TOPIC OF THE MONTH
BUILDING A WEBSITE 101
I get a few calls and emails each week from people expressing an interest in having a website built. I always welcome the exchange of ideas, thoughts and concerns that tend to be a natural part of the conversation. I've noticed that there are some redundant aspects to these inquiries that can also make the conversations a little confusing. My hope is to address some of these issues with a short series of articles that cover a few key topics to consider.
BEFORE WE BEGIN...
When you start planning your website there are a few considerations that are always worth addressing. I bring these questions to the forefront because they are:
1) important to consider;
2) help to focus attention of what really needs to be done; and,
3) aid in determining what type of web designer/website you really need (or can afford).
First, ask yourself, "Why do I need a website?"
The answer to this question can vary from website to website. Some people are looking to promote their brand. Others are looking to attract new clients or customers. You may have a product (or services) that you'd like to sell, market or advertise. You may want to offer information on the web so that it is accessible by others. Or, you've noticed that your competition (or a similar organization) has their own website and it just seems like the right thing to do.
While the reasons for having a website are varied, the underlying reality is that the web has become intertwined with most of our day-to-day routines. We look up, search, purchase, sell, verify, investigate and entertain ourself using our desktops, tablets and smart phones. If we want to know something, we "Google it!" For the majority of businesses, the web has changed everything. A decade ago, you would give someone your business card or telephone number, or you would advertise in the local newspaper or classifieds. Now? You are more likely to email your website URL, or post a digital ad.
The secret to a successful website is simply knowing what you want to accomplish – specifically! Above all else, it is important to discuss your vision of the outcome of having your new website. This normally includes establishing some goals and agendas.
Secondly, ask yourself, "Why can't I do this myself?"
The answer to this one is simple... you can! There are a variety of Do-It-Yourself options out there. From time-to-time, I actually refer potential clients to DIY-CMS (Website Building) options. Depending on what you are attempting to accomplish, the DIY approach may actually be the most practical and cost-effective solution. In some instances, you may even get by with a "free website offer" and end up with a beautiful website for a few dollars a year.
The initial downside to DIY websites is the obvious fact: You have to do it yourself! Some people who create a website using one of these DIY web services take to it like a fish to water. For the majority of people, however, it is more like learning a new language; difficult, frustrating and very time-consuming. The vast majority of my new clients are people that have tried it on their own before. Most of them comment, "There was just so much more to it than I had expected."
Thirdly, ask yourself, "How much should/can I budget for the website?"
This is the most difficult question for most people to answer – usually because they approach the topic as a basic cost-comparison without fully considering what they are receiving (or asking) for. If you call any web studio and simply want a price, "How much is this going to cost me?" – it creates an immediate "rock-and-hard-place" situation.
Herein lies the problem.
There can be a very huge valley between "building a website" and "building the website that you need." When you talk about designing a website, we instinctively discuss the "physical" details – what it will look like, how it will navigate, images, content, etc. But there is more to it.
In very simple terms, compare these three phrases:
“I need a website.”
“I need a website that ranks well in the search engines.”
"I need a website that brings in new business."
Quite honestly, these are three entirely different projects. The cost of a website changes once we start adding some specific goals to it.
A good rule of thumb is to seriously consider your goals and allot as much as you are comfortable with to funding. Shortchanging in the beginning is never a great idea – but it is often done. While being frugal is a good, common sense business practice – there are some necessary elements required to make any website successful. Be sure to include those elements in your website, and if you are not sure what those elements are... be sure to ask about them.
You can have a website created for "half the price" if you eliminate SEO or best practice policies, but the resulting website most probably will not perform as well as the website that includes them. I always tell people to consider and include "optimization-growth strategies" when planning a website; whether you are doing it yourself or hiring someone to do it for you. "Yes, it may add a few dollars to the initial build," but 95% of all websites will need to include those costs somewhere in their history. Doing it early in the game creates a useful jump-start that you will always appreciate in the future. It is not an all-or-nothing option. You can gradually grow a website (and achieve goals) successfully with nearly any budget.