It’s not enough to get a new website designed because you don’t like your old one. If you are shopping around for website designers, then there’s more than likely a deeper reason why you want a new online presence.
If you have a website that’s getting on a bit, chances are you had it designed and built because you felt you just needed something online to be doing some of your marketing for you. Maybe more thought went in to how it looked than what it did; maybe your business has changed now to the point where your current site just doesn’t work for you any more.
What I’m increasingly seeing is that people contact me “just to get a website”. That’s the wrong approach. If you are in the market for a new website, then there are problems in your business that you feel a website can solve. Getting to the root of those problems could mean the difference between success and failure, both in terms of your website’s design and its effectiveness out there in the wild.
Here are three hypothetical website clients whose problems go further than just tidying things up and making it pretty.
I can’t update my website
Problem: The site was built either using an outdated CMS (Content Management System) which is difficult to learn, or it was hard coded using HTML, CSS and maybe some PHP (and if that all sounds like a foreign language that’s because, to the average user, it probably is).
Solution: Develop a site using a CMS platform that is user-friendly and straightforward. But more than that, develop the CMS further so that it is as simple as it needs to be, and then train the client in how to use the system so that their site is never out of date again.
Plan of action:
- Conduct initial discussions to establish exactly which areas of the site the client would like to edit.
- Decide what elements need to be automated and which will be satisfactory with human input. If, say, the client only has a phone to take pictures, and no photo-editing software, then a system needs to be set up whereby images are resized and optimised as they are uploaded.
- If required, customise the user interface, removing any unnecessary and potentially confusing input boxes, check boxes etc so that the client can simply process the information on the page and get new content on there as quickly as possible.
I want to be top of Google
Problem: The client’s current site is languishing on page 5 of Google’s search results pages, even though they have been established for 20-plus years and have had a website for half that time.
Solution: Ensure the site is set up properly, ensuring Google’s robots easy access to all areas that need to be indexed. Ensure the site loads quickly and with minimal errors.
Plan of action:
- Audit the site to ensure everything is working as it should be.
- Optimise or remove any files that would cause delay in Google indexing the site.
- Establish a large range of keywords using Google’s Keyword Planner to see if we can find niche areas that haven’t been tapped in to.
- With a keyword document in place, canvas opinion (maybe via Facebook poll or on Twitter) as to what would make good content in the client’s particular market.
- Develop a content strategy. That is, brainstorm a list of 20 or more topics which both fit in with the best keywords and solve the problems raised in the research.
- Carry out ongoing testing to ensure that the site’s results are improving.
I want different members of staff to be able to do different things
Problem: An old site was built with either one administrator login, which you have to give to everybody, or there is no option available to tier access to certain areas of the site.
Solution: Provide individual tailor-made user roles so that each member of staff has a set number of options and capabilities, and everyone can edit only what they are supposed to.
Plan of action:
- Define the areas of the site that need to be edited.
- Decide which staff members will be responsible for each area.
- Further define which bits of each area should be available to each user – Should the be able to edit the whole page, or just parts of it? Should they be able to add news? Should they be able to add new products, or to put items on special offer?
- Create unique user roles for each tier of access.
- Provide training to individuals as to how they can use their specific role to keep their area of the site up to date.
By looking at your site as an extension of your business, and deciding what problems need solving, you will be able to develop a much more useful website, both for you and your visitors.