The website quest

October 4, 2021

Do you sometimes feel like getting a great website is like a quest for the holy grail?  Everyone has a theory on what it will look like and where you’ll get it from, but in truth you feel like finding it is the biggest crusade of your professional life!

I’ve been auditing a lot of websites lately, and when you break it down, it’s achievable for every business to have a functional website that they’re proud of.  You just need to know what you actually need!  (That’s actually the hardest part)

Before we delve into the separate components of a great website, you need to have a clear understanding of 

1.      WHY you want a website, 

2.     WHAT its job is, 

3.     WHO will be using it and 

4.    HOW?  

For example, an organisation’s website that’s primarily used for member signup and resources will present quite differently to an online shop or that of an educational website.   You need to know whether your website’s purpose is to sell directly to your existing clients, find new ones, save admin time by collecting information, or simply build your professional profile and credibility.

One of my lovely colleagues rightly describes a business’s website as their ‘Best Salesperson’.  There’s certainly merit to that analogy: your best salesperson usually greets the clients in a positive friendly way. Modulating their behaviour to connect with the type of person that walks in the door, they quickly guide the way to what a visibly busy customer is looking for, and they enable a more gentle browsing atmosphere for those who are just out for a shop.  The salesperson knows when to inform, when to chat and when to listen.  While a website isn’t usually quite that responsive, with a deep understanding and thoughtful design, they can certainly come close.

ust like a successful bricks and mortar expression of business, a great website knows who their ideal customers are, providing a pleasant experience for those using them.

Your website can be ALMOST as responsive as the real deal.

Easy!  Right?  Just two things to make sure of, and you’re ready to dash off and get your GoDaddy domain and a year’s subscription to the latest off the shelf template build-in-2-hours website… please don’t.  

Stick around and we’ll sort through the biggest cogs that need to mesh coherently together to create that seemingly unobtainable virtual representation of your business.  

Just like an engine, a great website requires many moving parts to work together coherently

No one part of the website stands alone from the rest.  They all work together to create an enjoyable, informative experience, so the idea of creating a hierarchy of the most important components is something I’ve been stuck on for a while.  

Whichever way I look at it though, it all keeps coming back to the content… the information that makes up your website.  If your site looks amazing, and loads quickly, but there’s not enough content to inform, entertain or connect, your audience won’t stay.  It’s almost fair to say that all the other components are equally necessary, but their job is to deliver the content.

The visual layout of your site, consisting of imagery, feel, and navigation are also a big part of creating the consumer experience that you need to deliver.  To get this right, it all comes back to understanding your audience – what will be bringing them to your site?  What does their path to purchase look like?  Will they make their decisions based on graphics, text, testimonials or videos?  What are they looking for? 

Functionality is another important thing to think about.  Users need to be able to navigate the site easily, understand conventions like links, fill out forms with a minimum of time and effort, watch videos, explore topics, and then find their way back to what they were initially looking at.  Loading speeds and optimisation to different devices are big players in the functionality space – get them wrong and you won’t have a chance to deliver the most amazing content to anyone!

You’ve probably heard the term SEO about 50 billion times…. Unless you have a full time in-house marketing department or you pay an absolute fortune to dedicated specialists, you likely won’t be at the top page of the google ladder, but there are lots of very cost-effective ways to ensure your small business comes up when appropriate topics are searched.  There are also other creative and targeted ways of bringing people to your site to see your wonderful wares that are quite effective without using your entire retirement nest egg to pay for them.

Finally, the thing I encounter most frequently is that people don’t seem to realise that a great website is an ongoing project!  Websites shouldn’t be ‘set and forget’ there are massive gains to be had from a dynamicwebsite that works in with your overall marketing strategy, just like your social media, EDMs, product launches, tradeshows, and blogs.

How you’re planning to schedule, pay for, and execute the ongoing maintenance of your website should be something you think about before you race out and hire the most advanced web developer who writes code in a language so far advanced that only they can take care of future updates and maintenance.  Don’t worry, I’ll go into more details around choosing a platform and a web developer in the final blog of the series.

My next blog will look at content with a focus on copywriting – my forte.   The most important thing I want you to take away from this as a small business owner, is that a great website is attainable, but don’t be scared to be a big part of the process.  No one knows your business and your customers like you do, so get involved, ask question, do your research and work with professionals that want to collaborate with you to deliver a result, not a product. 

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