I often speak with entrepreneurs who wonder how they are going to get their first business website up when they don't even know what questions to ask.
One of the best ways to find out what questions you should be asking is to ask people the following empowering question:
What questions should I be asking?
It's a great way to size up the person you are talking with. After you've done it with 2-3 different people, you'll already start to get an idea of what you want and what you should be asking. I always say, the only dumb questions are the ones that you don't ask. Remember, you can always go back and follow up with new questions.
The fact is, when you are first starting out, professional web developers should actually be asking you questions about your business, your target market and help you paint a vision for your website without overwhelming you with too many details. Like a car, computer or even an electric toothbrush, you only need to know so much about it before you feel comfortable that it will meet your needs. Therefore avoid people who starts off by assuming that they know what your business and clients needs are.
To help you get started, here are the layers to a typical website:
- Physical -- This is where your website's pages will be stored (hosting) and how you people will get there (domain name address).
- Software-- This are the files that make your website work. In the past, people used to hire developers to create web pages in a language called HTML. Not only was it complicated, the effort required to make changes on the website would increase exponentially depending on what changes you made.Today, in order to make it easier to make changes, many people use a Content Management System (CMS). While there are many different ones available, the most popular one by far is called WordPress. It allows you to make changes to your website through menus. Typing your content is very similar to using Microsoft Word.If you've ever used a Smartphone like an iPhone or Android phone, you're probably be familiar with apps. In WordPress, these are called Plug-Ins. Once installed, they become an integral part of your website's CMS. There are thousands of plug-ins for just about anything. For example, there are WordPress plugins to link your website with social media, to create forms, to create photo galleries, to sell product/service on-line (shopping carts), to take event registration and payments, display a calendar of events, send out newsletters, create profitable membership sites, and much more. That combined with it's ease of use are the reasons WordPress is so popular.
- Theme -- This is a template that controls the look and feel of your website including things like the layout, the design graphics, the fonts and the colours. For business sites, the appearance of your website should match the branding of the rest of your business so that when someone with one of your business cards shows up at your website, they can easily tell that they have arrived at the right place.
- Structure and Navigation -- How will your website be organized? How will people find what they are looking for? A website can be as simple as a single page or you can create the ultimate resource on the web for your business' industry. Between the two extremes are basic 4 page websites (Home, Products/Services, About, Contact Us) which are manageable, especially when you are first starting out. Using a CMS will make it easy for your website to easily grow with your business. Often some of the first things to be added include the ability to take on-line payments, adding a blog to publishing credibility building articles, and a sign-up form to help start building your mailing list. When possible, I highly recommend including the blog and a search engine to your website right form the beginning, even if you don't turn them on right away. These are features built-in to WordPress and therefore shouldn't cost you much to have them include them up front.
- Content -- This is what readers are coming to get when they visit your website. It includes the text and graphics that appear in your website and may even be interactive. Each page on your website should have a specific purpose and call to action. Understanding the basics of how search engines like Google understand and evaluate your website can be very important if you plan on having people find your business on the Web.
- Security -- Because WordPress is currently the most popular CMS on the Internet, it is also a popular target for hackers. While it doesn't take very much effort to enhance security in WordPress, it should still be done. Don't forget to include a backup strategy as part of the security strategy for your site.
- Marketing-- While it's all nice to have a website on the Internet for your business, it's not going to be worth much if people can't find it. Implementing a strategic marketing action plan will help bring people, often referred to as traffic, to business doorstep on the web -- your website.Part of this marketing strategy should include having the ability to monitor the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns using a tool called Analytics. When integrated into your website, you'll be able to see which pages people are visiting and which ones they are not. It will also tell you where in the world they are coming from and how much time they spent on a particular page. For example, if you attend a networking event and give out 10 business cards, or you publish an article on the web, you should see some increase of traffic on your website.
Last but not least, ask about support. Any good web developer should not only be there for you before and during the development process, they should be there for you afterwards. I can't begin to tell you how many stories people have shared with me about getting a beautiful new website that cost them lots of money which they eventually had to abandon because they simply didn't know how to make any changes. In the web development world, this is a form of entrapment because the developer knows that the client will have to come back to them to make any changes. A web developer should also include a one-on-one training/Q&A session to ensure that you've got the basics of managing your website as well as the option to ask questions for at least the first month after the work has been completed, even if it is only by email.
Contact me to have a no-obligation conversation to help you get started where we will go over some of the basics of your first business website.