So you have a website or you’re thinking of getting one designed. What top tips can we give you to make sure your website is successful in the long term?
1. Make sure your aims and goals are clearly defined
Ask yourself the following questions, and come up with definitive answers:
This is basic stuff, but keep challenging yourself with these simple questions, even once the website is established.
2. We don’t plan to fail but we do fail to plan
Building a well-constructed, targeted, information-rich and SEO-focussed website takes a lot of time, effort and, ultimately, money. As the website owner, 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 its weight around. The importance of planned introductions and improvements cannot be underestimated. Knee-jerk reactions to implementing a new piece of functionality often cause more problems than leaving things alone.
It is worthwhile investing in a suitable project management solution – be it offline, like MS Project/OmniOutliner, or online, like Bitrix24. These systems will help you to plan your workloads, timescales and delivery dates more accurately.
Write a full and detailed website spec. There are many reasons for doing this, but the two main ones are: it ensures that you get what you want and that deliverables are set and agreed by all parties; and it will 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 that you realise, ‘Oh, actually I need it to handle the lack of VAT on international exports’, and so on. 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 afterthought. At Andrew Talbot Design 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. If you work with us, you won’t get away with leaving your copy to the last minute!
We strongly believe that content can make or break a website. Creating interesting and well-written copy is a skill. If you don’t have the ability or time to dedicate to doing this properly, pay a professional to do it for you. This is often an area in which customers think they can cut some costs and do it themselves – and more often than not that’s very evident in the final result. Copywriters aren’t hugely expensive and they will do a better job than you will!
Similarly, stylish photography is essential to a eye-catching website, so instead of using the camera on your mobile phone, pay for a professional to take some pictures. This is particularly important if you need product or location photography.
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 to engage a creditable expert to help you with a dedicated strategy. However, there are some simple things you can do to help yourself:
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 up the momentum and keep 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. 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.
6. Nothing lasts forever
Almost everything has a shelf life, particularly in the rapidly changing digital age where technological advances mean improvements can be made quickly and with sweeping effect. You need to consider that your website will have a shelf life. What is possible now will be different in 3 years’ time. What is all the rage now will be old hat soon. Websites typically have a lifecycle of between 3 and 5 years, so you’ll need to continually evolve to stay with the pack.
7. Don’t lose touch with your web agency
As we’ve already covered, the world of the web moves quickly. Even industry veterans struggle to keep up with the latest advancements. That’s what makes it so exciting! (We warn you, we were mega geeks!) However, unless you live and breathe the web, the chances are that all kinds of improvements and regulatory updates might have passed you by.
If you have a good relationship with a web agency, they’ll consider it their responsibility to keep you in the loop, so if you get the odd invite to a catch-up meeting or a phone message asking for a chat, don’t just assume that your web agency is trying to squeeze more money out of you. As a rule we’re a friendly bunch and we like to share – we might just have stumbled across a nifty little widget that would be just the thing for your site. So pick up the phone or send an email – who knows what we might have up our sleeves!
Good luck, and if you need any help, please give us a ring on 0117 927 3300.