Choosing Your Web Design Company.
Your ideal web designer.
The vast majority of businesses will think they need a website. Even if you don’t it is a good idea to consider getting one. This is because you may need one later and it is usually easier to get an established website “match-fit” with respect to SEO than building from scratch. SEO describes the Search Engine Optimisation techniques you need to use to get noticed on the Internet by your potential customers.
When you are creating the website for your company it is important that it delivers for you in four main areas:
- It must reflect your business – your USPs
- It must reliably deliver the online services that your customers expect of it
- It must have appropriate administration features that let you know what is going on, how it is performing and any actions you need to take
- Your website must be technically fit for purpose
This article offers guidance on how you may deal with each of these areas.
1. Your Website must reflect your Businesses Unique Selling Points
It’s Your Business
Every business is different. Even though you have competitors in the same line of work you will be different. No two accountants are the same. No two plumbing businesses are the same. You know this. This is why you do what you do. Somehow your website has to capture this flavour of your uniqueness and turn it into words and pictures that will appeal to people in need of your services.
This is easier said than done. When asked what makes you different? What do you say? Many people say they are “passionate about ….whatever”, “intend to be the best … whatever”, “will give the best service”. etc etc” – but doesn’t everyone say just that? Have you ever heard a business promoting itself aiming for second or third best?
So WHAT MAKES YOU DIFFERENT? This is where a really good business consultant helps. Just talking through what you do lets a skilled listener reveal those little nuances you never thought about that make you different; that make your customers return; that make your customers recommend you. I have done a website site for a cleaning business. All cleaning business are the same, aren’t they? Well You would think so from how our conversation started. At first, I learned that this business cleaned carpets, tided houses, deep cleaned kitchens, sorted out householders’ belongings for charities, for selling, and other decluttering etc etc. Nothing unique so far …… . Further discussion revealed just how these were done. This lady through her own personal experiences had a deep insight into the psychology of why people can’t bear to throw things away. Especially the sensitivities surrounding a deceased loved ones belongings. Her skill and her compassion gave to her customers much more than simply cleaning – they were emotionally replenished too! This was her USP it differentiated her cleaning business from every other cleaning business and she never noticed she was even doing it!
You need to be clear about your USPs. Now I would guess based on my experience of being in the computer industry for 40 years that most computer people are simply not cut out for this type of insight. You may be lucky and find a web programming person with great people skills but they are very rare! If you are having trouble finding one then lookup www.computers-in-kent.co.uk and give me a call. All advice is free so you have nothing to lose.
Out of interest here are a few questions designed to seek out USPs that you can ask yourself about your business.
- Why should I do business with you rather than someone else?
- What can your product or service do for me that others can’t?
- What can you guarantee to me that no one else can guarantee?
2. Your website must reliably deliver its services
Your business website may be like an online brochure designed to catch interest and encourage people to contact you by phone or email. You may have many pages. In fact, you want quite a lot. Websites with little to say do not look valuable to search engines. So, if this is your kind of website and the majority of websites are just this then you need:
- Lots of interesting pages, sensibly organised. Where possible keep to a single topic per page. This makes it easier to be precise with page titling and content so you are found more easily in searches. If you keep your readers attention on your page this too is noticed by the search engines and adds to your credibility. It reduces what is known as the ‘bounce rate’. What I am saying here is that your site must be truly informative about its subject matter.
- Provide clear instruction or “signposting” to your customers on what to do next. Tell them to ring you for more details. Keep any offers such as “free consultation” clearly visible.
- Use a contact form – preferably one that holds the customers details on a database so you can’t lose them or forget!
- Present your email address and telephone clearly. Sometimes customers don’t want to use your online form for a number of reasons.
- Use appropriate font styles colours and sizes. If your site is marketing mobility scooters you probably need a larger font size. Just make it easy for who you think your potential customers are.
- If it helps or you already have paper brochures add them to your website and allow customers to download them.
If your business website includes e-commerce to allow customers to purchase products or services you need all the things mentioned for brochure sites above plus you will need some specific features just for shopping. You will also need a set of order and customer processing facilities to let you manage your sales. (Click here for full details.)
To get your website to match your business USPs and provide the features you need needs a thorough understanding not just of what is available technically but also a through understanding of your business. This is the key reason why you need to know and trust your web developer and use someone you get along with and can work with.
3. Your website must have good administration features
You need to regularly update your website to keep it fresh and up-to-date for the search engines. Therefore, it follows that your website should be easy to add pages to or to change any content. It is through the admin facilities that you do this. The better systems allow restriction of key functions to particular users. A good web designer who understands your business will be able to set these so that management of the website can be as smooth as your other systems.
The software I use at Computers-in-Kent allows permission to be given or restricted to every element of the website giving 100% access control. In addition, there is a facility to allow content and even parts of pages to be extracted for use elsewhere. This allows for example new content to be highlighted in a ‘News’ section on the front page and be sent to your Twitter account without any effort.
Within the Computers in Kent website the following reports are included as standard.
- Status report - get a status report about your site's operation and any detected problems.
- Recent hits - view pages that have recently been visited.
- Top 'access denied' errors - view 'access denied' errors (403s).
- Top 'page not found' errors - view 'page not found' errors (404s).
- Top referrers - view top referrers.
- Top search phrases - view most popular search phrases.
- Top pages - view pages that have been hit frequently.
- Top visitors - view visitors that hit many pages.
In addition, your google analytics data will show you many things about your website demographics. This can used to see:
- How many pages have been served up.
- How your pages where found.
- Search terms that found your pages.
- Where your visitors are located.
- What devices (PC, Tablets or Smartphones) where used to access your site.
- and much more. See www.google.com/analytics for details.
Turning this knowledge into something useful for your business needs careful analysis to ensure that the time is spent productively. This is how an experienced business analyst who understands web development is a really good find! Ring me! – www.computers-in-kent.co.uk/contact
4. Your website must be technically fit for purpose
Let’s now take a look at the technical sides of things. In many ways this can be the least bothersome of the four areas of concern for business owners. Website delivery includes a lot of technology and it is vital that all this is handled correctly as short comings will be apparent early on. Unless you are well skilled in this area and have a real liking for the nitty gritty of computers there is no point doing this yourself you simply will not have the time! What you must do however is to ensure that the third party you contract to is up to the job. You will need to know how website issues are dealt with and what happens when the webserver crashes. So, your responsibility here comes down to picking the right person or company for the job. You can also take comfort from the fact that if you do get this wrong you can always transfer the hosting without losing the much more serious investment in time and money you have made in your actual website!
Find out the answers to these questions.
- How is the webserver supported when the web designer is not available?
Many smaller companies like my own purchase computer web servers that are monitored and supported 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. These servers are very reliable and there is always a crew on hand when things go wrong – as they will! Usually the supporting company will be alerted to faults and deal with them before you become aware of them. In addition, these experts are close to the server technology - usually Apache and a myriad of applications. These experts get informed of security patches and issues and are best placed to keep the server up-to-date, safe and reliable.
Expect to pay the equivalent of about £12 per month for an average size business website and email.
- How does the Email work?
When you buy a domain name and have it hosted you can also have email sent to you at that domain name. You can have any number of email addresses and you control if email is forwarded on to any of them or onto your own existing email.
Most of my customers have a least one general company address that is sent on to several other staff. Others prefer to have some emails sent onto personal email addresses like Gmail. Your web provider should be able to explain all the options to you and advise on the best set up for you based on your business needs.
Questions to ask are:
- Is email included in my website hosting fee?
- How many email addresses can I have?
- How do I create new email addresses?
- What are the disk-space limits on email storage?
- Do I get webmail and client email?
- Is the email secured and backed up? How often is this done?
- Will my website be secure?
Security covers a range of issues. Chiefly there are two areas to consider, these are your website application and the remote web server. The website application is the responsibility of your web designer and not the hosting company. The security of the live website on the live webserver will mostly be down to the hosting company. They should have the procedures and software to detect if malicious scripts are uploaded to websites and have security against the deliberate attacks attempted against popular well-known sites. Most of them are pretty good at this. Ask your web designer which company provides their hosting and then look at the hosting company’s website and check out some Google reviews. If you are satisfied, then nothing more needs thinking about here. The actual website application though is the responsibility of your designer. They should be able to answer these questions for you:
- What software is being used to make my website?
- How are you made aware of security vulnerabilities?
- How often do you patch security vulnerabilities
- How up-to-date are your backup copies of my website? How many copies are there? Where are they stored?
At Computers-in-Kent the software used to build websites is noted for security. It is used by the US White House and many Government and quasi government organisations in the US and the UK! When security patches are released then all website maintainers are told. These notices are sent by email and are also visible to any administrator visiting the website. I endeavour to install security patches within a few hours of being notified. There is an admin reporting screen on the website where myself and the website owner can at any time see the status of the software and any outstanding updates, be they for security reasons or otherwise. You will always know the status of your software.
Backup copies should be a regular automatic feature of any regular web-hosting. These will normally be taken daily.
- How much does it cost?
Expect to pay the equivalent of £12 per month for the facilities above. For a new website it is at best a guess how much storage space and bandwidth you will need so after the first year in excessive cases you may need to buy more storage. As an example, an average business website and email will take up about 200MB. For the facilities above with 20,000MB (20GB) expect to pay about £15pm.
That is about all you need to know about the technicalities at this stage, so in a nutshell your responsibility as a business owner is to check your website designer uses trusted software and hosts the website on a trusted platform with professional support.
Oh, one final thought ….. all these services – hosting – email etc have user credentials and passwords. Make sure you are given a copy of the access URLs, usernames and passwords needed to:
- Manage the domain name
- Manage the web hosting
- Manage the email.
Even though you may never intend to do these things yourself, you will need these details to give the job easily to someone else to do!