In this instalment of Words that Bite, I investigate how to ensure you build the best possible website for your business and so avoid a potential nightmare.
I think almost any business owner who hasn’t been through the process underestimates how much work is involved in creating a website. It is also alarming how many businesses pay a fortune for a website they end up loathing. However, they are stuck with it, because they’ve forked out a pile of cash and so can’t afford to abandon it.
The trick is to get it right the first time.
Before any business owner embarks on the process of creating a website, they should get an understanding of how websites work.
Obviously, anyone who uses the internet has a pretty good idea about their likes and dislikes when it comes to websites. That said, it is also useful to take it a step further and get a professional insight into building websites. I don’t mean by this that you need to become an expert in writing code. Instead, you need to focus on the nuts and bolts. A great starting point is Steve Krug’s book Don’t Make Me Think.
I do realise that asking a person who is flat out running a business to add reading books to their workload is asking a lot. However, for anyone thinking of putting together their own website, spending a little time doing some research can mean the difference between creating one that is a dud and one that is divine. Finally, I should add that Steve Krug’s book is not only a joy to read but explains in very practical terms the key elements that make websites work.
It sounds obvious, but one of the most important things you can do to ensure you get the wonderful website of your dreams is to work out exactly what you like and dislike when it comes to website design.
Ask yourself these questions:
When creating a website, you need to research what your competitors are doing online. The next step is to ask what you like/dislike about these websites.
Finally, you need to consider how you are going to make your website stand out from the crowd.
I suggest that, before you contact a web developer/designer, you spend some time preparing your website architecture – that is, the structure of the website. Before a web designer/developer gives you a quote, they will need to know how many pages the site will include. To work this out, you will need to sit down and work out exactly how your website will be organised.
If your website is going to have a lot of elements, this might take a bit of time. You need to play around with it to get the best possible structure. For example, if you are setting up an online store where you will sell a large number of products, then you will probably need to spend a lot of time working out how to organise the website so it is as easy as possible for your customers to navigate.
Again, a great starting point is to look at the websites of your competitors and ask yourself how you can make your website better than theirs.
One of the biggest dilemmas when creating a business website is finding the right website designer/developer. Too often, clients ring me and complain they’ve spent thousands of dollars on their website and are far from happy with the results.
A web designer is the person who decides how your website should look. Most web designers have a background in graphic design. They usually also have an understanding of usability. They work at the front end of the website, and control what the customer or client sees.
A web developer is the person who writes the code to ensure that your website works the way it should. They work at the back end of the website and ensure that the site works properly. Quite often, they also have an understanding of design.
Basically, the roles of the web designer and web developer overlap. Occasionally, one person covers both roles.
As soon as you embark on the hunt for the perfect web designer/developer for your business, you will discover that prices for websites vary dramatically.
In addition, I would suggest that the traditional rule that you get what you pay for is not necessarily true when it comes to websites. Web design and development is a very competitive business; it is also unregulated. You may find that if your website is relatively small, your job will be a low priority for a large company. You may be better off going to a boutique designer/developer. At the same time, though, if your website is particularly complicated, you need to make sure that the designer/developer you select is capable of delivering a website that works. In short, the guy who works in his basement on a part-time basis may not be the wisest choice in this case, even if his quote is a third of his much larger competitor.
I suggest you do plenty of research in order to find the right web designer/developer for your business:
So, when you are looking for a website designer/developer, you should do plenty of research before you make your final decision. Don’t pick a company just because it is located around the corner from your office and you bumped into someone from it at the local café while picking up your morning cappuccino!
Usually when you hire a web designer/developer, they will present you with a document asking you all sorts of weird and wonderful questions about your business.
These documents can be called anything from a ‘design brief’ to an ‘identity brief’. Their questions can range from the practical, such as: ‘Tell us the history of your business/organisation’, to :
Some business owners might be quite comfortable with these kinds of questions. However, others will probably feel very strange trying to explain what sort of animal symbolises their firm’s brand. I think this is particularly true of lawyers and accountants.
The reason website developers/designers ask these kind of questions is to ensure that the design of the website matches the business. For this reason, it is helpful to make the effort to fill in the answers. The important thing to understand is that the web designer is working blind. They will probably know nothing about your business. Therefore, the more information you can provide them with, the more chance there is they will come up with the right design for your business.
One useful trick to ensure that the design of the website matches your brand is to prepare the copy before you allow the designer to go ahead with the design. If a web designer can read the copy before they begin designing, they will have a strong sense of what your business is about and the image you are trying to convey.
Most web designers/developers will tell you that this is unnecessary. However, I disagree. I think it makes everyone’s life easier if the copy is completed before the design process is commenced.
When ensuring you get the website you want for your business, there are several steps you can take to maximise the chances of ending up with a website you love rather than loathe:
Do you need help with your website? The Pink Rottweiler likes nothing more than injecting life into a website that has fallen flat. If you want to chat about your website, call the Pink Rottweiler on +61 (0)409 609 903 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.