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By December 14, 2016 Blog No Comments

Are you about to plan a new website?

As a leading creative agency in Manchester, we have guided businesses from every industry and of every size though designing and building a new website.

If you have been given the task of commissioning a new website for your company it can be a daunting prospect. Not least, you need to decide whom you are going to use to design and build the site – do you need a web designer, a web developer or both? Or could you use that friend who likes doing websites in his spare time? You will also need to think about your company branding and who will provide the content and imagery for the site.

In reality building a website involves a range of specialists including planners, copywriters, graphic designers, web designers, developers (coders) and SEO consultants. Unless you have experience of project managing a website build before, we strongly recommend using a creative agency or digital agency who can guide you through the whole process and ensure the site will meet your objectives.

A good creative agency will take the hassle out of the process for you and make sure you don’t make any expensive mistakes. Most importantly you will just have one point of contact – so you don’t have to spend your time worrying about who is going to do what.

Where to start – 10 things to consider when building a new website

1) What are your objectives?

Every website should be designed for a purpose. If you have a clear idea of your objectives from the outset it will make it a lot easier to decide what content you want on the site and how you are going to monitor success. Objectives can vary depending on the type of company you are promoting. For example a B2B websites may be used primarily to generate leads to be followed up by the sales team whereas a Consumer website may be designed to make online sales or build brand awareness. Making sure you are crystal clear on your objectives when briefing your agency will be crucial in achieving the right results. If you have an existing website, establishing what works and doesn’t work currently is a great place to start.

2) What will your site look like?

As the central focus of your marketing activities, it is important that your website dovetails with the rest of your marketing collateral, just like a brochure or leaflet would. If you are happy with your company’s branding it makes sense to create a website that reflects this. Alternatively the launch of a new website can be a great opportunity to refresh your brand and ensure it meets the needs of your target audience. Or this could be a website for a new start up company or new product launch. Ideally a good brand should reflect your company ethos and communicate the right message to your customers. For example if you are a firm of city solicitors you may want to appear highly professional and corporate, on the other hand if you are targeting a consumer audience it may be more important to look friendly and approachable.

Top Tip: Be careful of using off the shelf templates or online tools to build your website, they might look good but site builders limit the control you have over your website. Often they are hard to change to fit your content and your website can end up looking like thousands of other website – you want to stand out!

3) Your target audience?

Understanding who you are targeting will be crucial to the success of your website. It is also important to understand the journey these customers will take when visiting the site. It may make things easier if you consider the needs of existing and prospective customers separately. A good website will include plenty of shortcuts so that returning visitors can find exactly what they are looking for, however it will also have clear signposting for new visitors so that they understand exactly how they can interact with you. You may also want to consider other visitors e.g. potential employees, suppliers and other stakeholders. Above all make sure that your main marketing message is communicated through your website as soon as someone arrives on the homepage.  If possible focus on a benefit that will make an instant emotional connection with your target audience – this is your number one opportunity to grab their attention.

4) What the call to action will be?

Once you have established your objectives and target audience it should give you a good idea of what your call to action needs to be. In the example of the B2B website above the call to action might be to ask the visitor to GET IN TOUCH or MAKE AN ENQUIRY – whether it’s a form, an email link or telephone number. For the consumer site every element of the site will need to work towards encouraging the visitor to BUY NOW.

The call to action should ideally be ‘above the fold’ on your homepage and in various key locations throughout the site.  This term derives from newspaper advertising where ads located on the top half of the newspaper are a lot more visible when it is folded in half. The same principle also applies to websites, as many visitors won’t bother scrolling to the bottom of the page. You are effectively trying to make the prospect journey as simple as possible and reduce the options available so that you reduce the decision making process.

5) How will you keep the site updated?

The most common mistake people make when building a website is to assume that once the site is live their job is done! In reality if you never change the content on your site its success will be very short lived. Existing visitors will quickly realise that they aren’t going to find anything new and potential customers will struggle to find the site as it will come up less frequently in search results. One of the easiest ways to keep your site fresh is to create a Blog section where you can post ongoing news and content to inform your customers. The site should also be designed in such a way that it is easy to add or remove products and services as the business changes.

6) How will you measure success?

If you were clear on your objectives at the outset then deciding what you need to measure should be a relatively easy process. Your main focus may be on monitoring the number of enquiries, tracking online sales or attracting the maximum number of visitors. Whatever your objective you need to make sure that the site is set up to track the relevant information e.g. via Google Analytics. Remember that a high proportion of website visitors are anonymous and whilst they remain anonymous you are unable to identify them and market to them. For this reason getting a form on your website so that you can capture and monitor visitor data is essential.

And don’t forget the techy stuff….

7) The content management system (CMS)

You may have heard people talk about content management and the different systems available e.g. Magento, Drupal, Umbraco, Expression Engine and WordPress. At a basic level, a CMS system is a mechanism for updating the text and images on the site after it goes live. There are numerous ‘off the shelf’ systems available or you could request a bespoke system if you have very specific requirements. Your digital agency or creative agency will be able to advise on which system is best for your needs. Things they will take into consideration are whether the site will be used for e-commerce or contains sensitive data. If you have used a CMS system before and know your way round it – this can also be a deciding factor. We find that WordPress is a great solution for most client requirements.

Top Tip: Be wary of custom CMS, these can be difficult to develop new features on and will tie you to that developer. Try to use an ‘Open Source’ CMS, this will allow you to use tested code and never be short of developers to work on your website.

8) The technical spec

The operating system used by your website will have an impact on where it can be hosted – so you need to bear this in mind at the outset. If you work for a fair-sized company your IT department may want to host the website in-house and you will therefore need to request a technical spec from them. Otherwise your digital agency or creative agency should be able to arrange hosting for you and will ensure they select the appropriate system.

9) Creating a mobile-friendly website

Not all websites are mobile friendly (responsive) but it is crucial that you request this when briefing your agency. In today’s connected digital world more than 50% of web searching is done on mobile devices (phones, tablets etc).  If your website is not mobile friendly it is not only difficult to use on mobile devices but it also will be excluded from many mobile searches. In May 2016 Google introduced further search penalties for websites that are not mobile friendly.

10) Search engine optimisation (SEO)

It is well worth spending a bit of time at this stage thinking about what search terms your visitors might use when looking for your product or service online e.g. via Google. Existing customers will no doubt search for your company name, but new customers might start with wide generic search terms e.g. solicitors, lawyers etc. They will soon realise that they need to be a bit more specific to get exactly what they are looking for – so might try solicitors in Manchester or family law specialists. Identifying these search terms (keywords) will underpin the thought process for the whole website project – so if you are struggling to decide on your keywords some cost-effective research may be a good investment. Once you know your preferred keywords you can instruct your digital agency to make sure that your site is structured to provide the content these visitors will be looking for. These keywords will also form the basis for your future marketing of the site.

Top Tip: Make sure you tune into our next release where we’ll talk about on going marketing…

Making sure your website has these 10 basic elements will give you a good foundation to making your website as effective as it can be.  However this is only the start. If you would like an informal chat with a creative agency about your website plans or a free appraisal of your existing website, please get in touch with Forever Creative Manchester.