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Planning a killer website

Planning a killer website
 

You own a business: you have a website, the two go hand in hand right? Correct! but what happens when that website needs to be re-built or re-designed and you don’t know where to start? More often than not you either weren’t around when the first site got built so you have no idea what goes into the development of one, or you have so many plans, thoughts and ideas that finding a single point to start with just doesn’t seem conceivable.

It really doesn’t need to be this way and with our simple checklist you could not only save thousands but make thousands with a successful online booking powerhouse.

Now before we get started and jump into the nitty-gritty there are three main points of focus for a successful website. These three points are those that a new site should strive towards, that should come into consideration each time you work through a point in the checklist and that should be used at the ‘end’ to assess your new site. Your site should be:

  1. Findable – can your website be found on search engines through SEO, paid advertising, links and quality content?
  2. Trust-able – is trust portrayed in your content through knowledge, wisdom, persuasion, emotion and credibility?
  3. Usable – is your website user friendly, can viewers easily find the information they are looking for, is there a maximum of one click to your booking engine on all pages, is this portrayed though your analytics results?

Once you lock the three focal points into your mind you can get started on the key details of the planning process (don’t forget them though, you do need to re-address them for each point below).

Decide on your Goals and Aims

Most people are surprised to find that people only use the internet for two reasons; to solve problems and to be entertained. With this in mind the first thing you need to do is work on writing out S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound) business goals. These goals can cover anything from increasing membership, generating leads, building trust, entertaining and improving the customer relationship just to name a few. With your goals think about how they will make the user feel if they are achieved and what their ongoing impacts are going to be on the business.

Select how you will measure success

Once you have decided on your goals and aims you then need to select the tools you will use to measure them. The number one tool for measuring the success of your website is Google Analytics. With Google Analytics you can measure a percentage increase in Traffic, the number of page views, time on a page, specific goals, locations of viewers and a large number of other stats. Other ways to measure your success include phone tracking, pen and paper notes and even monitoring your social media interactions (i.e. increase in ‘likers’, increase in post feedback etc).

Determine the key functionality

You have your goals, you have how you are going to measure them, now you need to decide how you are going to achieve them. There are a number of different factors that group together to make the functionality that most website users take for granted. It is partly your job and partly your web developers job to understand these elements and ensure that they are included appropriately to create a successful and functional environment for your users. Take time now to note down your list. What may appear as a simple request such as taking offline payments using credit cards can become complex from a security perspective and add to the cost.

Collect the basics at the start

Once you have your list of functionality and your goals you may think you are ready to head off to a web developer to get building… not just yet. So you can ensure you get the best result for the best price there are a number of things you should collect before you go to a web developer. Collect the following items and have them all stored/ saved in a neat and logical system.

  • Domain Names - Determine the most appropriate and logical domain name for your website, use keywords, your business name and your product names to find the best for you.
  • Website Page Map – Decide on the basic structure of your website (where pages will appear in the menu) and the main keyword that you will target on the page.
  • Written Content – Don’t scrimp on the time spent creating your written content.
  • Manual Processes - Collect any documentation that you have of manual processes that will be overwritten by new functionality of the website.
  • Images, Videos and Audio – Collecting this media surprisingly takes longer than most people initially think.
  • Email Addresses – Make a list of all email addresses that you currently have or want to have
  • Guest Reviews/ Testimonials – Start collecting guest reviews and testimonials that you have so they can be pre-populated on your site

Styling your new website

When thinking about the design and style of your new site there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Your current logo and branding colours - if you plan on keeping them don’t deviate too much in your background and buttons
  • Clean readability for viewers - we recommend dark text on a light background, black on white is optimal, ensure that white space is included throughout the pages
  • Avoid a rainbow - while a selection of colours may be fun it will likely be too distracting for a user to read your content
  • A single focal point – each page you should have one target action, make sure this is where is eye is drawn to and ideally above the page fold otherwise you reduce the % of eyeballs that will see it.
  • Images you can actually see – make sure your images are big enough that the details can be seen (people should actually have faces)

What you need to budget for

When budgeting for a website you need to be mindful that it actually takes more than just a design to create a site that meets all three of our focal points. When you request quotes and proposals for your new site you can expect to be quoted for a number of different items including the initial setup, additional functionality, ongoing optimisation, ongoing maintenance and even social media monitoring. As a guide you should plan to spend at least 50% of your initial website cost on online marketing each year.

Choose the right CMS and team for you

Once you have decided what your website will offer you need to select the appropriate platform for it to be built on and the developer to build it for you. The key to having a website for the long term is having one that is built on a CMS that allows you to update and edit your content. There are a few things worth mentioning in regards to selecting a CMS:

  • not all are equal
  • we recommend an open source CMS that includes tourism functionality as a base
  • following recent developments in WordPress we can certainly recommend it as one of the top to consider followed by DotNetNuke or Drupal

As effective online marketing requires continuous updates and improvements, selecting the right CMS is essential to not only save you money and time but give your business the agility to move quickly when new marketing opportunities arise. For example, how easy is it to convert your website into a mobile ready version? WordPress makes this task reasonably painless with a plug-in, but it could cost you hundreds or thousands if your CMS is not flexible. Once again this comes back to understanding your S.M.A.R.T goals and target market with one eye on the future. Seek advice!

As well as assessing the CMS you also need to assess the development team that will be working on your project. You will need a team working on your project rather than a single person as it is more likely than not that a single person will not be an expert in all of the areas you will require to design, build, promote, maintain and optimise your website.

Manage maintenance and updates

Plan for ongoing maintenance and upgrades. Technology is updating every day so to ensure you don’t get left with an old outdated website, budget to have its functionality updated at least once a year. You should also set aside some money for maintenance and upgrades as new functionality becomes available or as your business grows. Ask your web developer how they manage updates.

Without wanting to scare you this is only a high level checklist to help you focus and answer the big questions before drilling into the detail. We’ve worked with a lot of clients and seen many different approaches many are not well planned and it has flow on implications. From experience we can tell you that the better you plan your website the more effective it will be in achieving your goals, the faster it will be live and generating additional revenue and the most cost effective it will be to produce.

We will be producing a detailed planning guide very shortly that will walk you through step by step everything you need to do to plan for and manage your website build or redevelopment, register your interest here to be notified when this becomes available.

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