Why SMEs may consider investing in a new website, and what to consider if you do
11 September 2019
by Tomas Pukalski, Framework Digital Ltd
As small business owners, we typically invest time and money creating a website. This online presence helps us to attract interest, showcase our offer and generate leads, but does it?
If your business website is difficult to find in the search engines you may find it is failing to generate fresh enquiries. Other factors may also frustrate you about the functionality. Do you find your website:
- expensive or complicated to update?
- outdated and unimpressive?
- lacking the ability to take bookings or making enquiries?
If your website no longer reflects your business operations, seems outdated and fails to meet expectations, it could have a negative effect on your brand and sales potential. No business can afford this negative press, so if these points have got you thinking, it is time to consider your priorities for a new website.
Website Design Priorities
There are over 1.5 billion websites on the World Wide Web today. How do you ensure your website stands out and delivers results?
A strong analogy is to consider your business website in the same light as your Sales Manager. It needs to look the part, provide clear, relevant information and convert interest into custom.
If your sales manager turned up to a meeting in an ill-fitting suit, talking about a deal he struck a decade ago and carrying last year’s price list, things would not get off to a good start. Making a great first impression is as important online as it is in person. Potential customers could be visiting your website at any time, so you need to be confident that it delivers.
Ask for a Website Review
If your website is not generating any leads and you are unclear about where the problem lies, a detailed review of your existing site can provide insight.
Many digital marketing agencies offer a website review service. Delving deeper than appearances, they will use analytics, competitor research and expertise to assess whether the website provides good user experience and is serving you as an effective marketing tool. You can expect feedback on these five elements:
The review should clearly identify the strengths of your existing website, as well as where problems lie. There should be recommendations on how issues that have been identified in the review, or by you, can be addressed.
A review can help you to make an informed decision on the best way to progress. It can support your decision to invest in a new website, with a better understanding of what needs to be included in the brief. If you are considering, let’s say, £10k on a new website and online advertising campaign, a clear brief will help you to get value from your investment.
Planning your Website Design
With a clear brief, you are in a strong position to meet with web designers to discuss the project.
Tell the web designer your wish list in terms of the design, features and functionality of your new website design. Have a clear idea what do you expect from this website. It could be that you need to showcase your services, book appointments or use it as leads generating tool for advertising campaigns.
Outline any specific requirements relating to:
- Branding guidelines (logo, company colours, fonts)
- Specific customer experience requirements (e.g. booking, selling)
- Integration with other systems (e.g. payments, newsletter signup)
- Access and control features – (admin access)
- Level of SEO
- Content (copywriting, photos)
- Calls to action – what you want visitors to do before leaving your site
Good web designers are proactive problem solvers. Tell them what you want and they will offer suggestions on how this can be achieved. If you speak with a few different teams, you will get a feel for who understands what you need. Confidence in their abilities should inform your final decision more than price.
You can expect your web design company to develop a responsive (mobile ready), optimised site, with a facility for content management, as standard. This will ensure that your website can be easily viewed on any device, has the best chance of being found by the search engines and is relatively simple to update.
It is a great idea to ask to see examples of similar projects to yours. This can be especially important if there are technical elements or specific functionality that you have identified as priorities.
The Website Development Process
Depending on the complexity of the build, a website could take a few weeks or quite a few months to complete. If you allocate time to the website design project it will help to keep things moving forward.
Even with a clear brief, the web designer will need input from you in order to create your new business website. As an example, you might be supplying images or written content, or you may need to meet with photographers and copywriters if they are undertaking this work.
The web design company will also ask you to take a look at progress at certain points in the process. This is the opportunity for you to review, ask questions and provide feedback.
If user experience is a top priority, it could be worth inviting a group from your target audience to trial the website in the final development stages. This can be effective in highlighting minor changes that make certain elements more intuitive.
Launching the New Website
The web design agency may have offered hosting as part of the package. If you are using their hosting services, it makes the launch process more straightforward. If not, you will be asked to put them in contact with your hosting provider in order for arrangements to be made.
It is worth launching the website without a fanfare. With a soft launch, the web designer can check that everything is fully functional before you actively promote the new site. Launching a new website can usually be achieved with minimum disruption to normal proceedings and even minor issues can be quickly resolved.
Ongoing Website Support
A live website is not the end of the story. It is beneficial to keep the website updated with fresh content (news, offers, testimonials). This will increase the chances of your pages being favourably indexed by search engines. When offered (website maintenance), software updates will also help your site to minimise the risk of technical or security issues.
A good website designer will offer some provision for on-going support. This could be in the form of a monthly package or an ‘as you need it’ bank of hours, which allows you to call when you have issues or need advice.
Five Key Points in Summary
- An effective website should operate as a successful Sales Manager; showcasing your business and generating strong leads. If it is falling short, it is time to consider a new website.
- A detailed review can help you to understand your existing website and be informed when you prepare a clear brief for the new website.
- Prepare a wishlist for your meeting with web design agencies and listen to their solutions. Do you feel that they really understand your objectives and have the expertise to deliver?
- Prompt input during the website development stage can help to ensure the project is delivered on time.
- Your web designer should handle the launch process with confidence and offer some level of on-going support to help you maintain the website.