There are a lot of things to think about before you start to build a website, or engage somebody else to build one for you. It is very easy to get into discussing features and how wonderful your new website is going to look without really getting involved in what your website needs to do in order to support your business.
Nobody knows your business better than you do and like any other business expense your site needs to work for you. A website can cost anything from absolutely zero to tens of thousands of pounds, but even a cheap website should have a purpose. It’s also wise to remember that sometimes you get what you pay for, so it’s important to choose wisely.
So before you reach the stage of handing over a copy of your logo and a bag of money, lets talk about your shiny new website and answer some very important questions. What is the primary goal? What’s it’s purpose? What do you want it to do? If your website could only do one thing, what should that be? One way to answer these questions is to think about the people visiting your website. Who are they and when they get to your website what do you want them to do?
Common website goals include selling products, showcasing your work and encouraging people to ring and make appointments.
It is vital that you have a clear idea of the goals for your website. If you are running an online store then the goal is to sell online, which means that you want your customers to select and purchase your products. If however you are a hairdresser or run a beauty salon then you will want customers to make an appointment by either ringing you or calling into the salon, so it’s important that your telephone number is prominently displayed. This is also vital for building services or other home improvements which require a home visit in order to provide quotes.
For many businesses a website can be used as a shop window as it presents an opportunity to show examples of your work. It’s a chance for you stand out from your competitors and show your skills to potential customers. Although their skill set may be very different from landscape gardeners to nail technicians pictures of before and after can be a persuasive way to help potential clients use their imagination and picture how you can help them.
Although websites are often viewed primarily as a tool to drive sales, they can also be used to provide customer service. Giving customers an opportunity to raise an issue online means that you are able to provide a 24 hour customer service facility and is usually cheaper to run than a large call centre. You will still need customer service personnel to resolve the issues and respond to your customers but if a large percentage of your enquiries are sent online then you have the advantage of being able to schedule the online enquiries to a time when the telephones are less busy. Simple techniques such as providing opening times, online maps and lists of FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions) can allow your customers to serve themselves and reduce the amount of time you spend on the telephone.
Once you have spent some time identifying the goals for your website and have a clear picture of what the website needs to do, it will be easier for you to choose which features your website should include. It may also influence your choice of layout and design. If you expect them to ring you then don’t hide your telephone number in a contact page. If you would like them to sign up to your newsletter, make it quick and easy. Simple things such as adding a form to collect enquiries is a better solution than hoping that your customer provides all the information you need in an email.
Hopefully this post will help you to identify the goals for your website or at least encourage you to think about it. If you aren’t sure what your website is supposed to do, then don’t spend any money until you are.