Build a website
Standfirst: Every business needs a good website, but how can you make sure you get the most out of it?
One thing almost every new business needs in the modern era is a website. This is your digital shop floor, and opportunity to extend your reach from your immediate surroundings across the country and, perhaps, even the world. Today it’s possible to create highly sophisticated websites with relatively little expertise, but even so it’s surprising how few businesses really make the web work for them.
What will your website achieve?
The first thing to decide is what you want from your website. Is it a simple tool to promote your business and get people to contact you? Or are you looking to sell products online in which case you’ll need a secure E-commerce platform.
Your intended use will determine how much this is going to cost. Something basic might set you back a few hundred pounds, but a professionally designed site can cost anything up to £10,000 and more.
Once you’ve got an end goal in mind, you can start building it and this starts with the look.
The most important thing to get right is to make it look professional. What professional looks like will depend, to a certain degree, on what type of business you are in. A financial services firm, for example, might want a clean authoritative looking design while a food company might go for a fun, eye-catching and friendly approach full of bright colours.
Whatever the look you go for, take your website seriously. There are plenty of sites which have been thrown up onto the web via WordPress in the belief that having some kind of web presence is better than having none. It isn’t. If you don’t take your website seriously, it will show and your customers will not take you seriously.
Make the content work. Ensure it is properly written and spelt correctly. Errors create a bad impression – if your content is sloppy people will assume your service will be too.
Think about SEO. You can search popular keywords and phrases on platforms such as the Google Keyword Planner, but don’t use them too often. Search engines are becoming more sophisticated in how they search and may penalise you if a term appears to often. Even if they don’t, it can harm the flow of the content and put customers off.
Every part of your website strategy should be focused around your end goal – to generate leads and improve the value of your business. That means the website must sell.
If you’re selling products directly through your site, make sure you have a secure eCommerce platform which quickly directs people to make a purchase. Simple processes are best. Many sites lose customers because they give up on the purchasing process.
If you’re not selling directly through the website, direct visitors to contact you or take their interest further. Use the site to show your business or products in the best light – that might mean hiring a photographer.
Even though digital photography makes it easier than ever for amateurs to take good pictures there is a world of difference between a keen amateur and a professional. It will show through on the site and impact sales.
Building a site
Once you know what you want from your site, you need to start building it. There are two options – you can hire a professional or do it yourself.
A professional can cost anything from £5,000 to £10,000 and more, depending on how complex your site is.
Although they can be pricey, they will deliver a professional, tailor-made website just for you. They handle all the technical issues allowing you to focus on managing your business. Their expertise can be invaluable in creating an outstanding site that generates leads and builds sales, and most can provide ongoing technical support if you need it.
However, that expense can seem high for an early stage start-up and you may decide to start small and build your web presence as your enterprise develops. It’s easy to get excited and build a fantastic looking website, but if this is more than you need it could just waste money.
Some developers are better than others. Working with a firm can be difficult especially if they come up with a design that you don’t want. New web builds have been known to drag on for months wasting time and money.
The second approach is to do it yourself and that is easier than ever before. There are many platforms set up designed to help small businesses, and entrepreneurs set up their own website.
The most famous of these is WordPress – an easy to use content management platform which is packed with sophisticated plug-ins and apps which make it easy to manage your website.
It comes in two flavours:
WordPress.com: The more expensive option handles all the hosting and technical aspects. You pick them and upload your content. The business package generally costs £250 per year. It is secure, easy to use, has access to premium themes, offers live support, and makes it easy to integrate different Ecommerce platforms.However, these commonly used themes can make your website look similar to others, there is less flexibility, online storage can be expensive and it is generally more pricey than it’s cheaper option Wordress.org.
WordPress.org: Has minimal expense and has many themes which are free to use, although the better ones will cost money as will a personalised URL. It allows you complete flexibility to design and build your own website and manage it yourself. On the downside, you need to have more technical know-how, it comes with no support and you are responsible for security.
Keeping it safe
The question of security is more important than ever. It is your responsibility to keep any personal data you handle secure and safe. The penalties for non-compliance have become much more severe. Next year, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations come into force which include much stiffer fines for companies which don’t take steps to safeguard data.
Cyber-criminals are on the march and view small start-ups as tempting targets.
If you’re running an Ecommerce platform, security is even more important. You must be safe and be seen to be safe. If not, your customers won’t trust you.
At the very least it should be HTTPS, have an SSL certificate and a secure firewall, but the more security you build in the better. This starts with educating yourself and your staff.
The most common reason for data leaks is human error. People might mislay a disk or click on a malicious link in an email. Educate yourself and your staff about the latest security trends so you know what the risks are.
Understand your data
The age of big data is upon us and while you might think this only applies to big businesses it also relates to you. Even start-ups are gathering a huge amount of information about their customers and if you can collect this, you can use it to improve your customer service, increase sales and build your business.
You should track visitors to your website and see what they do – are they visiting certain pages more than others and what are they doing when they get there? Are they clicking on a link or going elsewhere? If you have a lot of people visiting, but doing nothing, it could be a sign there’s a problem with your site or your content.
The simplest way to do this is by using Google Analytics, which provides a huge amount of information about your visits. Get to know how this works and how you can mine your data for richer and more detailed information about your business.
Good to go…
The website is a big project and it’s one of the most important aspects of your business. Get this right and it can build sales and help take your start-up onto the next step. Get it wrong and it could be a colossal waste of money.