I saw someone on Twitter ask if anyone had a good checklist for building a website. I wondered if they were talking about a checklist to look at before a designer gets involved, or if this include looking for a designer.
If the list were to include looking a designer, I’d have to write it to be shamelessly self-promoting. (Do they build the site in a CMS at no extra charge? Do they offer any free updates? Do they give you a free search engine ranking report?) In light of that, let’s assume you’ve decided you want to build a website, but are not at the point of hiring a designer yet. A lot of people skip the part in-between, but the more fleshed-out your site is before you talk to a designer, the easier that talk will go and the faster the designer will be able to come up with a quote for you. Having a clear vision for your website will also keep you from adding to the project as you go, sparing the designer a headache and saving you some money.
So, here’s a checklist for building your website. Maybe it’s not a checklist, per se, but this could serve as a guideline for things you should know about your website before you seek out a designer.
What is the goal or purpose of my website?
Are you selling something? Are you trying to generate leads? Are you giving information? What do you need to do to draw attention to that purpose? Knowing the answer to these questions will help you strategize the layout, graphics and typography of your website with your web designer.
Who is the intended audience?
If the purpose of your website is to sell Medicare supplements, you’ll want to capture the attention of people around the age of 65 and above. You’ll want the writing to be easy to read, maybe a little larger than usual. You probably wouldn’t want the design to be too slick and techie. On the other hand, if your website is geared towards gamers, you probably want more images and slick graphics. Keep your audience in mind when planning your website.
What should my website look like?
This is a pretty big one. A decent web designer can make a site look like anything. Some people are fine giving a designer complete freedom to design a website however they want, but hopefully you have some idea as to how your site should look. It will save your designer time, even if you look at other websites and pull elements you like from them, if you’re able to give at least a few guidelines. If you already have a logo, business cards or some kind of branding, make sure to incorporate that.
Do I need my website to be found?
You’d think the obvious answer would be the affirmative, but not every site needs to be ranked #1 in search engines to be useful. I refer to these sites as business card websites. Some people just need a portfolio, resume or supplemental information to be available when they point people to the site. Most sites, though, do need to be found. If you offer a service or sell goods, you need to make sure to set aside a good budget for search engine optimization and/or pay-per-click ads, and you need to plan your website accordingly.
Does my website require any special features?
Would it be useful to my visitors to allow them to create an account for my website? If you have a movie theater website, it would be useful to have a database to add movies and their showtimes. For a real estate agent, it would be great to be able to have a database for real estate listings on your website so you won’t have to manually create new pages and links for every listing. If you need a special feature on your website, think it through in as much detail as you can. Simply telling your web designer that you need a client login doesn’t really tell them anything. What information is required to create an account? How do they retrieve a lost password? What happens when they log in? Think through what you need and how it should work.
The point in all this is that the more fully realized your website is before you even contact a web designer, the easier the entire process will be. You don’t need to write out an entire RFP (although we do love those), but you should know something about your creation. Many people dream about having a great website, so get it started on the right foot by laying the groundwork for success.
When I mention the word “blog” to most of my clients who don’t already have one, you can almost hear the fear and uncertainty creep into their voices. The number one response I get? “I don’t really know what a blog is and I don’t have the time to figure it out.”
Having a blog on your website, and by “on your website” I mean one that is fully integrated into your site, not just an offsite link, is one of the most powerful tools available to businesses of all sizes today. Here are five reasons your company really needs a blog.
1. Search Engine Optimization
Ask anyone who knows about SEO and they’ll tell you that the golden rule in search engine optimization is that content is king. A blog allows you to write content that is pertinent to your website that may not quite fit in on another page of your website, and the more relevant content you have, the more it’s going to help your site’s ranking.
On top of that, search engines also like to see that a site isn’t stagnant. When you have a blog you’re adding new content to the website, which tells the search engines that the site is active, not something that was just set up and left to hang out to dry on the web.
Another SEO benefit to having a blog is that you might have people leave comments or ask specific questions regarding an article, which adds even more content to the site. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve typed a question into Google resulting in me finding someone else asking the very same question in the comments section of a blog article.
2. Increased Online Exposure
Isn’t increasing traffic through search engine optimization the same as increasing online exposure? Well, no, not exactly. Increasing (targeted) online exposure, or a web presence, is one goal of search engine optimization, but a blog can help you link to other online services such as Twitter and Facebook. By posting your blog entries to these services, you keep your Twitter and Facebook pages from becoming stagnant and give people a reason to follow you. When people follow you they see your updates, and when they see your updates your online exposure increases.
3. Disseminate Information
If you are in business, chances are that you know something about your field. If you’re a web designer you may not know every detail about the differences between PHP4 and PHP5 (and hey, I don’t, but I’m not a programmer; I leave that to Scott), but chances are you know more about programming than the average guy off the street, and you can talk about it.
A better example might be this: You’re a plumber who’s been at it for a few years. You may not know as much as the guy below you on the search engine results page who has been plumbing for 30 years, but you can write about plumbing and give people tips and advice, so that people will see that you do have knowledge and are approachable, they’ll contact you instead of that other guy. Blog articles give you authority.
It’s also good for just giving people other information about your business, like when you’re going to have a sale or when you’ve hired a new staff member. People like to feel like they know you.
4. Let People Know You
That brings me to another point: people want to know who they’re doing business with. If you have a friend or a friend of a friend who offers a service you need done, you’re generally more likely to hire them than someone you’ve never heard of, right?
People have different writing styles, and your personality can show in your writing. Blog writing is generally laid back and conversational. Now, that doesn’t mean you should write like a fourteen year old on Facebook, but it doesn’t mean you have to act like you’re writing a technical manual either. Let your personality come out, and don’t be afraid to share a little about your experiences (so long as you’re not trashing anybody; that doesn’t make you or them look good).
If your prospective customers feel like they know you they’ll not only be more apt to use your services, but to share your articles on Digg, Twitter, Facebook, email or some other form of social networking.
5. It’s Not That Hard
There are other benefits of blogging as well, and the fact of the matter is that it’s really not that hard to do. There are plenty of blogging programs out there (my favorite being WordPress) that you can learn the basics of in a matter of minutes. There are so many positive reasons why a company should have a blog that I really can’t think of any excuse good enough to get in the way.
“I don’t have time.” You can’t take half an hour out of the week to write a little bit about what’s going on in your community or your business? Sure you can. Or maybe:
“I can’t type very good.” If you wrote that, then no, you don’t. But you know what? You probably have an employee who can type well and would like to help the company out by writing blog posts. Maybe a salesperson or a secretary, or both! And if there really is nobody in your company who can spend a little time writing your blog, hire a freelance writer. Yes, there are people out there who make careers out of writing blogs articles for people who can’t find the time to do it themselves. It’s worth it.
“I don’t know what to write about.” Make lists. List the things a customer should look for when hiring a company in your field. (Note: Make sure you live up to the things you list!) List some resources you use. Talk about services you provide. Review products. Talk about events your company is involved in. Talk about a new hire, a new job, the process you go through when creating a new product. Write about classes you took in college or the people who influenced you. Write about anything!
There are so many reasons your company needs a blog: search engine optimization, increased online exposure, disseminating information, letting customers get to know you and because getting these benefits and more is so simple, it’s silly not to do it! Years ago it became apparent that any serious company needed to have a website in order to be legit. I think the time is coming where you need a blog as well.
If you need help setting up a blog, why not give us a shout?
Venuecom and Impulse Web Designs are pleased to announce the launch of the redesigned aplacetobead.com. The new website sports the following features:
- A fresh, more fun new design
- A content management system to allow the client to make changes and upload images to the pages of the site
- E-commerce to allow the client to sell jewelry and jewelry supplies online
- Newsletter signup and management
- A WordPress blog implementing the site’s design (coming soon)
- 100% W3C-compliant code
After completing the working demo site, we spent a couple hours with A Place to Bead’s owner, Sabrina Baggett, along with the store manager to show them how to use all the site’s new features.
A little over a month ago I wrote about how I had used the automatic upgrade to take my personal blog from WordPress 2.9.2 to WordPress 3.0. At the time I ran into some trouble and suggested that people not do it if they didn’t know how to do the manual upgrade. Well, I just updated this blog from WordPress 2.9.2 to WordPress 3.0 with absolutely no trouble at all so I’d say it seems to be good to go.
Venuecom and Impulse Web Designs teamed up to redesign www.attydc.com, the website for Wilmington, NC Lawyer, Attorney David Collins. The client’s original website was designed from a phone book ad from six or more years ago. Obviously, styles have changed since then and our first mockup was much more modern; a little too modern for Mr. Collins, who wanted to update the look, but keep it familiar.
The challenge was this: the existing website already ranked at the top of Google for the search term Wilmington NC lawyer, but it was not converting, so one of the points we emphasized in preparing this project was that the look of the site needed to be modernized and more engaging in order to hold the attention of visitors and thereby convert more traffic into leads.
Collins was pleased with the second mockup by designer Travis Ray. We feel he designer tasked with this challenge did a great job of meshing the old, outdated look with a more modern, pleasing style in the second mockup.
In addition to aesthetic updates, over 200 unique pages were added to the site to help search engines index key service areas and locations targeted by the client. Links to the client’s Twitter and Facebook accounts were also added and a WordPress blog is slated to appear soon in order to increase the site’s social media presence.
I just now finished installing the WPtouch iPhone Theme plugin for this blog.
The plugins description is: “A plugin which formats your site with a mobile theme for the Apple iPhone/iPod touch, Google Android, Palm Pre and other touch-based smartphones.”
I highly recommend this now that so many mobile devices are being used for social and even business blogging.
I created a custom icon that will be used when bookmarking. It creates a really nice icon for the home screen that with one click will open this blog.
So far I have only tested this on my iPhone, but the plugin documentation states it works with “popular touch-based smartphones like iPhoneTM, iPod touchTM, AndroidTM, PalmTM Pre/Pixi, and BlackBerry StormTM.”
Venuecom and Impulse Web Solutions have completed an overhaul of the website turning65nc.com. Though the site looks almost exactly the same as it did before, major changes have been made on the back end.
The changes were initially brought about because the client wished to be able to track leads coming into the site. A separate website, medicaresupplementsforless.com, was initially going to be built based off of the the original website, but after some discussion the decision was made to redirect turning65nc.com (which caused confusion for people already over the age of 65, since the website was for them as well) to the newer medicaresupplementsforless.com site.
In addition to adding a way to track leads, the code of the site was updated to be 100% W3C compliant and the design was widened to fit within a 1024 x 768 resolution monitor, which is now much more common than 800 x 600 resolution screens were when the site was initially built.
Since the site was undergoing a major coding overhaul, the opportunity was taken to also connect it to the Venue Editor, Venuecom’s content management system (CMS). This will gives the client the ability to personally manage most of the content of their website going forward.
Longtime Venuecom client William Poole Designs will soon feature a redesigned splash page based on a mockup sent by the client. The new splash page will make it quicker and easier for site visitors to reach the most popular pages of the website, as well as featuring an area for the client to add and edit important news updates and announcements via Venuecom’s content management system.
Impulse Web Solutions and Venue Communications, Wilmington NC web design companies, are teaming up once again, this time to design a new website for the Myrtle Beach Golf Experience.
The original website was hastily thrown together and added on to as necessary. The new website will feature a fresh design and focus on informing visitors about golf courses, hotels, resorts, dining and other things to do when visiting Myrtle Beach, SC.
The content of the newly designed Myrtle Beach Golf Experience website will be driven by Venuecom’s content management system and news feed plugin, giving the site owners freedom to update pages and articles on the site without having to go through their webmasters.