Category Archives: Web Development

10 reasons why you need a WordPress website

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Why your business needs a Wordpress website

If you're doing some research prior to getting a new website built for your business, you might have heard about WordPress. We love WordPress here at Public, and all websites we build for our clients use the WordPress platform. You can see some examples of our WordPress websites on our Clients page.

WHAT IS WORDPRESS?
WordPress is an open source website creation tool. By open source, we mean the framework is available for anyone to download free of charge. It’s the most user-friendly and powerful CMS (Content Management System) around today.

WHO USES IT?
You’re in good company if you've got a WordPress website. Well-respected sites like Mashable and TechCrunch use WordPress. This WordPress showcase gives you a flavour of some of the companies using it, and this chart shows which content management systems are currently the most popular.

HOW DO I GET IT?
If you're going to use a hosting company (and there are plenty out there to pick from), you can download it from WordPress.org. Alternatively you can use it as a hosted service via WordPress.com. If you're not very tech-savvy, ask your local friendly web developer (us!) for advice.

WHY SHOULD I USE IT?
There are lots of reasons why WordPress is so popular. Here are just some of them:

1. You have control of your own website
No more waiting for your web developer to make simple changes and updates – and paying for every tiny change. With WordPress, you have control of nearly every aspect of your website and can carry out simple updates yourself.

2. Easy to use
WordPress is very easy to use, even for non-technical people. Adding new pages, posts, images, etc. can be done quickly and easily.

3. Manage your website from anywhere
Because WordPress is browser-based, you can log in and manage your website from any computer, anywhere in the world. All you need is an internet connection, and a little bit of knowledge.

4. No specialist software required
WordPress is a self-contained system, so you don't need to use HTML editing software such as Dreamweaver. You can create a new page or blog post, upload or edit images, and upload documents, video files, images, etc. all without the need for additional HTML or FTP software.

5. Great for SEO
Google loves WordPress! The code behind WordPress is very clean and simple, making it easy for Google to read and index. In addition, you can give each page, post and image its own keywords, description and title. You can optimise your content for specific keywords, allowing for very precise search engine optimisation. And you can update all of this yourself, without the help of a web developer.

6. Multiple users
There's no need to be the sole administrator of your website – other staff members can have their own logins. The primary administrator of a WordPress site can set up multiple users, and assign different access levels to different users.

7. Blogging is built in
WordPress started life as a blogging platform, so blogging is built in and easy to integrate. Setting up newsletter subscriptions and commenting is very simple. You can also add your most recent blog posts to other pages of your website, like your home page.

8. Increase what your website can do with plugins
Plugins are pieces of code that allow certain things to happen on your website. They have already been written, so there's no need for your web developer to write them from scratch. Plugins are either free or cheap to buy. There will be some configuration required – if you're not technically-minded, your web developer will do this for you. Plugins allow your website to have features like event calendars, video galleries and Twitter feeds.

9. Large community
As the world's most popular CMS, there's a lot of free support out there. If you're not sure how to do something, you can Google it! Someone will have been there before and will have the answer.

10. It also does eCommerce
WordPress websites can be set up to sell your products online, using a plugin called WooCommerce.

If an easy-to-use Content Management System sounds like the kind of thing you are after, drop us a line for a no-obligation chat about your requirements.

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Create a compelling, profitable website using these 9 steps

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So you've got a fantastic idea for your new website. Before you start talking to web developers about the project, it will be hugely beneficial to map out the steps and plan the important details. That way you'll lessen any delays or surprises along the way.

Here's a brief, whistle-stop tour of what you need to do:

1. Determine Your Market

  • Get a clear understanding of your website’s potential users – why will they visit?
  • Create a list of your competitors' websites
  • Determine the strengths and weaknesses of their websites
  • Define your organisation’s Unique Selling Points – what's special about you?

2. Set Your Goals

  • Make sure the goals of the website are the same as the goals of your business. For example, are you trying to showcase your expertise? Or perhaps sell online?
  • Decide on a method for defining and measuring success, for example, number of leads or orders generated by the website

3. Name Your Website

  • Choose a domain name and hosting
  • Consider potential misspelling issues
  • Purchase your domain name(s)

4. Think About Content

  • Draw up a plan of what you need to include
  • Name your pages or major sections such as Contact, Services, etc.

5. Find a Web Developer

  • All I can suggest here is to contact us!

6. Design Your Website

This part of the project will be carried out by your web developer, but here are some things you should keep an eye on along the way:

  • Use lots of space, a harmonious colour palette and web safe fonts
  • Find compelling, good quality images that correspond with your branding
  • Check the loading time of your pages – if your web developer has done a good job your pages should load quickly (depending on your WiFi speed)
  • Check the 'depth' of your pages. How many clicks does it take to reach any page? You want as few clicks as possible
  • Check your browser compatibility - does it work on Safari as well as Chrome, for example?
  • Check for broken links
  • Optimise your footer area with links, terms and conditions and privacy policy (essential for GDPR compliance), and contact information
  • Ensure that SEO best practise is used
  • Include links and sharing to social media

7. Include 'Sticky Content'

Again, you may have appointed a professional to look after your content, or decided to take the plunge yourself. Either way, here are some tips to follow:

  • Create a call to action on every page
  • Use a style of writing that will appeal to your target audience
  • Break text into small, easy-to-read sections separated with headings and images (remember - many people skim-read web pages)
  • Include an 'About' page and testimonials to identify yourself and appear more human
  • Make your contact information easy to find

8. Measure

  • Set up Google Analytics to monitor and measure your traffic (again, your web developer may do this for you)

9. Update and Promote

Website up and running? Great. But there are millions of websites out there, so you can't just sit back and expect visitors to find you - although your SEO will help. Here are some tactics you should use:

  • Update your website regularly. Use interesting content so people keep coming back for more
  • Create an ongoing method of marketing and encouraging visitors to your website. This subject could fill another article but basically can involve writing blog posts, videos, cross-promotion with other websites, social media, newsletters, etc.
If you're looking for a web developer in the UK, drop us a line.
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Should you build your own website?

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Build your own website

So you've started your own business. Or your current website needs a bit of a makeover. Or you work for an organisation and have been tasked with refreshing their site. But you haven't got a multi-million budget to spend*. What to do?

*Although it would be nice if you had.

It's tempting to go down the DIY route, especially if you've already done a bit of web stuff before. Of course you could sit down and teach yourself how to build a very basic website. But for a professional organisation, this isn't the best idea. Here we look at a few reasons why.

  1. Looks cheap
    It will look like it's been built by a beginner – because it has – and this will damage your brand. If you look like a cheap enterprise, your customers will go elsewhere.
  2. Looks like every other site
    Use a cheap off-the-shelf template and it will look like every other website out there, and will offer no customisation or advanced functionality such as a CMS. You'll probably want to update your website regularly, and a CMS (Content Management System) is by far the best way of doing this. Plus it will save you time and money in the long run.
  3. Costs more
    It will take you a long time to build, so ultimately cost you more than using an expert. How did we work this out? Say you pay yourself £25 per hour. Your web developer charges £35 per hour. You're saving money by doing it yourself, right? Probably not. It might take you 200 hours to learn how to set everything up and try to get it just right. Factor in all of that time and you've spent £5,000 of worth of time building an average website. Instead, you could have a website beautifully designed by an expert for a cheaper price and in a shorter timeframe.
  4. Takes time
    Your time and therefore money is better spent on other things – such as running your business, or doing the job you're actually being paid for.
  5. Nobody will find it
    It won't be search engine optimised, so nobody will find it. Here at Public we can create comprehensive campaigns that include SEO, social media, online advertising and much more that will bring traffic to your website and attention to your brand.

By hiring a professional you'll realise a return on your investment. At Public we're experts at creating stunning and engaging websites. It's what we do every day. Contact us to find out how we can help your business.

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10 tips to get your marketing calls to action working for you

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Calls to action

How many times have you seen instructions like "Subscribe Now" - "Sign Up Today" - "Contact Us To Find Out More" - "Buy Now" online? Do you have any on your own website? If not, we strongly advise that you get some!

Calls To Action (CTAs) help your website to work hard for you. They are also very valuable in email campaigns, because one of the purposes of an email campaign is to get your potential customers to take an action.

CTAs are a marketing necessity. Get them right and you have the means to drive your customers to just the conclusion you want, for example:

  • purchasing goods or services
  • signing up for a newsletter
  • downloading your latest white papers, etc.

Get your CTAs wrong and you are potentially damaging your digital marketing efforts.

So how can I make them work for me?

They should be:

1. DIRECT
Make it clear what the customer will achieve by clicking on your CTA. Use concise language. If you want your customer to ‘Download full report’ then say so. Not ‘Click here to be amazed by our survey’s results’.

But at the same time...
2. UNAMBIGUOUS
Avoid open-ended invitations such as ‘Click here’ or ‘Submit’. Instead, state a clear outcome, such as 'Buy now’, or ‘Download your free trial’.

3. PROMINENT
Whether presented as a button, advert, text or image, your CTA needs to stand out from the rest of the page in terms of colour, design and position. Don’t hide it away where it won't be found.

4. WELL PLACED
Its position on your web page is vital. Generally, lead generation or eCommerce CTAs should be displayed prominently near the top of the page, whilst more complex pages might warrant a CTA below the 'fold'.

5. CONSIDERED FOR MOBILE DEVICES
If you’re aiming at a mobile audience (and most people are), don’t bury your CTA at the bottom of your page - users will be required to scroll endlessly to reach it. Also, don't use tiny buttons that will go unnoticed on a small screen.

6. PERSONALISED
People like the personal touch. Think about the language you use. Amazingly, a case study from the MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2013 showed a 90% increase in sign-ups by altering one word in a CTA, from ‘Start your free 30 day trial’ to ‘Start my free 30 day trial’.

7. TESTED
Testing will allow you to maximise the impact of your CTA and understand the preferences of your audience. It's worth trying different wording, and placing your CTA in different areas to see what works best.

8. REALISTIC
Make sure your CTA does what it says. If you've promised a free report, make sure the CTA leads straight there, not to your homepage or to a series of complex sign-up procedures. Potential customers may get frustrated and leave the page.

9. OPTIMISED
If your CTA is embedded as an image, make sure you alt tag it with strong keywords. You may need to ask your web developer for help! Alt tags ensure your content is correctly indexed with search engines, and will help to maximise traffic and improve your SEO.

10. FEW
Don’t confuse your visitors with too many CTAs or buttons per page. Where more than one CTA is necessary, create a hierarchy to prioritise. The most important ones should be bigger and placed in a prominent position to maximise clicks.

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Is your website still fit for purpose?

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Is your website fit for purpose

Ask yourself these questions about your current website:

  1. Is it immediately obvious what it's for? If you can't tell in the first five seconds what the website is selling or telling, then it isn't doing its job effectively. Amazingly, this is the amount of time viewers will spend deciding if they want to stay or leave. If they can't tell what you do in that time – they'll be off.
  2. Is it optimised for mobile devices? Have a look at your website on a smartphone or iPad. It should be simple to navigate and text should be easy to read.
  3. Is it too cluttered? If you've had the same website for a few years, it may have been tempting to 'bolt on' more information, perhaps as your business has grown. To gain a competitive advantage, you need a crisp, clean design that's easy to navigate.
  4. Is it flexible and adaptable? What if your business launches a new product or service? You don’t want to have to revamp everything to accommodate it. Using a CMS (Content Management System) can allow for future expansion, and enable you to add new features to your existing website.
  5. Are my competitors doing it better? Have a look at what your rivals are doing. If their sites rate above yours in search results and look more professional, it may be time for a refresh.

If you'd like to a chat about what you need to go forward, give us a call.

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How Google Analytics can help improve your web traffic

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Google Analytics

Google Analytics monitors and measures your website traffic.

It’s free, and integrates with other Google programmes like AdWords.

You can see how many people are actually engaging with your website, which you can't do using offline marketing tools like brochures or press ads.

We recommend that you analyse your website traffic reports regularly. These will help you understand where your traffic is coming from, and what visitors do when they land on your website.

How to set it up
1. To use Google Analytics you need a Google account. If you don't have one, set one up. It's quick and easy.
2. Once you have a Google account go to Google Analytics and sign in with your Google account.
3. Follow the instructions to create a new analytics account.
4. When you are creating a new account, the 'Add Tracking' step will generate your tracking ID. The tracking ID will start with 'UA'.
5. Copy and paste the tracking code into the pages of your website that you want to track.

You can follow these steps yourself, but it may be easier to get your web developer to do this for you.

With this code in place, you will immediately start to receive data related to your website that you can then use to analyse your traffic and business goals.

One fantastic feature of Google Analytics is goal tracking. Set up a 'conversion goal' within your analytics account and you will be able to check if you are reaching this goal. You will be able to see exactly where you are losing your visitors along the conversion process, allowing you to correct any mistakes you are making on your site.

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So you want an eCommerce website. Why not try WooCommerce?

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Ecommerce woocommerce

You may be a business owner who currently sells products from a 'bricks and mortar' shop, and is looking to expand their sales channels to include online.

Or perhaps you've already got an eCommerce website, but it's been around for a few years and you're unhappy with its limitations.

If you've read any of our previous blog posts you'll know that we're big fans of WordPress. We love it because our clients can update their own websites after launch, it's easy to use, it's great for SEO, and if you want to increase what your website can do, it's usually possible to add functionality with 'plugins'.

If you want to sell products via your website, WordPress can handle this via a plugin called WooCommerce.

Woocommerce allows you to easily control the products on your website. You can add 'basic' products, products with variations like different sizes and colours, and add a range of images to show different angles. Shopping carts and checkout pages look professional and are customisable.

You can up-sell and cross-sell related products – Amazon do this, so why not borrow their idea? It's also easy to enable social sharing, so your customers can share links to your website via Facebook, Instagram, etc.

You can administer the whole process on the website, including checking your orders, despatching them and printing out packing slips (via an additional plugin).

If you have stock to clear, you can set up a Sale at any time by updating the prices of your products and showing a 'before' and 'after' price. You can even use voucher codes for a set price discount, a percentage discount or free delivery. This could be for a month, a week, a day...or however long you want your promotion to last. All this can be done with no input from your web developer.

There are a wide variety of delivery options including Flat Rate Shipping, Free Shipping, International Shipping and Local Shipping. Delivery options are very flexible and allow for detailed control of shipping rules and rates. This part can get a bit complicated depending on your delivery requirements, but once it's all set up there's no need to go back and update it.

WooCommerce supports hundreds of payment gateways (for example WorldPay and PayPal) and provides secure SSL certificate support, giving you and your potential customers peace of mind.

How about keeping a track of figures? The system includes dashboards and widgets to monitor your sales and performance.

Here's one of our WooCommerce websites, which is being run successfully and profitably: lilacrose.co.uk

There are so many possibilities when using WooCommerce, whether you want a basic online shop or an all-singing, all-dancing site. If you want to find out more about how WooCommerce can help you run your online shop more easily, drop us a line.

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Everything you need to know about website content

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So, your website's been built. What next? You need to think about your website content.

The golden rule is to MAINTAIN YOUR WEBSITE. Don’t just get it built and then forget it – you'll be ignoring a valuable marketing channel and potential for growing your business.

There are many ways you can increase traffic to your website:
• Optimise your site with search engine optimisation techniques
• Google Adwords pay-per-click campaign
• Promoting your site through advertising on popular industry websites
• Newsletter marketing
• Promotion through social media
• Promotion through traditional marketing such as press adverts and flyering campaigns

Another way of driving traffic to your website is to continually update the site with fresh and valuable content, which we'll talk about here.

So, do you do it yourself or outsource? This depends on your own time and your skill. If English isn't your best subject, this may damage your business' image. If you don’t have the time or skills to maintain your website, use the skills of a professional.

What is website content?

Basically, it's words, pictures and video.

Your web developer might enter the initial content to get you going (make sure you know if this is included in the quote).

People assign more credibility to sites that show they have been recently updated or reviewed – and it's also great for SEO. When a website is updated regularly, Google sees it as an active site and therefore ranks it more highly in search results pages.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is taking your website content one step further.

Many customers nowadays shut themselves off from the traditional world of marketing. They own a Sky Plus box to skip TV advertising, put themselves on the TPS to avoid cold calls on the telephone, often ignore magazine advertising, and skim-read online information without looking at banners or buttons.

Content marketing aims to reach these people in a different way. It's a technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving customer action.

Content marketing is being used by some of the biggest companies in the world, including P&G and Microsoft. It’s also carried out by small businesses and one-person shops around the globe. Why? Because it works.

It can include, blogging, social media posts, e-newsletters, videos, articles on other websites, infographics....the list goes on.

Copywriting

If you're going to write your own words, here are some tips:

  • Try to be clear, direct, and sincere
  • Remember ‘KISS’ - ‘Keep it Short and Simple’
  • Avoid long sentences - split them into two where possible
  • Avoid errors of all types, no matter how small they seem. Get someone to double check what you've written
  • Avoid “wishy washy” words like: may, maybe, hope, wish, try, but, could, perhaps and strive. Instead, use words like will and can to describe what your business will or can do for your reader
  • Avoid the passive voice where possible, e.g. use “We created ten new designs” instead of “Ten new designs were created"
  • Consider why your customers should buy your product or service
  • Know your target audience and use a writing style that suits them
  • Break text into small easily read chunks separated with headings and images for easier scanning – most people skim-read website text
  • Create a call to action as often as possible (without becoming repetitive) – more on this next

Calls to Action

Call to action help your website to work hard for you. Calls to action are also very valuable in email campaigns, as one of the purposes of an email campaign is to get your potential customers to take an action.

Calls to action are a marketing necessity. Get them right and you have the means to drive your customers to just the conclusion you want, for example:

  • Increasing leads and revenue
  • Purchasing goods or services
  • Downloading your latest white papers, etc.

Get your calls to action wrong and you are potentially damaging your digital marketing efforts.

Blogging

Some people have a blog separate to their website, and sometime it's incorporated into the actual site. It's best for SEO to have everything in one place, but if you've got a separate blog, just make sure that you've got obvious links back to your main site.

Your goal with a blog is to:

  • Show yourself as an expert in your field
  • Showcase your products and services – within a good story
  • Make it interesting so that it's shared, thus increasing your brand awareness
  • Having obvious 'sharing' buttons on your website will help get your content shared

Some tips for writing engaging blogs:

  • Identify and understand your target audience
  • Be original
  • Don’t be afraid to make it a long, magazine-style post. If it's interesting, people will read to the end
  • Make it positive – positive blog posts are shared more often than negative ones
  • Use current trends and recent news events as inspiration when you are creating content
  • Use pictures
  • Make is useful – maybe it will help people to solve a problem
  • Make it easy to read, using the copywriting tips above
  • Think of a headline that demands attention. For example:

- Include a promise in your title: “Everything You Need to Know About Web Design” (sound familiar?!)

- Numbers let your reader know what to expect: “10 Ways To Build a Great Website”

- Ask questions to stimulate curiosity: “What's Your Favourite Ever Website?”

- Write a “How To” article: “How to Become a Web Design Expert”

Content schedule

With so many options for content marketing out there, the biggest challenge SMEs face is – how do I find the time? You might be a sole trader struggling to fit everything in. Or an SME with a small number of staff covering a multitude of different roles.

Large organisations will either outsource their content marketing, or have staff whose sole role is to work on the content. SMEs don't have that luxury.

We can't create time, but what we can do is draw up a content schedule to fit what can do within the limited time we have to do it.

And as always in marketing, think about who your target audience are.

If you need any help or advice on getting your website content written, drop us a line.

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What to include in a website brief

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What to put in a website brief

The website brief - thinking about getting a website built but not sure what to ask for?

Let's turn the question on its head. When people come to us for a cost estimate for a new website, we ask them to answer the questions below. These questions will help both us and the client understand exactly what they want from their new site.

1. YOUR BUSINESS
What products do you sell or services do you provide?

How big is your business?

Do you trade within the UK only?

Describe the company using five or ten words (e.g. young, vibrant, technology based, etc.)

2. YOUR CURRENT WEBSITE
Why is it no longer suitable?

What do you like and dislike about it?

Do you know what levels of traffic is it currently receiving, including from mobile devices?

3. YOUR AUDIENCE AND COMPETITORS
Who are your target audience for this website?

What's the purpose of the website? (e.g. sell products, provide information, educate, etc)

What actions do you want visitors to take? (e.g. contact you via email or phone, fill out an online form, follow you on social media, make a purchase, etc)

Please list the names of two or more of your competitors.

Please list the names of two websites that you like and two that you dislike. What do you like and dislike about them?

How will your target audience be accessing your site – via their phones, tablets or desktops?

4. DESIGN
Do you have any ideas for the look and feel of your website?

Do you have existing logo/branding/business cards or other printed materials, or should branding be part of our quote?

5. GENERAL
We will link to your social media so please provide the links.

Do you need to purchase a domain name or do you already own it?

Do you need to purchase hosting?

Do you have an idea of budget and a deadline date in mind?

6. WEBSITE FRAMEWORK
Please place an 'X' to identify any pages or features you envisage as part of your site:
Basic
 Home
 Products / services
 FAQs
 Directions
 About Us
 Contact Us with contact form
 News / blog
 Upcoming events

Special Features
 Home page slideshow
 Video
 Map
 Search facility
 Newsletter / email list sign-up
 Information / request forms

Applications
 Registration / customer login
 Store / shopping cart
 Online payment
 Forum
 Reviews
 Customer surveys/polls

Please list any additional or custom pages you would like.

7. AFTER IT'S BUILT - WEBSITE CONTENT
How often will you need to update the website content?
Hourly
Daily
Weekly
Monthly
Rarely

How many content pages do you expect to update on your site each month?

Who will be responsible for updates – your website developer or yourselves?

Who will be responsible for generating content – text and images?

As with any purchase you make, you should send exactly the same brief to a number of web companies, so when you get the price back you are comparing like with like.

Ready for the next steps? Check out our blog post about the stages involved in getting a website built.

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How to get a website built

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What are the steps involved in getting a website built for your business?

Firstly, some facts.

1&1 Internet recently carried out some research showing that:

  • 46% of users have walked away from a small business because of a poor website
  • 7% have opted to spend less with the business as a direct result
  • 45% say that a bad website makes a worse impact than a business having no website at all

If you're a small or medium-sized business, it's unlikely you'll have big budgets, teams of people, or lots of time to invest in a complex online strategy, but there are some simple steps you can take to start reaping the rewards of visible online.

Advantages of having a website

  • The internet is a fact of business life now - if you have no web presence, no-one will find you
  • You'll appear outdated if you don't have one
  • It's a way of both summarising your offer, giving more detail and showing testimonials
  • It's cheap compared to many other types of marketing communications
  • Easily accessible – with mobile technology you can be found on any device
  • Acts as a shop window for your business
  • It's open 24/7
  • It's international – available (almost) anywhere in the world
  • You can be in control of it

Do it properly

So we've had a look at how important it is to have a web presence, but you don't want to shoot yourself in the foot by spending time and money getting a website up and running, if all it actually does is show your company in a bad light.

You don't need to have a huge budget to get something good – you can start small, and add to it later as your business grows.

The most important thing to do is to put yourself in the user's shoes.

SIMPLE STEPS IN GETTING A WEBSITE SET UP

1. Check out the competition

Create a list of URLs of your competitors, and determine the strengths and weaknesses of their websites.

What are your favourite websites – and why do you like them? Pick out a few sites that look the way you’d like yours to look, considering things like design, colour scheme, and layout.

2. What is your market?

Create a clear understanding of your website’s users. A good way of doing this is with "personas" - they are a great way to pinpoint who your users are.

The goal is to describe the target customer as a real person:

  • Give them a name and image
  • Age, gender, interests
  • Situation – when do they buy / use this product?
  • Key information needs – what do they need to find out?
  • Decision making factors – what influences them?
  • Increase the personal description for B2C situations, e.g. cosmetics, clothing
  • Understand the decision-making role for B2B situations, e.g. user, purchaser

You can create a few personas to help clarify your different market segments.

e.g. Florist in Leamington Spa

Persona 1

Woman who comes in every week and buys a different display for her living room

Persona 2

Man who wants to buy his partner a bouquet on special occasions

This helps you to understand what you need to put into your website from a user's point of view.

3. Set your goals

Make sure your users' needs are met. For example, do they need to reach you urgently or are you persuading them of your expertise?

What do you want your website to do?

  • Get new customers
  • Launch a new product or service
  • Reassure potential customers
  • Reassure existing customers
  • Remind existing customers
  • Inform
  • Increase product awareness
  • Generate more sales
  • Offer e-commerce
  • Create a community

...or a mixcture of the above.

4. Decide what type of website you need

  • eCommerce site or 'brochure' site - will your site be an online store or simply a 'brochure' type site that tells people about your business?
  • CMS – what is it? Why will it be cheaper for you? CMS stands for Content Management System. Many customers prefer to use a CMS as they have control over their own content, and it works out cheaper for them. WordPress is a type of CMS. It started as a blogging platform but is so easy to use, it's now a very popular platform for developing all types of websites.
  • Bespoke or theme – what's the difference? Have a look at some of the themes available from businesses like ThemeForest and Template Monster. You can't just download a theme and start adding content – you'll still need to get a web developer to configure and customise it for your brand. Buying a theme saves your web developer time and therefore saves you money. BUT there are drawbacks – a theme can drastically limit your choice of website design and functionality. Also, if you decide to make big changes to your theme, you are adding web development time which costs you money.
  • Responsive or not? - our website MUST be responsive, i.e. configured to display properly on mobile devices. Over 50% of John Lewis online sales are now made on mobile devices, and this figure will only increase. It makes sense to get responsive design built into your site upfront so it's future-proof.

5. Choose a domain name

We see URLs all day every day. A URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is basically a web address.

www: Worldwide web

publicagency: Domain name

.co.uk: Top level domain

You can select and buy your domain through a website that sells domains e.g. www.123reg.com, www.1and1.com, www.godaddy.com, or through your hosting company (more about hosting below).

You may have to compromise on the exact name, as your first choice may be gone.

There are now a large amount of TLDs available e.g. .photos .clothing .kitchen. It might be worth buying a few TLDs e.g. .co.uk, .net, .co, .org to save competitors snapping them up.

You're renting the domain name, and the rental lasts 1-2 years. Make sure you renew it, or it's gone.

Expect to pay between £3 - £30 + per year, depending on the popularity of your name.

Tips:

  • It should be easy to spell
  • Try to avoid using dashes – it makes the URL easier to remember without them
  • Remember – it's not case sensitive
  • Make sure there are no howlers!

e.g. Choose Spain = choosespain

e.g. Lawyers Exchange = lawyersexchange

e.g. Speed of Art = speedofart

6. Arrange hosting

Like domain registrations, there are many companies that offer website hosting with varying pricing.

Web hosting companies own huge servers with lots of space for websites to 'live', and they basically rent out space on these servers. Web hosting is generally charged to you on a monthly or annual fee.

You can ask your web developer to arrange this for you, for you can arrange it yourself. If your web developer does it for you, make sure have a copy of the information you need to access all your files, in case you ever want to change developer. You will need the username and password to the place on the server where your site is hosted.

Larger hosting companies will offer cheap deals but as with any cheap service, you may not get the best customer service.

The amount you pay depends on the size of your website. A large eCommerce website, for example, will cost more than a small site with five pages of content. This is because you're taking up more space on the hosting company's server. For a very basic website, expect to pay from £8 per month.

Examples of hosting companies are 1and1, Fast Hosts, GoDaddy, United Hosting.

7. Get your website designed and built

The big one!

Do you 'do it yourself' or pay a professional web developer to do it? Play to your strengths – if you have some design or coding experience then give it a try. If not, we suggest you get it done properly! Consider your needs, your technical abilities, and your budget when making a decision about how your site will be created.

You only get a few seconds to convince a web visitor that they’ve come to the right place so it’s important that your website reflects professionalism.

An "amateur" website isn’t likely to give you the results you’re hoping for. Investment in your own website will improve your bottom line in the long run.

7.a. Get a brief together

The more you can tell your web developer about what you want, the better – you'll get a more accurate quote and will end up with the website you want.

What should you put in it? See our client questionnaire which was the subject of another of our blog posts.

7.b. The quote

As with any purchase you make, you should send exactly the same brief to a number of web companies, so when you get the price back you are comparing like with like.

Check to see if you've been given a quote for the entire job or at an hourly rate. If it's for the entire job, see what's included.

We recently met a small business owner who had asked web developer to design and build a new website. The business owner was shocked that the web developer wouldn't be designing the logo, writing the words, and arranging the photography. They thought all this work was included in the quote – which led to both him and the web developer parting on bad terms. So check what's included and what isn't.

7.c. What the web developer will need from you

Most web development companies will assume that you will be providing the following:

  • logo
  • pictures
  • text
  • links to your social media accounts

Good web development companies will check to see what you will be providing, and if you have any gaps they will supply a quote for the missing elements.

Consider deadlines. It's always worth giving yourself and your web developer a deadline, otherwise jobs can drag on.

7.d. What the web developer will do next

Between you, you'll agree the 'architecture' of the website.

Different web design companies will use different processes at this stage. For a bespoke website, good practise is for them to supply you with a wireframe so you are both agreed before they even start coding.

If you've gone for the 'theme' option, the web developer will purchase the theme at this stage.

Your web developer should design your page layout (especially the home page) with a hierarchy in mind.

They should consider the F-shaped reading pattern:

  • the viewer first notices the logo top left;
  • then moves onto the slideshow/main image which is the most important element on the home page;
  • as the reader moves lower on the page they notice the information about the business.

There should be plenty of space to make it easy for users to scan through and find the relevant information. Resist the temptation to cram everything in, and think about what the users are actually looking for.

7.e. Other things your web developer should consider

  • Create a call to action on every page.
  • Include an “about” page and testimonials to identify yourself and appear more human.
  • Make your contact information very easy to find.

7.f. Images

Again, find out up front if you or your web developer are responsible for supplying the images for your website. If you are supplying your own, try to find compelling images that match your branding and company image – consistency is key.

A good quality image can make a website look instantly professional (and of course, the reverse is also true). All image files should be 72 or 96dpi and saved for web. As a rule of thumb use GIF format for computer-generated graphics such as simple logos, buttons or animations, and JPEG format for photographs or scanned material.

Try websites like iStock or Shutterstock for cost-effective stock imagery. Images usually start from a few pounds each.

  • Avoid poor quality images of any kind – it's better to not show anything than to show something pixelated, badly resized or low resolution.
  • If possible, use photos that have a single main subject.
  • Photos of people are good – people relate to seeing other people.
  • Even though photos of people are good, try to avoid clichéd “business people shaking hands” photos!

7.g. Text

You can have the best looking website in the world, but if you’ve got spelling and grammar errors, nobody will take you seriously. Proofread everything, then get a colleague to go over it again.

  • Break the text down into separate sections to minimise individual pages.
  • Use short, precise words in your navigation links (e.g. About Us, Services).
  • Important navigation links should remain constant on every page and organised in order of importance.

7.h. Fonts

Of course you want to be memorable, but don’t be fooled into thinking a fancy font is the way to do it!

  • Stick to web-safe fonts like Google Fonts, or "reliable" ones like Arial, Helvetica, Georgia or Verdana.
  • For text and heading styles, stick to one or two typefaces and two or three type sizes and colours.
  • For ease of use, keep link colours in line with the page colours.
  • Don’t use all-caps text for anything other than a heading.

7.i. Important things your web developer should be checking

  • The loading time of your pages. Loading speed is key to getting repeat visitors (and in our experience, anything over 15 seconds is too slow). This is one of the reasons you need 72 or 96dpi images saved for web. Huge images will make the page loading time too slow.
  • Check the 'depth' of your pages – how many clicks does it take to reach any page? The fewer the clicks, the better.
  • Check your browser compatibility (does everything still work on IE, Chrome, Safari, Firefox etc.)?
  • Check for broken links.
  • Optimise your footer area with links, copyright, terms and conditions, privacy policy, disclaimers, contact info (as well as being either legally required or just good practice, this helps your SEO).

8. What happens after it's built?

Once the site is up, what’s next? Regardless of whether you build it, hire someone, or a combination of the two, traffic won't just arrive on its own. You'll need to use marketing tools and tactics to promote it.

To find out more, drop us a line.

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