There are very few small businesses that don’t have a website these days. Websites enable small businesses to get in front of their target audience in ways that were never possible when businesses relied on Yellow Pages and local footfall. So when you are planning either your first website, or your next one, getting some advice on what you should and shouldn’t be doing will make a real difference in the performance and ROI you get from that new site.
In the latest of our series of expert-led articles, here are a series of dos and don’ts from three highly experienced website developers:
- Matt from 3mil Ltd – he’s been running his own firm and building WordPress sites for over 16 years now.
- Si Bland from Correl8 Ltd – another highly experienced developer and a fellow Fore Business member too!
- Troy Emmerson from Terra Digital – based in South Africa and part of the SME Needs team too.
Before you start
Consider your visitors – Understood the people who visit your website, your audience. These are commonly know as personas. There can be many persona types visiting your website for a number of reasons. It could be to validate your business, read a case study, buy a product or just looking for your telephone number. Structure the website in a way that they can easily find the information they are looking for when they arrive.
Any new business should strive to have at the very least some sort of website presence, even if only a well thought-out single page homepage, listing key services, contact details and maybe contain an interactive website form. At the very least this would mean that your business can be found from a simple Google local business search.
Once you have a website address or URL (uniform resource locator), with contact details, then you would be able to claim your free Google Business Profile listing. This helps with natural search positions, and also allows you to have a platform for customers to leave a review, which is a very important element to promoting your business and distinguishing you from the competition.
It’s important when considering even a basic website, that you have some form of content management system (CMS). A content management system puts you in control of the content of your website. If you wish to add a news article, press release or a new customer testimonial or case study, then the last thing you’ll want is to go back to your design agency and have them charge you to do it.
When you start that search for a developer, beware of developers offering you cheap websites.
The design of your website
Look and feel – Make sure your website design follows your company visual identity, be consistent in your typography and colour palette. Use a strong standout accent colour for your links and buttons.
Never say to a designer “Wow me!” Unless you provide them with some guidance around what you like and don’t like, its going to be a long road. Remember too that the person you want to like your site is not you, but your Ideal Client.
The website’s content
Show, don’t tell – Don’t tell your website visitors how good you are at your profession, show them with content that contains results, facts / figures. Use social proof to inform new customers – use case studies and testimonials from your happy satisfied customers.
When you’re building a new website, your content will need to change, whether that is just editing some of the current pages or adding a whole new set of pages and posts. Two things:
- Remember to include the cost of this work in your website budget
- Producing the content takes time and you need to keep on top of content production so your developer can stay within agreed deadlines.
Be careful with your choice of page builder and plugins within your WordPress website. Some of the page building tools, such as Elementor and WPBakery, use a lot of code, so can slow your site down and mean there is a risk that someone in the business can “break” the site by changing something they shouldn’t. Having a set of design templates where the content and images can be changed, but not the structure and layout is a good way to protect the site, whilst giving you the freedom and flexibility to add pages/posts as you wish.
Also keep the number of plugins to a minimum. The more plugins you have, the more likely there are to be clashes and potential security issues.
Before Go Live
Test the site carefully. If things aren’t working (such as contact forms not sending emails to the right people), make sure they are fixed before the Go Live. If they are missed, it is still the developer’s responsibility to fix this after the site is live.
Also, make sure that you know exactly how things work after the Go Live. Changes to the site will usually mean additional costs, unless you have some skills and can do it yourself.
This one really starts when earlier than this, but it is definitely an ongoing piece. Matt says:
Optimise for search – Make sure you can be seen on Google. Use keywords, add meta descriptions and write informative and relevant blog articles for your audience. Also make sure you have a Google business profile to enhance your presence in local search and improve visibility. He also says:
Keep your site up-to-date – If you have a WordPress website make sure the theme, plugins and the WordPress platform software is always up-to-date this will avoid security issues and any bugs that may arise from plugin conflicts. Keep the site content up-to-date, new blog articles, case studies, testimonials and achievements, keep your site looking fresh.
It makes sense to have a website support and maintenance retainer in place. Keeping plugins updated takes time, but is necessary for the security and functionality of your website. SEO work is ongoing to maintain and improve your performance in the search rankings.
If you are thinking of updating or replacing your website soon, we hope these tips have helped guide your thinking and, of course, if you want some help with the project, please get in touch. Call us on 020 8634 5911 or click here to book some time into our diary.