by Dawn Wigginton, Vest VP of New Business and Jeremy Williams, Interactive Director
“What programming language should we be using?” “Is my site out of date? ” “Is this color/font/content bad?” “Why is my competitor outranking me on Google?”
These tend to be the first questions that come up when we are meeting with clients about creating a new website. We understand. Websites have become so important to a company’s image–both as a calling card and hub for your overall marketing efforts–that companies consistently worry about whether their site is “keeping up” with social and technology trends. Does my site need to be tweaked…or trashed? The answer to this question doesn’t lie in asking yourself about the details. To get to that answer, you have to ask yourself the right questions–about how your site should function, who your audience is, how you want it to connect to the rest of the social/mobile world. So before you begin your next big web project, we’ve included a handy checklist of things clients often miss…
1) Does my website need to connect to the functions of other departments? If your website has an ecommerce function, or hooks into customer service/sales in any way, you need to make sure you have the right back end CMS (Content Management System.) We can help you determine which one is right for you based on your site traffic. There’s also some great systems out there for connecting people who visit your site into prospect lists for your sales department. Talk to us about how you can customize and focus your sales efforts.
2) Is it easy to update? Nothing can eat up a marketing budget faster than a website that requires a high level programmer to update a simple piece of copy. A company should be able to update its website with no outside help, and constantly changing topical information is key to keeping your website high in the search rankings. We develop the majority of our websites with CMS in mind, to make them easier to manage. Do yourself a favor and make sure you can build upon any new foundation you set.
3) Does the site have “burstability”? What kind of traffic do you have now, and what times of day do you have it? What kind of traffic do you want to have? Your hosting platform should offer you the ability to boost your capacity as new traffic comes in, even if it’s in big bursts.
4) If you are offering ecommerce, how will you process payment? A lot of small business will start off with an entry level ecommerce platform, and that’s fine. But the more products you add, the more important it becomes to put your ecommerce platform on a really robust platform, like Rubyonrails, which we’ve used for several large ecommerce sites. Which platform you pick will depend a lot on what you need it to do, and it requires a big conversation with your web design/programming team.
5) Have you properly set up your secure server license? This is critical to getting an ecommerce site to run properly. If you’re connecting your ecommerce to servers in the cloud, or servers internally, either way, you’ll need one of these set up with the proper authorities. Make sure your web team walks you through the process step by step.
6) Will people on mobile devices be able to view my site? Shocking, I know, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t plan for this. Websites today need to be designed in a simple and clean way, with the mobile community in mind. Recent studies are showing that mobile devices are outselling desktop machines, which means more and more people may be coming to your website on a mobile or tablet device. Unless you keep this audience in mind, you could lose future customers. Links and phone numbers should respond to touch commands on a tablet or phone. Copy should not be too dense on any page.
7) How can I make this website shareable? The secret to good SEO rankings is lots of new and constantly changing content, like blogs, new product listings, news stories, incoming links and feeds. When you add this content, make sure you add share buttons for Twitter, Facebook, Feedburner, RSS, Google +1, Digg, Delicious, and the like. For regular contributors like bloggers on your site, add +K buttons in your sidebar, so readers can +K and add points to the blogger’s Klout score under a certain topic.
8) Do I have a plan for SEO? Have you thought about your keywords? Have you thought about how they will be distributed throughout your website? You need to work those in, organically throughout your site when it is being designed, and a lot of tagging needs to be done. As you add new content, you need to always be doing it with your keywords in mind.
9) How will I promote this website? We see it over and over. Companies pay for us to build the online “ferrari” and then they leave it in the driveway. Plan now for your traffic building tactics, like Google Ads, Facebook Ads, digital promotions, links on your traditional brochures and ads and more. There’s a lot of sophisticated techniques out there to try. Don’t be shy about it.
10) Most of all, how will this relate to my overall marketing strategy? It seems obvious, but it is surprising how many people think of their website as an island apart from everything else they’re doing. Your website literally is the center of your company’s identity. It’s the first place people go when they want to find out more about your company. It should set the tone and provide a leaping off point for them to order product, get in touch with sales staff, get more background information, and more. It is also the place they leap back to off links all over the Internet. All your messages have to be consistent, promotions should relate to and tie in together. Do this, and your website is well on its way to succeeding.
If you’re interested in working with us to design your website, just contact Dawn at email@example.com.