Have you ever visited a website for, oh, anything, and found that the only information that you gleaned from the site was that the website designers had absolutely no idea what they were doing? Did you ever suspect that some websites secretly wanted to see how many seizures their graphics can induce?
Web design isn’t easy. Anyone who thinks so has likely either never designed a website, or possibly designed something strongly resembling this. Even the organizations that seem as though they have every design resource imaginable will occasionally come up with a website so poorly conceived that it flummoxes the customers it’s supposed to seduce and winds up on horrible web design top ten lists.
It isn’t enough to just have a website – the website has to invite users to stay on it and actually read it in order to serve its purpose. If users click off almost immediately, you might as well not have had a website at all. If you’re designing your own site and are new to the world of the interwebs, here are four questions you should ask before committing to a brand spanking new website.
What should my domain name be?
Firstly, the name of your company or brand should be wholly unique; the olden days where small businesses in different cities or even states could have the same or similar names and be relatively unaffected are so very over. When a potential customer types “John’s Auto Detailing” into Google, for example, and gets results for Temecula, Portland, Roanoke, and Appleton, the casual internet user might become annoyed at his or her difficulty in finding you. To really do your name justice, consider hiring outside help for your branding efforts.
But, let’s say you’re married to the name “John’s Auto Detailing,” for some reason. Hopefully, you’ll have secured a domain name that was the exact name of your brand, because “John’s Auto Detailing” is the exact sort of domain name that will have been taken by many, many other sources, and subtle variations might not cut it. There could be johnscardetailbethesda.com, and johnsautodetailingbaltimore.com. Imagine your competition’s pleasant surprise when his detail service suddenly gets an influx of customers meant for you.
What content software should I use?
Investigate this carefully — the content management software (CMS) could make a huge difference in terms of ease of site maintenance and professional appearance. The type of information and services your website is going to deliver will dictate the type of content, or “back end” software that you use. If have an ecommerce site, you’ll want your platform to be able to handle your front-end order management while corresponding with your back-end inventory, as well as handle all of the different sales-related minutiae (deals, coupons, promo codes, upsells, etc.).
If your site is largely informational, then you might want to investigate that old standby WordPress — the granddaddy of content optimization software. Of course, you have countless options to choose from: Drupal, MODx, Joomla… well, maybe not countless, but you do have choices.
Who is my website for?
Client: Alright, I want my site to really pop…
Web Designer: Pop? Okay…
Client: Yeah — BIG photos, animated GIFs, an intro page…
Web Designer: I see…
Client: Lots of scrolling photos, too.
Web Designer: And your company sells…
Client: Janitorial and laboratory clean room supplies.
Not every industry can or should have a website that could also double for a Tim Burton film; this is especially true of services and products that people aren’t inherently charmed by. If you provide reasonably priced mold remediation services, please bear in mind that no one wants to casually browse your site purely for the enjoyment of it — they want pricing, hours, service areas and probably authoritative information about the dangers of mold and how to spot it. Keep the distractions to a minimum.
If your target customers are older professionals, you want a clean and efficient website. If your market is a young demographic, then maybe you can afford to have a braver, more inventive concept. If you sell products and services to new mothers, you can have lots of new parent information, a community forum and lots of media, since that is likely what your audience will respond to. The most important thing is: Don’t try to make your website unusual just for the sake of it; speak directly to your particular customer.
What is the most important information?
Or, what does a person need to know in order to give my business money?
If you have a restaurant, and your website doesn’t include an easily accessible menu of the dishes you offer, then there is literally no point to even having a website (believe us — we’ve seen websites do this and been incredibly annoyed).
If your business is local, make sure your address, phone number, hours of operation and lists of services are front and center. If your business is ecommerce, have the products you specialize in clearly delineated, the shopping cart easy to access, and customer service contacts prominently displayed.
Ultimately, the answers to the above questions will get you well on your way to developing a website that will help, not infuriate, your customer base. Naturally, there are supplementary questions that you also might want to ask in order to really hone your digital marketing strategy, but starting with a website that encourages people to use your services will put you far ahead of your competition.