So you’ve got a website or you’re thinking of creating a website? What are the top tips we can give you to ensure your website is a long term success?
1. Be clear on what you want and what you need
First things first – what is your website for? Be clear on what you want your website to deliver. What are your objectives? How is it going to help your business? How are you going to measure the benefits? This is basic stuff, but keep challenging yourself with these simple questions, even once the website is established.
2. Plan, plan and plan some more
Building a well constructed, targeted, information rich and SEO focussed website takes a lot of time, effort and ultimately money. As the website guardian, it is your job to ensure that all your long term targets and objectives are met, that improvements and fixes are implemented quickly and that the whole system is meeting or exceeding expectations.
With larger e-commerce projects and bespoke web applications the importance of planning increases exponentially. The website will be interacting with more internal systems, encroaching on other departments remits and generally throwing it’s weight around more. The importance of planned introductions and improvements can not be underestimated. Knee jerk reactions to implement a new piece of functionality often causes more problems than leaving things alone.
It is worthwhile investing in a suitable project management solution – be that offline like MS Project/OmniOutliner or online like Basecamp – these systems will help you to plan your workloads, timescales and delivery dates more accurately.
Write a full and detailed website spec. There are a many reasons for doing this, but the two main ones are that it ensures you get what you want and that deliverables are set and agreed by all parties. It it will also help you to think about all the nuances of your project – for want of a better phrase, it will get the creative juices flowing. Quite often, it’s only when writing the full website spec do you realise, ‘Oh, actually I need it to handle the lack of VAT on international exports’ etc. Writing a spec is a good thing and will result in a happy website owner/developer relationship.
3. Preparing copy and photographs takes time
Your website content should not be an after thought. At Method & Class we consider the content right at the start of the web project, and this forms an integral part of our design process, influencing the look and feel, the functionality and the structure and navigation. So if you work with us you won’t get away with leaving you copy to the last minute!
We are of the strong belief that content can make or break a website. Creating interesting and well written copy is a skill. If you don’t have the skill or time to dedicate to doing this properly, pay a professional to do it for you. This is often an area that customers think they can cut some costs and do themselves – and more often than not it’s very evident in the final result. Copywriters aren’t hugely expensive and they will do a better job than you will!
Similarly good photography is essential to a good website. Instead of using the camera on your mobile phone, pay for a professional to come and take some pictures. This is particularly important if it’s product photography or location focused.
4. Make friends with search engines
A lot has changed in approaches to search engine optimisation (SEO) in recent years. The tide has turned (thankfully) against reams of keyword-laden nonsense cluttering our websites, and Google has got wise to artificial back links. So what can you do? SEO remains something of a dark art, and if you’re serious about it, you’ll want to have a separate SEO budget and engage a creditable expert to help you with a dedicated strategy. However, there are some simple things you can do to help yourself:
- Make sure your house is in order. Search engines like clear, clean structures with proper and relevant page titles.
- Love your content. Common sense really, but if your content is interesting and useful, people will want to read it.
- Collaborate. Paying an agency to engineer hundreds or thousands of artificial back links from made up sites might actually hurt your page ranking, but good quality organic links are still the best way to improve your standing with search engines. Easier said than done? Maybe, but start with forging links with other related businesses. Don’t operate in a silo – contribute to other sites, make sure your social media presence sign posts back to your main site, name check other companies and they’ll soon reciprocate.
5. Keep it fresh
The initial build of a website is exciting and takes up a lot of resources. However you mustn’t forget that this is now your mouthpiece to the world – you need to keep the momentum up and the new content flowing. Not only for search engine purposes but also to keep your customers coming back to you. They will be interested to see what you’re working on, what new products or services you’re offering and how you can help them improve/expand/reach more customers. So consider it your job to ensure that content is added monthly as an absolute minimum – it will be worth the effort in the long run.