how much it is going to cost and what they will get for their money and is why our Website includes detailed information and pricing on all our services. If you have no Website objectives, how are you going to evaluate if your Website has been a success? Basing the success of your Website purely on referrals is never a good idea and is why many businesses view their Website as a failure or something that they are not particularly interested in. By not widening their Website’s objectives, many businesses are “missing a trick” and failing to maximise the potential of owning a well thought out Website. To give more of a feel for Website objectives, you may be interested in our Why have a Website article.
Making it easy for visitors to navigate your Website should always be one of your top priorities when designing your Website. The following are some points you may wish to consider;
- How many navigation menus do you need and what type i.e top level navigation, sub-menus, drop-down menus?
- How can visitors easily get to your internal pages?
- Do you want to influence how visitors navigate your Website?
- If so, what techniques will you be using?
- Are internal links clearly signposted?
- Can you add hover descriptions to links?
- Are links part of the written content (in context), rather than, simply, Click here text?
- Are you using call to action techniques to make it easier for visitors to take an action?
- Would it be beneficial to create sub directories for your key services?
- Have you identified key pages that should be accessible from all pages on your Website?
- Have you considered using your page footers to also handle your navigation requirements?
When developing your Website, it is always prudent to incorporate web design techniques to help make your Website friendly to Search Engines. In the industry, this is called Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Not doing so, does not really make much sense and why would anyone want to ignore the modern phenomenon that is, free Internet advertising. Without going into detail, since this subject is fully explained in our two other articles, Why optimise your Website and How to optimise your Website, please find a summary of the key points listed, below.
- SEO is all about identifying search phrases that people will enter into Search Engines to find your products / services and incorporating these phrases into your website design.
- Have you, therefore, identified different key search phrases for each of your pages?
- Have you used key search phrase tools to validate your results?
- Have you included your key search phrases within your Meta Tags, the most important being your Title and Description Meta Tags?
- Search Engines love content! The more written content you have, the more for Search Engines to index.
- Beware not to overdo your key search phrases, since, Search Engines may view this as spamming.
- Have you checked how much of your content Search Engine Bots can read? Remember, they can’t read graphics.
- Have you made your URLs more meaningful i.e /website_services.html instead of /page1.html?
- Are Search Engine Bots able to index all your web pages by following links on your homempage?
- Have you given thought to internal page linking by using your key search phrases to link pages?
- Have you a campaign to find external, related Websites to link to your Website?
- Have you given priority to your key search phrases by listing them near the top of your pages?
- Have you analysed competitor Websites to see how you compare for your key search phrases?
- Have you generated Website Ranking Reports to confirm before and after views of your search phrases?
- Have you considered if it would be easier and cheaper by simply using Google AdWords to achieve high rankings in Google?
- Remember, high rankings in Search Engines is only half the equation. Are you confident your Website will be able to turn visitors into clients?
Ultimately, the success of your Website will depend on the quality of your written content and it’s ability to turn visitors into clients. It is not easy and can take many attempts to try and get it right. Below is a summary of what needs to be considered. A fuller description is detailed in our other article, How to write content for Websites.
- It is very important to view your written content through the eyes of your website visitors.
- Identify at least five different types of people who will visit your Website and write content to address their informational requirements i.e. potential clients as opposed to existing clients..
- Identify what issues visitors bring to your Website and begin to address these issues in the Homepage.
- Use techniques to gain empathy with your visitors.
- Always put your content through the “so what” test i.e. “We pride ourselves in customer support…”. So what! Doesn’t every business make the same claim?.
- Identify at least five high level features of your business and weave them into every part of your written content i.e. professional, friendly, flexible, competitive pricing, customer service etc.
- Identify at least five USPs and repeat them as many times as is possible throughout your Website.
- Keep you paragraphs short and try and include paragraph headers, where possible.
- Try not to include too much written content on the page. It tends to frighten people!
- Stay clear of business jargon, such as, “In todays fast moving business…”. The only people impressed with this type of content is the people who write it.
- Treat your website visitors as real people write accordingly i.e. start by welcoming them to your Website, since, that is what you would do if they walked through your door.
- Try and use modern web design techniques to display your content. This page is a good example.
- Have a chat with some of your customers to find out what they would like to see on your Website.
You can have the best Website in the world but if no one knows it exists, then it is not going to deliver the success you hoped for. How you promote your Website really depends on what your objectives are for the Website. Is it purely for lead generation or is it also to be used for helping improve customer support levels. Either way, your Website is no different from any other service or product you offer; you still need to tell people about it. The following are some steps you can take to promote your Website, especially, new Websites.
- Tell your existing clients about your new Website. Most people tend to remember a web address, making referrals for your business much easier.
- Encourage existing clients to visit your Website for breaking news stories regarding new products, won orders or industry specific news.
- Perhaps you could have an Online Helpdesk and encourage clients to use that as a way to help improve your customer service levels. Or have your Website answer time consuming frequently asked questions. The point is; it is equally important to make your website of interest and benefit to existing customers, otherwise, what is the point of them visiting your Website.
- Use your Website in new client negotiations by directing them to relevant pages on your Website for more information, therefore, speeding up the sales process. Much quicker and cheaper than posting glossy brochures.
- Have your web and email address on all business stationery and vehicles.
- There are over 50 free Search Engines / Directories in the UK where you can submit your Website for inclusion. Having external links to your Website can improve your link popularity. It can be time consuming, which is why we offer a service to do this for you.
- Look at submitting your Website to industry specific Directories.
- Participate in Social Media Websites, such as, Facebook and Twitter.
- Create a Google AdWords campaign to get your Website top of Google for your key search phrases.
- Monitor all referrals coming into the business to confirm if your Website marketing played any part in the process.