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Streamlining your business

Business website design: where to get started

Smaller business operators can lack technical knowledge, leaving them especially vulnerable when they are looking to develop or redevelop their website.

Lack of knowledge means they can be open to exploitation by an unethical web development provider. This can result in exorbitant costs for things that aren’t required or wasn’t planned for in the initial stages when they should have been.

Set goals for your website design

If you’re a business looking to build or develop your website, even if you lack technical knowledge, you must know what you want from your website now and into the future.

If you don’t have a good sense of the direction you want your website to take, you aren’t in the ideal position to select the right web designer for the job.  

By having clear web design objectives, when you approach a web designer you’re able to brief them clearly as to what you need now and three years down the track. If you brief the designer with clear objectives, there is less likelihood of changes and extra costs further into the project. 

It’s probably easy to know what your business needs from its website now. The real challenge is to identify what your business will need from its website as it moves into the future. There are many, many web designers in the marketplace and not all are equal, so be informed, seek referrals and ask lots of questions before making your decision.

Know your target audience

What do you want to achieve by being online? Do you want people to look at your range and then visit your showroom? Pick up the phone? Purchase online? The way you design your website and write your content will be very different for each of these goals. Sales might not be your primary goal. Perhaps your website serves your business better as a customer service tool

Create a profile of your ideal customer.  Describe them by gender, age range, where they live, their home life, what their day looks like. Go into as much detail as you can. Assumptions are fine as long as they’re based on what you’ve learned about your customers. It’s all going to help when writing content and deciding on functionality. 

Use details about your persona’s day-to-day activities and home life to decide how they would interact with your website. For instance, if your persona is on the road all day and likely to have kids, then perhaps the only time they’ll have a chance to access your website is on their lunch break from their mobile phone. If this is the case, your website needs to be mobile-optimised.

What information would clients need to make a purchase? Consider your FAQs, or questions your clients should be asking.  

Allocate resources and a budget. You may want to list every single stocked item, but do you have the time or budget to create and maintain a site that goes into so much depth? Think about the potential return on investment for your efforts.

Steps for developing a business website

1. Develop a sitemap

Cluster your compilation of questions, content and topics into groups to form specific pages and name that page. Once you’ve a set of pages, determine how the pages could be grouped together – this will start to form the navigation of your website. Your FAQs written on post-it notes can be useful when creating a sitemap.

2. Choose your domain name

Usually, this will be yourbusinessname.com.au. If the .com is available it makes sense to grab that, too. If your ideal domain name is taken, you may be able to buy it off the owner by contacting them directly. You can find a domain owner’s contact details by using the WHOIS lookup directory. Alternatively, consider using a different domain name extension like .net or .online.

3. Choose your web hosting service

It’s probably advisable for your web designer to decide this. Consider whether they are an Australian host, what security measures they have in place, what’s their support like, and how fast are their servers.

4. Choose the platform

If you use a common, easy-to-use platform like WordPress or Magento, even if your web designer leaves, someone new will know how to use the system and you won’t have to start from scratch.

5. Decide on the look and feel

Think about your brand identity and how best to convey it. How would you like to be perceived? Professional or funny? Affordable or prestige? Write down about 10 words to give you some guidelines for how your website should look and feel.

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