Your website is the public online face of your brand, so it’s important to create the right impression from the start.

But do you have a clear idea of exactly what your website is going to achieve?

You’d be surprised to learn how many people adopt a scattergun approach to website creation.  There are loads of DIY sites that offer ‘drag and drop’ options for building your own site on an existing template.  The usual claim is that it will take you less than an hour to create your own branded website, but is this really the best option for your business?  Will your finished site truly represent the digital face of your brand?

We’re often asked by clients to overhaul their existing website and update it, or to add new features that provide extra value for web visitors.  But we also create websites from scratch too, so we know what’s needed to ensure the most positive and favourable outcomes.

And so we know that ‘winging it’ simply isn’t an option.  At least, not if you’re hoping for a stunning-looking website that delivers genuine value to prospective customers.  So we’ve created a checklist of points that you’ll need to consider when preparing for a website build or upgrade.

DIY website or bespoke option?

Your available budget will determine the type of website that you commission, but you also need to consider the actual purpose of your site.  For example, is it going to be a one-page brochure site that exists simply to give you a web presence?  Even the smallest of local concerns should aim to have some sort of online footprint, as shoppers like to be able to research the brands they interact with online.

If you’re not relying on your website to attract new customers or to promote your services, then a simple DIY site might just be all that you need.  But for anything larger, or more comprehensive, you’d be much better off seeking out a professional web designer, even if it does cost you more.  That’s because a web designer will create a completely bespoke site for your business, that won’t look just the same as a hundred other sites.  And you’ll also be able to add new features and expand your site as your business grows.

What is the purpose of your website?

You’d be surprised at how many businesses decide to create a website without first establishing its prime function.  But if you don’t know what your website is meant to achieve, you can’t possibly ensure that it fulfils its purpose adequately.  So spend time on this part of the research process, defining exactly what you hope it will do once it’s up and running.

Are you planning on selling goods or services online?  If that’s the case, then you’ll need to include some sort of ecommerce software.  Or perhaps your website is intended to generate leads for your company, or to improve traffic and visibility?  The more you can drill down into the actual purpose of the site, the more likely it is that the end result will fulfil its desired task.

You also need to have a very clear picture of your web visitors.  After all, it’s them that your website needs to target, so don’t make the all-too-common mistake of trying to create a website that appeals to you personally.  This will only produce the desired results if you’re a prime example of your customer base, which is really very rare.  Have a look at our previous post about creating a buyer persona to help you to define your target customer and pitch your web content directly to them, for the best results.

Create a site map

With the best will in the world, your web design team won’t have a great understanding of your own particular business.  Their skills and knowledge are based around creating beautiful and effective websites, so the more information that you can provide about your business, the better the outcome will be.

How many pages do you envisage your website having?  All good sites should include a Home page, an About Us page and a Contact page as standard, but the number of additional pages you include will be governed by your business, and by the purpose of your site.

Make a plan of your intended pages, showing where each page will link to, and defining a customer’s potential journey through your website.  This will provide you with valuable information about the number of pages to include, as well as helping to clarify the purpose of each page, and its relationship to the rest of the site.  Perhaps you could benefit from a FAQ page?  Or maybe a blog, or information guides might be appropriate? The more details you can supply for your web designers, the more likely it is that they’ll produce your perfect website on time, and on budget.

Seek out similar websites

Just as you might show your hairdresser a photograph of a hairstyle that you’d like to try out, showing your web designer examples of websites that you like the look of can be a helpful and informative exercise.  Web designers aren’t mind readers, so the more information you can provide about how you’d like your site to look, the greater the chances that your finished site will be exactly the way you’d hoped for.

Perhaps your competitors have nailed the look that you’d like to achieve?  Or perhaps you can see plenty of room for improvement on their online offerings?  Share your vision with your design team, but be sure to listen carefully to their responses too.  If your designer tells you that something won’t work, or isn’t necessary, be prepared to trust their judgement.

Consider your web content

Your sites overall look, design and images should all be carefully considered to ensure that they ‘speak’ to your target audience.  But one of the key methods for inspiring confidence in your brand is in the content that you provide across your site.

Web content should engage, inform and even entertain your web visitors.  But content filled with typos, grammatical errors and incorrect information will quickly alienate them, so it’s important to spend time getting it right.  Ideally, all of your web content should present one clear voice, which speaks to your audience with authority.  It can take time to refine your online ‘voice’, so if writing content isn’t your strong point, it’s well worth the expense of finding someone who can undertake this task on your behalf.

And don’t dismiss the idea of including a blog.  Producing high-quality and engaging articles that are relevant to your industry, is a great way of climbing up the search engine rankings.  You’ll find you get more interested web visitors dropping in to read your articles, and you can soon build a reputation for adding extra value to your website too.

The more planning you can do, before asking a web design team to create your perfect website – or to upgrade an existing one – the better the outcome.

At Brookstone, we have years of experience in putting together beautiful and effective websites for our clients.  Get in touch with us today for a no-obligation chat about our services, and let’s discover whether you’re ready to take your business to the next level.