Not so long ago, designing and setting up a website was akin to performing surgery. It was tedious, technical, and solely the domain of experts. Ongoing website maintenance was practically a full-time job, fraught with frustration. There was no way every business or individual could manage a site.
How times have changed! Websites are now a dime a dozen. Almost anyone can have a website for minimal investment. It’s exciting, but it also means competition is high! A successful website has seconds to catch the attention of visitors, deliver on promise, and keep them interested. Second chances are rare.
That’s where we can help. Running a successful website is your aim, and helping you is our goal. Before you launch your new website, take time to consider these 5 crucial points.
- Have a visionDon’t jump in blind! Many website owners forget the first and most crucial step in the design process: A vision for the website. Before you start designing pages, you must take the time to carefully and strategically plan ahead.To help define your vision, ask yourself some key questions:
- What is the purpose of your website?
- What type of website do you want? (Blog, information center, ecommerce site… )
- Why will people come to your site? What benefits are you offering?
There is nothing more frustrating than visiting a website in search of valuable information and then being asked to buy irrelevant products. Likewise, someone looking for a specific product or service wants to be able to purchase it quickly and easily, and not have to sift through oodles of pages. Define what you do, and do it well. Have a vision for future expansion – but don’t get carried away in the early days.
- Plan your website contentProper due diligence will differentiate a successful website from a weak one. A good website is not just about putting up beautiful pages; the content needs to be relevant, succinct, and perfectly in tune with your vision. Capture the visitor’s attention with strong headlines and titles. Let the visitor know exactly what your site is about with just a glance. Regularly consult your mission statement to be sure you stay on topic. Remember: everything has to be designed and written in order to attract, impress, and retain visitors.
- Define your target audienceWho is your ideal site visitor? Put yourself in the shoes of that person and think about what you would be looking for. Why would you visit this site? Why is it worth your time? Remember, you may need to present information in different ways for different age groups, professions, or level of expertise. Your website must meet the wants and needs of your target audience – it’s the only way to retain visitors.
- Set realistic goals – and find the tools you need to meet themYou’ve already established your overall vision, now you need to establish short- and long-term goals. If you are a small business looking to expand into new markets, for example, be sure your website is a natural extension of that business. Consider how you will promote your site and the features you might need to do so (marketing tools, newsletter signup, coupons, polls…).Or perhaps you’re trying to establish a new online community. In that case, you might need to incorporate tools such as comments, forum posts, and social sharing. Knowing what you hope to achieve will allow you to select the features, widgets, and add-ons that will help you get there
- Determine how you will engage your audienceYou need to give your audience what they want – not just once, but on an ongoing basis. If your visitors are going to come to your website for great content or information, give them just that! Offer white papers, articles, and regular blog posts – even downloadable presentations or documents. Providing an easy way to comment or discuss will keep visitors interested. If your visitors want to shop, you will need engaging material such as product descriptions, technical features, images, and possibly side-by-side product comparisons. Product reviews and social sharing widgets are crucial for getting the word out about your website!
The bottom line: You only have one chance to make a first impression on the visitors who will make or break your website. Forethought and vision goes a long way and will only help you in the end. Know your site before you even start – and be open to evolution!