What are the benefits of a new website?
No matter what your line of business, your customers are inundated with choices. To compete in today’s marketplace, an intuitive website built with your business needs in mind is essential. Your site should showcase your unique product or services and persuade customers to choose your company. Customers don’t just need to know you exist, they need a compelling reason to conduct business with you. A tailor-made website plays an integral role in this equation and provides you with an important avenue of communication with your customers.
Instead of merely broadcasting your sales pitch via television or print ads, a website fosters two-way communication with your customers. You can collect feedback through comments on your blog, a contact form, and analytics. You can directly answer customers’ questions. This data and interaction can shape future business decisions and make your company more responsive to customers’ needs.
Visitors to your site immediately form an opinion on your company based on several factors. Users notice the visual impact of your site, how easy it is perform their desired tasks, and how recently the site content was updated. I can address each of these areas for you and make visiting your site a positive experience. You should be able to maintain your new site, and your customers will appreciate a well-designed, easy-to-navigate, and updated site.
If you don’t have a site, I can help you create an effective online presence. If you haven’t changed your site design in years, I can provide a modern design. Either way, I’d love to learn more about your design needs.
What different types of sites do you provide?
The type of site you need depends on your business and the amount of time you can devote to updating your content.
Generally the more time you can spend on creating new content the better, but for business owners with little time and resources, a brochure format may suit your needs. Static content will detail your company’s services and background and give visitors a way to contact you. The other three site formats are updated more frequently to reflect company developments and communicate with site visitors.
These sites detail the company services and history and regularly provide new content, such as press releases, news entries, or blog posts.
If you’d like to promote an album, movie, or game, you’ll need an entertainment site. These sites often incorporate music and video.
These sites sell products or services. On these sites, companies persuade customers to do business with them, and they provide easy shopping cart and check-out experiences.
Your site may fit into one format, or it may be a combination of the above. No matter what the genre, I look forward to discussing your site goals and structure.
What is a domain name and hosting, and why do I need them?
If creating a website from scratch, you’ll need a domain name and hosting before your site can go public. Here are some guidelines for this process. I’m glad to set these items up for you, or you can purchase the domain name and hosting yourself. Either way, let me know if you have any questions.
Purchasing a domain name will give your company a unique url. A domain costs anywhere from $5 to $35/year, depending on your registrar and the number of years your purchase. Typically the more years you purchase, the greater discount you’ll receive.
Choosing a name requires some careful thought. Registrars such as godaddy.com allow you to check availability. You want the name to be short, meaningful, and easy for your customers to remember. Going with your company name (and the name of the website) is great choice. The .com version is generally preferable. If your business is a non-profit, you should opt for the .org extension. Are you in the planning stages of starting a business? You have an advantage. You can account for domain availability when deciding on your company name.
What if your preferred domain is taken? Don’t despair. You can try variations of the name or add a hyphen. If you searched for the .com version, you can try .net, .biz, or a country-specific version of the url. If you’re committed to a particular domain, try a service such as Go Daddy’s Domain Buy. An agent will contact the owner of the domain and attempt to negotiate and purchase the domain on your behalf.
Think your customers may make a common mistake when typing your url? If this second domain is available, it makes sense to purchase it as well and redirect visitors to the correct address.
You’ll also need to buy hosting, which runs about $120/year. Your account will grant you space on a server to which your domain name can refer. This is where I’ll upload your site files, making your site public. I can also guide you through setting up email accounts with your domain name.
Choosing the right host is an important step since you’ll require excellent customer support and technical features which are compatible with your site. You should ensure that the host supports the WordPress platform. The hosting company I currently recommend is SiteGround.
What is the process when building or redesigning a site?
Not sure what to expect? Here’s an overview of the process I follow when building or redesigning a site. These steps ensure we fulfill your goals. The process gives you the opportunity to review the project at multiple points and prevent any surprises at launch.
A thoughtful and unhurried discovery phase is a prerequisite to meeting your site goals. We will discuss your project objectives, your target audience, and your ideal site perception. We’ll determine details such as the site structure, the source of assets, and the project schedule. The result of this phase will be a thorough project plan that I will compose. Once you’ve approved this plan, we can advance to the design stage.
After we’ve gathered any necessary assets, I will apply what we’ve learned from the discovery phase. I will design and present a home page comp which aligns with your ideal site perception and speaks to your target audience. After you’ve approved this page, I’ll extend the design to the other site pages. The design phase concludes when we’ve agreed upon the overall site design. Next up: development.
Here’s where your site comes to life. Complying with today’s standards, I will use HTML, CSS, and PHP to construct your site. I will install and integrate WordPress so that you can easily update your site and keep your content relevant. I will build any interactive elements we’ve outlined in the discovery stage. To confirm that your site looks and behaves the same way for a wide range of users, we’ll proceed to QA.
During QA, I will test the site locally and then upload your site to a staging server for review. I will verify that your site is optimized for the most recent versions of popular web browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Chrome. You’ll have the opportunity to review this working version. After your approval, we’ll launch the site.
It’s time to introduce your site to the world. I will move the files to a public directory on the server and ensure the site behaves as it did on the staging server. Now it’s time to let everyone know you’ve launched a site.
You have a variety of options for getting the word out. You can announce the launch on various social networks – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. You can email colleagues. When speaking at an industry event, you can refer listeners to your recently updated site. If you have a new url, make sure to update any company print materials, your email signature, your online profiles, and anywhere else your url is listed.
If you don’t have time to submit your site to search engines and business directories, I’m happy to offer this service as well.
You might think the work is over after launch, but the best websites give people a reason to revisit. Fresh content encourages customers to stay in touch with your company. Check out the next FAQ to learn more about maintenance and to familiarize yourself with some of the development tools I commonly implement.
My new website is live. What should I do to maintain it?
Though it requires an investment of time and energy, I encourage clients to update their sites at least every couple weeks. If the most recent news entry is several months old, you may be inadvertently conveying a sense of carelessness. New content, on the other hand, reflects your dedication to your business and your desire to keep the lines of communication with your audience open.
WordPress: From a Client Perspective
WordPress is my CMS of choice since it is user-friendly and accommodates many different types of sites. Because of the active and vibrant user community, many helpful resources are available. The WordPress Codex and my Web Development posts are great places to start.
Google Analytics is an amazing free tool which collects online traffic data. I install Analytics on all my sites.
To login to your Analytics account, go to www.google.com/analytics. Click “Access Analytics” and use your Google email address and password to login. Click “View report” next to your site address.
When you access your report, you can analyze stats such as the number of visitors, how they arrived on your site, the average amount of time spent on the site, where visitors are from geographically, and the pages they are visiting the most. Keeping an eye on your Analytics allows you to gauge the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. You can monitor the number of visitors and their sources after initiatives such as a redesign, an email campaign, or a print promotion. The resulting insights can inform your future marketing decisions and make you a smarter business owner.
Backing It All Up
Backing up your site is essential. In the rare instance where data is lost, you may need to restore a previous site version. I use the UpdraftPlus Plugin to backup files and databases to an offsite location (I prefer DropBox) on a weekly basis.
To protect your site from hackers and malicious scripts, I install security plugins on all the sites I develop. These include: Akismet, Login Lock, WordPress File Monitor, and WordPress Firewall 2. Security plugins are easy to add and will help us both sleep better at night.