You’re ready to build a website – you know your brand, the products or services you offer, and how future customers will use the site. You’ve made all of the difficult decisions, but to create a website for your startup can be a little intimidating. It’s like standing at the counter at the ice cream store when you’re hungry – everything looks good! How do you choose?
It’s best to start with the bare minimum, according to Allison Chaney of Bare Knuckle Digital. That means “a logo, a basic idea of what the site should look like (color scheme, layout), and what content should go on the site (‘about us’ page, products page, blog, etc.),” she says. She also suggests a customized site over using a template.
A customized website means yours won’t look like some other company’s website, and it will meet your unique needs. It will cost a little bit more, but it’s possible to avoid unnecessary costs by selectively matching your needs with the bells and whistles offered by web designers and hosting companies.
Data in, Data Out
Visitors to your site are going to learn something about your business and you. By keeping their needs in mind, you can provide valuable information that will lead to a request for more details, a phone call, or a sale. To make sure your site offers value, share tools and your expertise.
eCommerce – Make it possible for your customers to buy or place an order on your website.
Blog – Don’t hide your expertise out of fear competitors will see it. Share it openly to prove to potential customers that you’ve got the chops to deliver results.
Special Features – Add a calculator related to your product or service (square footage to calculate flooring needs, or mortgage calculator to calculate monthly payments). Interactive features also give site visitors a reason to stay on your site (change the paint color in a virtual room).
Photo Gallery – Add a visual portfolio of your successes or a window-shopping experience for potential customers.
All of those people who visit your site and use the resources you offer will create a wealth of data that you can use for sales and marketing initiatives and other metrics for important business decisions. You can also use this data to evaluate how effective your site is, according to Chaney.
“For localized sites, you can view your data by geographic area to determine if you are reaching users near your location(s),” she says. “You can look at referral traffic, which is traffic from other sites, and measure how many relevant sites link to you and are sending traffic. You can also look at search engine traffic, which should typically be around 50 – 80% of all your site traffic.”
The Top of the List
Search engines determine which websites land at the top of the list of search results. So to make it to the top, or even on the first page, you have to make sure the behind-the-scenes work on your website is good. Part of the coding process is search engine optimization (SEO). While it’s possible to learn a lot about SEO on the internet, the best results will most likely be achieved more quickly be a professional who is current on best practices.
While plugins and services claim to be “SEO Friendly” or “SEO focused,” there’s a certain level of knowledge and skill required to make those work effectively. Free training courses can add to your understanding, so can using free tools such as Google Analytics and Google Search Console. The Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress can help those who wish to have a more hands-on approach, or simply learn how optimization works. But an expert will be able to leverage strategies to increase traffic to a site and boost visibility.
And now that 50% of users access the internet via a mobile device – phone, tablet, watch – it’s essential to make sure your site will be close to the top of this as well as work as efficiently on a small screen.
“It’s very important to make a site mobile responsive,” says Chaney. “There are a few exceptions where a particular site is really more for desktop usage. If you’re not sure and you have Google Analytics on your site, you can tell how many users are actually viewing your site from a mobile device.”
Most design packages include website design for all computer types and screen sizes. As a result, they’re not as expensive as they used to be. But this does create some added planning work. The usage of your site will mean a different experience for the user, so you need to keep that in mind.
Chaney cautions that the best websites are mobile-responsive, not merely a mobile version of the site built for a computer.
“The difference between mobile-responsive (website) and a mobile version is that the mobile-responsive site responds to the device. It adjusts to fit the screen, where a mobile version delivers different content depending on what device you’re viewing from.”
Features to Include
All of these elements are going to cost money to create, tweak, and update. Finding a company that can offer design assistance and web hosting can help reduce costs with a comprehensive package of services. Another option is choosing a designer who will be able to help you with all aspects of your site functionality, not just the coding.
Here are some other elements to consider when building your new site.
Purchase your domain name – this is a minimal expense, makes your website easier to remember and looks professional.
Use video– this is another way to engage your potential customers via testimonials, some instruction or a personal message from the president/founder.
Use good images – visuals that support the message of your site are another way to engage potential customers, as long as they are of high quality. Inexpensive or free stock images can detract from the impression you’re trying to make.
Make contact easy – have contact information readily available and easy to use. If you choose to use a form, keep it simple. While this does add a level of security for your computer network, it can also frustrate customers if it takes too long to send a note.