Your website is your company’s gateway to the world, and is most likely one of the, if not THE most important marketing asset for your business. When a potential client lands on your site, it will have a significant impact on how that person views your business. Whether that’s a great first impression or a mediocre one is up to many factors. Some businesses with massive marketing budgets might spend upwards of a million dollars a year on their website, but let’s be real – that’s just not you.
You’re on a budget, and whether that means $3,000 or $15,000 to you, you want to make sure that your company is getting the best bang for its buck. So what are the essential components of a good website? What does your business absolutely need, and what can you go without?
To figure that out, first you have to ask yourself a series of questions. Be honest with yourself:
- Who is your target audience?
- How do you want them to get in touch with you?
- Does your audience need to be very well informed about your business?
- Does your audience care about modern design?
- Does your website require special accessibility, as in following guidelines for users with visual disabilities?
- Do you have existing content (or copy) for the website, or do you need to hire someone to write it from scratch?
- Do you have existing images or access to a stock photography account?
- Do you need to rank highly on Google to be successful, or can you survive through word-of-mouth?
Who is your target audience?
This is the first step, and quite probably the most important factor in deciding which direction to take when designing a new website, or re-designing an existing one. If your business has a clear vision and understanding of key marketing concepts, nailing down your main audience shouldn’t be an issue. If you haven’t figured that out yet, do some research and come up with an answer. A website targeting 20-25 year-olds will look and perform significantly different than one targeting senior citizens or children.
How do you want them to get in touch with you?
Another good question. Is your audience more traditional? If so, they might prefer picking up the phone and calling you over filling out a contact form. Contact forms can be quite extensive and can take up several hours to populate, and can take a large bite out of a small website budget. Consider using call-to-actions (buttons that prompt users to take action) that link to a phone number, so your potential clients can simply click and call directly from their mobile devices. Avoiding long contact forms could save you some money, but it could reduce conversions as well.
Does your audience need to be very well informed about your business?
Blogging is important for Search Engine Optimization since Google considers content to be a major factor in search rankings, but it can also chow down your budget quite quickly! First, consider the upfront cost of designing and coding a blogging platform, and then the long-term cost of paying a copy-writer to write your posts. Unless you have thorough knowledge of web copy writing and how to effectively use keywords, you should leave that part to a professional. Once you commit to blogging, you should try and publish at least one post a month, and that can add up!
Does your audience care about modern design?
One of the advantages of using WordPress is that it comes with thousands of themes that are already coded and ready-to-use. Of course, actually using those themes correctly is a different story, but it does provide clients with some flexibility, especially when it comes to pricing. A custom-designed website might cost a bit more, but it will make a greater impression on users who care about modern design.
Does your website require special accessibility, as in following guidelines for users with visual disabilities?
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or WCAG, are guidelines for help designers and developers navigate the complex rules of web accessibility. Produced by the World Wide Web Consortium, commonly known as W3C, the WCAG guidelines are the best means of making your website accessible to all of your users. There are 3 levels of rules to follow. Level AA is often cited as the benchmark of accessibility, and that can take dozens of hours to implement on a standard brochure website. If your business is a public organization or large businesses (50 or more employees) operating within Ontario, you must comply, or be working towards complying to Level AA. Otherwise, the choice to invest is yours.
Do you have existing content or copy for the website, or do you need to hire someone to write it from scratch?
Content, or “copy” as we fancy designers call it, is often put on the back-burner. Quality content is important for Google rankings, but don’t forget, its main purpose is to educate or convert your users. If you have poor content, chances are your users will leave your site in search of the answers they seek. If you are investing in a brand new website, you are investing in your company’s future as well, and quality copy is key to a successful, finished product.
Do you have existing images or access to a stock photography account?
The right graphics and images can make all the difference. However, professional photographers can be very expensive. At an average price of $100/hour, a single session can take away from your total design budget. You could also find high-quality stock images on sites like Shutterstock, or 123rf, but even those shots can cost up to $50/image. There are countless stock photography websites that provide excellent quality pictures for free, including our very own, noblweb.com! You can also check out Unsplash for free, super high-resolution, do-as-you-please photography from some of the world’s best.
Do you need to rank well on Google to be successful, or can you survive through word-of-mouth?
Many local businesses grew to be very successful through classic word-of-mouth advertising, but that’s becoming more and more rare nowadays. Digital marketing, or Search Engine Optimization is definitely one of the ways you can cut back, but beware, your website may get lost amongst the millions of other sites out there. Ask yourself if you really need online visibility before making this decision, and remember, be honest with yourself.
Now that you’ve asked yourself the tough questions (and hopefully came up with the answers!), you should be able to decide what is important to you, and what can wait! If you need help with deciding, you can always contact me. 🙂