If you’re reading this you’ve probably asked yourself the question ‘does my business need a website?’ Well even if your business is breeding dogs the least you can do is get yourself a nicely designed Facebook page, but well yeah a website will probably help. Building a website from scratch for your business can be a big headache and with all the free tools, bespoke providers and all the myriad of options out there, it can be a tough call for you to pick the right solution, service or provider for your purpose. Here are seven crucial tips you should consider so as not to fall into the trap of a good sales pitch then realize later when the mistake would have proven to be costly.

1. Mind your own Business!

A lot of us get excited at the prospect of developing or rather getting someone to develop a new website. Let’s face it, whether you’re re-vamping your existing site or building one from scratch it’s like re-decorating your shop or opening a new outlet, you want it to attract new customers and make them feel comfortable enough to eventually buy your product or service. Whilst going through this process don’t make the mistake of forgetting what it is that you’re selling or promoting. Your core business is the most important and you should keep it always as the primary focus. Too many people get blinded by what looks cool or “in” and forget their priorities in the excitement of it all. In other words keep in mind that what works for a clothing store does not necessary apply to a dental clinic unless they’re selling their old lab coats for charity. So stay grounded and check out how other businesses similar to yours are dealing with the issues you’re facing and try and improve upon them without trying to re-invent the wheel.

2. Purpose and planning

This is the next crucial step when thinking of launching a website. Don’t forget the saying ‘garbage in garbage out’. Thorough planning is in order here. You can plan for eternity so limit yourself but try to look at every angle in the time you’ve allocated yourself to think things through. The good thing is that you’ll have ample time to fine tune later. Get a proper site-plan done and edit at will. This will save you a lot of headaches later. You should also plan on the budget and how much this website is going to cost you. It’s no use spending a fortune then realizing that you’re broke and cannot promote your product or service. Are you going to get someone to do this or are you going to use a pay per use online service for your site? The time it takes you to use a build it yourself service can be costly so it might be a good idea to leave this in the hands of someone you can trust so you can concentrate on other aspects of the business.

3. Design and content

Why design and content together? Well simply because most people overlook one or the other most of the time. A fancy car with an engine that doesn’t run is of little use except to please the eye and the opposite; no one really buys a battered Porsche with a perfectly fine engine. So take time to surf the web to see what catches your eye the most and don’t be afraid to be inspired from others. When you’ve made up your mind don’t be afraid to commit to your design, and if you’re not sure about the way something looks follow your gut or look around some more. Likewise plan your content alongside your core purpose. This will eventually help your site rank better as well amongst the flood of competitors out there.

4. Hosting, security, maintenance and all that jazz!

There are a lot of free hosting services you could use, but think if this is going to give you a headache a few months down the line when your business grows and you need to add more products and run out of space for example. Think about, what CMS system you’re going to use and bandwidth. This will determine how fast your site loads especially in other countries if you plan on expanding your business. Website maintenance is also a key factor. Are you going to do this yourself? If updating your site is going to get you away from more important things (like running your business) then you must make sure that you’re leaving this to someone you trust. Make sure the guy selling you the service is not taking your money for the design and leave you pulling out your hair in oblivion not knowing what to do afterwards. Think of the security of the site as well, especially if you’re going to handle online transactions.

5. Apps, tools, widgets, landing pages, transactions, and all the extra frills.

Do you want to keep your customers updated with what’s happening through social media? Are you going to accept transactions through a third party or credit cards or both? Do you want your customers to fill forms? These are tough questions to answer sometimes but don’t fret, there’s a lot of information out there which can help you decide what’s best for your business. These tools help you direct the customer smoothly through your site and eventually get you the sale or that meeting, but as with the rest, try not to overdo it and jam pack everything, your viewers can easily lose focus and move on to the next thing. Think of the back end tools you’re going to be using such as Google analytics that will help you monitor how your site is performing and so on.

6. Testing and marketing

Plan some time to test the website when it’s up and running. Don’t be scared to tweak things as you go along to unleash the full potential of your online presence. Now that your site is up and running you want to tell everybody about it, so find ways to promote and market your business according to your budget. Test these ways and scrap and move on to something else if one is not working. Make sure that the ads direct the customer to where they can satisfy the curiosity your ad has created. Your ad says black bikini, the ad takes customer to a page with an orange t-shirt, customer moves cursor to top right of the screen, clicks close window button.

7. Refer to step one….seriously!

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