I have been receiving heaps of email recently from small business owners with questions regarding  website development. It seems that there is quite a bit of confusion as to what solution will best suit their needs. Indeed the task  at hand can be made even more daunting when the available budget is small. So how do you go about choosing the right developer? What should you watch out for? what should you avoid?

An estimated  78% of internet users conduct product research online. This  basically means that your website stands a good chance of being your prospect’s first impression of your business and its products. This one statistic alone should be an eyeopener  for anyone who has a badly designed or nonexistent website. Indeed right now alarm bells should be ringing. Everything we do and don’t do communicates so it’s of vital importance that we send out the right signals. Fearing the new and doing things the way we’ve always done them is not the direction to be going in today’s highly competitive digital world. I’m reminded of something a  client once said to me: “Do I really need a website?” My response was a predictable; “Can you afford not to have one?”

What qualities and functions should a website have?

Speed

The average attention span of an internet user is 5 seconds. If your site loads slowly, chances are that the user will press the back button  and Google elsewhere. The four main variables that influence loading speed are:

  • A reputable and reliable internet host company. (where your website is housed)
  • Good website design and specific detail to speed optimisation.
  • Regular website maintenance. (upgrading to latest version of plugins, database optimisation, etc.)
  • Although not a speed issue, I think it’s worth mentioning downtime. This is the time your website is not available due to internet host technical issues.

Design

A website should encompass the latest design techniques. It must telegraph your values, mission and what differentiates you from your competitors. You have a story to tell and the website is your podium. If the website is shoddy and below standard it’s likely that people will assume the same thing about your products. Just take a look at your own surfing habits. When landing on a page which is reminiscent  of an old derelict shack, what do you do? That’s right,  press that back button and get the heck out of there. It would therefore be unreasonable to expect people to do any differently if the site happens to be yours. The internet is a noisy and crowded place, everyone is fighting for the consumer’s attention and it’s fair to assume that most people would prefer to spend their time surfing sites that look like stately mansions over their dilapidated, rundown counterparts.

Choosing a platform for your site

wordpressWhen it comes to choosing the right associates, we all know that some may come with a very short expiry date. That’s why I feel that choosing a developer independent solution is the best way to go. What do I mean by this? There are some pretty slick operators out there that would have us believe that the only way to develop a site is by reinventing the wheel and writing the code from scratch in PHP or other “fandango” language. My experience has shown me that in 9 out of 10 cases, using a platform such as WordPress will more than do the trick and produce the professional results you want. If you fall out with a WordPress developer, it’s easier to find someone to replace him and in most cases you wont have to start from scratch again. Another plus is that there are plugins available for nearly every function you can imagine. Most of the plugins are either free or can be purchased at a modest price.

You’re only as good as the content you put out

Did you know that companies that blog get 55% more web traffic? The more you blog, the more pages Google has to index, and the more inbound links you’re likely to old_letterget. The more pages and inbound links you have, the higher you rank on search engines like Google —thus the greater amount of traffic to your website. Which is why blogging is imperative. Let me stress this again: Blogging is imperative.

I don’t want it to seem like I’m flogging a dead horse, but the cold truth is that blogging is not an option. Gone are the “good old days” when you’d tell your consumers what a great company you are though magazine advertising. Today you communicate your message through blogging content and social media.

If you want people to feel passionate and connect with your company, you need to be posting content which will be of value to your prospects and customers. The golden rule is Give, Give, Give and then ask. So if you think you don’t have time to blog, think again and make the time. Conclusion: All websites should have a blog.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

No SEOvSEOOptimised

What is SEO? Search engine optimisation  is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s “natural” or un-paid (“organic”) search results. In general, the earlier (or higher ranked on the search results page), and more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine’s users. SEO may target different kinds of search, including image search, local search, video search, text search. So why is it so important and how does it fit into the development of your website?

Take two dog owners. The first dog owner has one of those handbag pooches, while the other has a distinctively larger dog. Both dogs are deserving of our love and attention but chances are that the bigger dog is going to get more attention, simply because  you don’t need a microscope to spot it. SEO works in exactly the same way, it gets you noticed. If you’re website has little or no SEO optimisation it will be hidden from view and nobody will be able to find you.

Chances are that your website developer will not be an SEO guru and usually is under no obligation to give your site an SEO makeover. (This may even be ill-advised) What your developer should be doing is creating your site in such a way that it is SEO friendly and ready to be optimised.

What you should NEVER do and Who to avoid like the plague

Case study: Dave “the tech Guy”

Based on a reoccurring true story. The names and places have been changed to protect the innocent.

Imagine if you will: You’re browsing through the pages of your local newspaper, when your eyes fall upon an advertisement that reads something like this:

Dave the computer tech guy
Pick the best and forget the rest!
Professional (sic) computer services
PC upgrades, networks, Windows installations.
Awesome and stunning web development at low, low prices

You start to salivate as the words “web development” and “low prices” jump out of the print and burn themselves onto your retinas. Your prayers have been answered. -A website for 500 Dollars! With great excitement and calculated momentum you lose no time in contacting Dave.  You agree on a down payment of 200 Dollars and put the wheels in motion to start developing the Website of your dreams.

Who is Dave?

computernerd

Dave is a nocturnal mammal who most probably lives in his parent’s basement, and only ventures out after 2:00am to raid the contents of the fridge. He is the master of  20 day long sessions of World of Warcraft. Our guy coincidentally fixes “stuff” and “develops” websites. (When not indisposed with gaming and taco gorging.) It would seem that an old gypsy had once read Dave’s palm, telling  him that his calling was website development and through such endeavours  would make his fortune . (While his clients lose theirs)

He’s the kind of guy who thinks that every page on your site should have a page curl. (That’s probably because it’s the only effect he’s managed to master on Photoshop) The font of choice will undoubtably be COMIC SANS, because it’s “cute.” He will effectively resize all the site’s images to 150 x  150 pixels because the budget hosting company he’s picked out for you has a 25MB space limit!

The seasons come and go, winter turns to spring but your site in still nowhere to be found. Then one day out of the blue you get a phone call from elusive Dave proclaiming victory and success! Your website is now online for the world to see. Tears of joy ensue. Your hands tremble as you type www.disaster.com on your iMac. The moment of truth has arrived.

The result of four months of web development:  Press to view Dave's website

How to avoid disaster and disappointment

Disaster-bad Websites
Here are a few tips on how to pick the right web developers:

 

  • Do they have a portfolio of their work? If not, consider going elsewhere.
  • Do you like their portfolio and is it agreeable with your taste?
  • Do they seem genuinely interested and excited about creating a website for you?
  • Pick out two random sites that they have developed and check them out in detail.
  • Do they seem professional? Do they show an understanding of technical knowledge? Are they Creative?
  • Get a personal recommendation if possible
  • Do they ask the right questions?
  • Do they ask about your company and products to gain a good understanding of your requirements?
  • Have they specified a timeframe?
  • Don’t work with a developer you feel will start charging you extra for every minor tweak!
  • Don’t hire a developer that does not blog.
  • Don’t hire a developer that wants to do everything in Adobe Flash.
  • Don’t hire a developer who tries to sell you more than you need. (and over charging for it)
  • If they seem less  passionate about what they do, chances are they will not be passionate about your website.
  • Work with people you feel comfortable with. You need to get involved and it’s important that you have the right chemistry.
  • There is no such thing as a good 500 Dollar website. Sorry but 15 years in business and I’ve yet to see a good site for that kind of money.
  • Don’t believe the hype. You can have a decent website, For a reasonable price.
  • building an e-shop is NOT rocket fuel science.
  • Have they mentioned linking to Social Media, Blogging and SEO (Search engine optimisation) No? Hit the road Jack.

 

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