Many business owners go into web designing not having a clue what to expect, what they need, or what they want. They feel that having someone create the website is all that is important to make an online presence. This couldn’t be more farther from the truth.
Going into a web design could become disastrous if you are not prepared. For one, not every web designer has the same skills. You wouldn’t choose a doctor whose specialty is orthopedics and you need an internist. So why would you choose a web designer who has no idea how to create your shopping cart so that it works with your Quickbooks? Or better yet, choose one whose specialty is adult websites but you have a catering business? It doesn’t mean the designer is not talented or less knowledgeable. Just means they are not the right one for you.
So how do you know if a designer is right for you? Prepare yourself before you choose them. What I am about to tell can seem very time-consuming, however believe me when I say that it is essential to having a successful web design experience.
There are 6 things you must have before you make your journey to finding the right web designer.
1. Know your online target audience.
Nowadays search engine optimization (SEO) plays an important part in a website’s success. Part of proper optimization is knowing who your online target audience will be. These are not always the same for people who come into your store or call you on the phone. These are people located all over the world and in different age ranges. So it’s vital that you do your research to find who they are, why they would buy your product/ services online, and how they will locate you (i.e., search engines, organizations, social networking sites, etc.).
2. Have your design ready.
There is nothing wrong with planning the look of your web site ahead of time. In fact, it’s encouraged. You don’t need to be an artist, but having a basic sketch of what your site should look could help your designer a lot. Your mind will change before and during the web design process. Don’t worry about that. Having at least a foundation will be very helpful to yourself and your soon to be designer. Include items like where you would like your menu (top, left, or right), your color scheme, the look of your header, etc. You only need the basics.
3. Become familiar with web site features.
You don’t have to take web design classes to at least know if a guestbook is something you can use or if you think it would be beneficial. It is all about knowing what you want when it comes to features because 1) not every web designer is capable of providing it and 2) not every web host provides these features within your budget.
Look at other websites in your industry and see what features their site has. Think about what you can do to make it work for your particular website. Better yet, how it can work better. Make sure you keep track of these sites by writing them down. They can help your designer know exactly what you want.
4. Register your domain and find a web host.
Not every web designer provides hosting or domain name registration. Web designers who do allow access tend to be very restrictive with your access for security purposes. This could end up being a problem if you intend to update your own website. It is also best you find a web host that gives you a good deal on domain names and provides the features you want.
5. Prepare your content
I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have worked with clients who rather have the web designer provide their website content for them. Many big web design companies offer standard text which can be great when you are not exactly sure what to say. However, this should only be used temporarily. Many freelance web designers don’t provide this assistance simply because they do not know exactly what it is that you do. They might have designed hundreds of tote bag websites, but every business is different. No one knows your business better than you and having unique content can help your search engine optimization. In fact, this is the MOST IMPORTANT part of your SEO.
It is also important to point out that any keywords and keyword phrases you believe are important to your SEO should be included in your content. Contrary to what most “SEO/Online Marketing Specialists” will tell you, meta keywords are not important in your SEO as you might think. It has nothing to do with your rankings. It is the information found in your content that helps your keyword searches.
So where should you start? Put together the words you want to say for each of your pages. Have your product photos, descriptions, sizes, colors, and prices ready. Research sales taxes, shipping information, and delivery costs for your products. Put together your forms, coupons, specials, etc. Use the information from your brochures and flyers. Everything you think you will need for your site.
Best advice when preparing all of this information is to type each page into a separate Word document. Sure you can write this information or send the designer a fax, but unless you don’t mind paying an additional hourly charge (average of $150/hour) to the web designer for proofreading and editing then it will be beneficial. Usually most designers will tell you upfront how they need you submit your content. Also keep in mind that by sending your content unorganized and in the wrong format you risk the chance that your content will be added wrong with misspelled words, content on the wrong page, etc. which can lead to frustration for both parties involved.
6. Make an online marketing plan
Another myth that many business owners make is believing that “if you build it they will come”. They assume that once their website is live they will automatically be added to search engines. Or that people will start visiting their site in no time. Just as you had to market your company offline, the same applies online.
Many business owners do not realize that external links (i.e., sites that link back to your website) are very important to your SEO and website traffic as well. Research and plan what sites would be beneficial to bringing traffic to your company and website. If you’re a member of any associations or organizations, make sure your website is included with your directory listing. If you’re considering creating a blog or joining a social networking site, think about what available time you have to keep them updated on a regular basis. Consider services that allow mailing lists for email newsletters, good consumer access for coupons, and/or event listings in your area that you participate in.
These are just a few examples, but should get you started. You simply want to put together a marketing plan for online just as you did before you started your business (or at least should have).
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Using these 6 key points of advice can help to make your web designing experience much easier. It could also create a better relationship with the person (or people) helping to put your business online. Time consuming? Yes, but will provide you with a much better ending result.