For a lot of companies, deciding to build a website for their business raises a lot of questions and introductions a range of new terminology and buzz words.
We've put this article together to act as an initial guide for companies and individuals getting started with the web site development.
1. Purpose of the website
What is the target audience of your website? In most cases this would be your existing and potential customers. Some websites are merely brochure sites to showcase a company's product range. The website's focus could well be to promote a professional image for the company as part of an ongoing sales process.
The goal of the majority of websites is to generate leads and absolutely new business.
Question to ask yourself? What do I want to gain for my business from this website?
The layout of the website is the position of menus, text and images.
A lot of websites will have a home page layout which is specifically designed to give an introduction to the rest of the site. It is good design practice to limit the length of the home page to one screen so that the entire page can be viewed without scrolling.
The additional pages will then take a slightly different form to allow for unlimited page length.
Look at some websites of your competitors or companies in a similar business in other countries to get ideas for the layout of your new site.
In a website development project, the content (text and images) for the website is quite often the last thing to be put in place. Website content can be easily updated and added to but it is important to spend time getting it right from the start.
Consider your target customers when writing your website content. Put yourself in your customer's shoes try to imagine what they would enter into a search engine when looking for your business. For example, if you provide web development services in Waterford, use this sentence in your website content.
Images for the site are also extremely important. Amateur images can bring down the entire look of the site. Use stock photo libraries such as iStockPhoto to source images relevant to your business.
4. Content Management Systems
A lot of websites are built using content management systems. The job of the content management system is to dynamically create the pages and content for the website based on the content created in the system. Content management systems allow non-technical member of your company to update and maintain the website without having to learn HTML and CSS.
Examples of content management systems are Typo3, Joomla, Drupal, and WordPress.
Ask your web developer whether you will have the ability to update the website yourself and whether training on this system is included in the price.
5. Search engines
When I meet prospective clients one of the first things they say to me is that they want to have the first link on Google when people search for their product or service.
In a lot of cases achieving this goal can often be more time consuming and costly then the initial development of the website. Convincing Google that your website is the most relevant website to list when a certain search is performed can be a difficult task. In the short term, look at paid advertising systems such as Google AdWords. Monitor what keywords people are using to find your site and then use this information to perform keyword optimization. Depending on your market, it may be necessary to work with an SEO professional to improve your ranking on search engines.
It's very important to find out on a weekly basis how many people visited your site and where they came from (ie Did they find you on a search engine? Where are they referred from another site?).
There are a range of excellent reporting tools available on the internet. Google provides a free service called Google analytics which we use for our customers.
The technology used to create your site is important. Avoid websites heavily based on tables as this can slow the page load time down. Ask your developer if they use CSS or table based layout methods.
You website will need to be hosted in order for it to be always available on the internet. Most web developers will also offer a hosting service for a small annual fee.
Backup is also important when considering hosting and is not always provided as standard. Ask your web developer whether your website is backed up regularly or not.
The final thing to consider with hosting is the location of the hosting server. For example if your website is targeted at the Irish market, your website should be located in Ireland. Google and other search engines take this into consideration when returning results.
There are a lot of differences between the way certain web browsers display a web page. Internet explorer (the most common web browser) and Firefox (the second most common browser) can display the same web page very differently. Internet explorer 6 is notoriously difficult to work with at times and is typically being no longer supported by the likes of Google.
Ask your web developer to ensure cross browser compatibility when developing your website.
10. Domain names
Your website will require a domain name eg yourcompany.com. This domain name will need to be registered in your business name and renewed each year, unless you purchase a number of years in advance.
If your business is based in Ireland, you can qualify for a .ie domain. These are slightly more expensive and you will need some proof of claim such as a registered business name.
Discuss this with your web developer, they will often look after this as part of the service.
The cost of a website should cover the following:
- Initial development of the website
- Training on any content management system used
- Ongoing updates and maintenance if necessary.
- Annual hosting
- Daily backups
- Domain name renewal.
We hope you find this guide useful, and remember, nothing is set in stone on a website, if you need to make changes the web site design should allow this without cost you the earth.