A website is an important, arguably the most important, marketing channel for any business. A website is key to building an online brand, lead generation, creating a positive customer experience, and getting repeat business. Here is how to prepare when building your first website.
The website is the hub of all brand marketing
A website offers a central location where people can learn about, connect with, and sometimes purchase from the companies that offer buyers what they are looking for. From a small start-up to a large organization, a website is key to building an online brand in today's digital economy. Buyers are searching online to find out who, what, where, and how to purchase and use various products and services. With the advancement of mobile technology, people now have global access, 24/7 to the internet where they can find the answers, products, and services they need, when they need it.
- 100B Google searches are done each month
- 3B+ People use the Internet
- 4 in 5 people use search engines to find local information
With the busy and changing landscape of online and social media profiles, people need to know where to go so they can get the most up-to-date information about your company. By using the website as the hub for all brand marketing it offers a main point of contact. It is a single address making it easy for people to remember and easier for businesses to market. The benefit of a website is that it is a permanent ‘residence’ for your business brand marketing. Social media platforms can come and go depending on an entrepreneurs marketing plan, but a website is owned and a constant channel that can grow with your business. A website is cost-effective, easy to update, searchable online, and gives entrepreneurs full control of the measurement of traffic with tools like Google Analytics.
Before Getting Started
- Register Domain Name(s)
- How do you want to use your website? What is the main reason? What is the secondary reason(s)? What are your goals?
- What are your [business] goals? Know how your website will be used now and in the future. Will it grow with you or will you need to budget for a new website in the future.
- Who is on your Project Team? Who is going to be part of the project in building the website & how (i.e. design, content, management)
- Do you have your brand assets & guidelines completed?
- What content do you have available? i.e. brand assets e.g. logo, case studies, sales material, photography, videos, graphics, service/product descriptions, taglines
- Gather required admin & sales information – i.e. online payment processes (if applicable), Google analytics account, email account information, social media links & logins, pricing, e-newsletter subscription form code, hosting logins, physical address/phone#, brand guidelines
- Who will manage content updates?
- Security, Support & Growth - current and future plans
Choosing the Right Website Platform
Most of the time you can’t tell what platform the website is built on unless there is advertising at the bottom for some of the low-cost/free options or if you go into the backend code. However, what platform you choose will be very important as they have different processes for setting up and designing a website, updating the content, the type of support, and some other advanced features. Knowing what your goals are for using the website, your skill website design skill level, and how much you have to spend, are just some of the key things to consider when choosing the right platform to meet your needs.
There are three main types of website design platforms popular with small business owners.
- website builders
- WordPress (open source)
- custom CMS (content management system)
They each have various degrees of strengths and weaknesses and you need consider all the options to find the right platform that works for your business needs.
The following are some key points to consider when preparing to have your website designed for the first time or if you are evaluating your current website for optimization. How do you choose the right website platform? Where do you host your website? How much should you spend? Can you create it yourself? What features and support is available to optimize it for SEO? Whether you are a new business owner looking to design a website for the first time, or an existing business owner evaluating a current website, the following checklist will help when deciding what platform / hosting is best for your website.
- How easy is it to set up? Design, hosting, security.
- Pricing levels - What will it cost to design, update and maintain your website? Is there an entry level price available?
- Design Skills required - Is it good for beginners? Are there tutorials available? Will you be hiring a designer and just need to know how to update content
- Security – what is needed to keep your website secure? What ongoing maintenance is required?
- Technical Support - Is it available? What does it involve? Is it easy and convenient to contact support? Server reliability
- SEO – What features are available to support search engines in finding your website? Are there any added fees?
- Advanced Features – blogging, categorizing blogs, page style options, insert custom code (i.e. forms, social media ad tracking), access to design code to customize the look of fonts, etc. (i.e. CSS), secure member login option, shopping cart, etc., Translation features
- Scalability - planned & unplanned expansion needs; i.e. advanced features available, size/speed of the server.
- Content Transferrable - What happens if you have to leave / company goes out of business?
- Mobile Optimization – there are different levels of mobile-friendly designs.
- Uniqueness of Design – limited number of templates available means your website will look like many others. Check to see if there are customization options available.
- Maintenance required – Ongoing maintenance is required for the hosting platform and website design. Some platforms offer maintenance packages and others require the user to do more of the work. It is important to do the required ongoing maintenance to maintain the integrity and security of your website.
- Other considerations - AODA Compliant , GDPR Compliant.
Website Platform Options
Graphic Guide: Green - does it well; Orange - does it moderately well; Red - weakness
Key Components of a website
Sections of a Website
- Main/Primary Navigation, Footer, Header, Sidebar, Feature Image, Body, Copyright, Social Media links (optional – search field, Google Translate)
- Page Layout Options - Gallery (photo), Landing pages for promotion (include description, download form, call to action), Product pages, FAQ
- Page Elements – Body text, headers H1,H2, H3, Call to Action, Forms, containers, hyperlinks, testimonials
- Types of Content Pages - Each page needs a summary lead-in page & headers. This is for people & search engines to easily identify what the page is about.
- Home, About, Service/Product (Main), Service/Product (specific product/service), Contact
- (optional) Resources - a place to provide resources & keep content current i.e. News/Blog, FAQ, Tools, Case Studies, Sales Material
- (optional) Corporate Information, Customer Care, Legal Notices –i.e. Team pages, Sustainability Statement, Customer Support, Media Page
- Types include written, graphics (logos, blog graphics, infographics), photos, video