As a nominee of the 2015 Celebration of Achievement Award, I was invited to be an expert panelist at AWE’s Leadership Series: Learn from Alberta’s Best where 20 or so experts are available to women entrepreneurs to offer some tips and insight to a variety of topics to help them with their businesses. My topic was “How to Prepare for Your First or New Website” and the following post outlines some of the things I talked about.
Preparation and Consultation
Prepare your branding materials and guidelines for your designer/developer, if these are things you already have. This might include logo files, print materials such as business cards or brochures, colors and style guidelines. Remember that often the website is the first thing a new customer or client sees and you want to give a good first impression while maintaining a connection to the efforts you’ve already made for your business’ look and feel.
Perhaps you don’t have any branding materials or guidelines yet. If you contact designer/developer to ask what a website will cost, they will have questions about your business and goals before being able to provide a better estimate on timelines, deliverables and costs. Instead, try requesting a consultation or reviewing some sites online that will force you to ask yourself some similar questions. Know what your time is best spent doing and don’t be afraid to hire someone to help you get yourself sorted with what you need ready before having your website made.
Purpose and Audience
Who is your audience? What kind of customers or clients do you provide products or services for and what are they looking for in terms of information?
Understanding this will lead you to think about your website’s purpose. This includes it’s content and the hierarchy of information being presented. What imagery will you use? Will you use stock photography or hire a photographer or an illustrator? Will you write your own content or hire a copywriter?
You can provide your designer/developer with a Sitemap to outline the pages and functionality you feel you need on your website, or you can ask for a strategy based on the information you have about your business and clientele and your budget or timeframe.
Budgets and Options
Having a small budget doesn’t mean you can’t afford a web presence for your business but it’s important to remember that you’ll pay for what you get. Perhaps to start, you’ll focus on having a one-page website that offers a brief description of your offerings with contact information for visitors to deal with you directly for more information. Try not to worry about things like social media integration if you have yet to plan a strategy on using social media profiles in the first place.
Alternatively, it may be wise to prepare a little more to have a Content Management System in place, such as WordPress, so that your site can start out small but has the capability of adding onto it in the future with more in-depth functionality and programming such as E-Commerce, Social Media Integration, or other fancy bells and whistles.
Static vs CMS vs E-commerce Websites
A CMS website is a Content Management System, like WordPress. With something like WordPress, a programming language called PHP is used and communicates with a database that can store information outside of just your page content. An interface exists on the back-end of your site, where you can login and make content changes and edits to the front-end of your website. You can also assign multiple users, maintain a blog, use photo galleries and house a media library, make use of third-party plugins that provide additional functionality and a whole lot more!
An E-commerce website is also a Content Management System that allows you to store items or products in your database and enable the front-end of your website to operate as a store-front. E-commerce includes the ability to take payments from your customers and process orders. Additionally, you can opt not to take payments directly on-site and use the system as a catalogue or directory instead. Typically at BE3Designs, we use WordPress for our E-commerce sites utilizing WooCommerce plugin integration, but other options like Shopify are available.
Additional Costs and Maintenance
Unfortunately, there is more that goes into website ownership than having one designed and developed. Additional costs may include domains, hosting, email accounts, SSL certificates, stock photography/illustrations, copywriting, developing a social media or marketing strategy, advertising, third party licenses for themes/plugins, and administration and updates.
These days, websites are crucial to have for any size business in nearly any industry, but as you can see – a lot of thought and preparation goes into developing one. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t be afraid to start small if you can’t afford everything you want from the start. Think about what is most important getting started and move forward accordingly.