12 Things to Think about Before Developing Your Website
A great deal of time, thought and effort goes into creating a successful website. Designers and developers need to work together to ensure that the website is user-friendly, fast and reliable, but it doesn't stop there. You'll also need to think about how you are going to engage your visitors, encourage conversions, track performance and a great deal more. It might sound like a lot of work, but a successful website will become an invaluable marketing tool for your business. Here are twelve crucial factors to consider before you start developing your website.
1 - Choosing a Domain and Host
If you are planning to develop a website to market a traditional business, then choosing a domain is likely to be somewhat easier. Typically, you'll want to use the name of your existing business and the top level domain of your country code, particularly if it is a local business. If your business is primarily an online one, then you'll need to choose a domain which reflects your brand's image and purpose while also being short and unlikely to be misspelled. You'll also need to spend some time comparing hosting packages, and as a growing business, you'll likely want to go for a scalable hosting package which can grow as your business does.
2 - Choosing a Content Management System
Long gone are the days when most websites were designed from scratch using HTML and complicated visual editors. Today, most websites use a content management system which provides a user-friendly backend allowing webmasters and developers to easily add and edit content on their websites. The CMS minimizes the necessity to get involved in any coding while also giving your website a tried and tested framework to build upon. There are many CMSs to choose from, but one of the most popular for e-commerce websites is Joomla. Another extremely popular CMS is the open-source WordPress, an ideal solution for more informational sites.
3 - Style and Theme
Many content management systems have a variety of customizable themes available for them, although you may prefer to have one designed from scratch specifically for your business. You should go for a clean design with an effective color scheme which reflects your business and industry. The style and theme you choose for your website must be carefully chosen to reflect your brand, your industry and your image. Choosing a suitable color scheme is one of the most important factors, and one which many web designers get wrong. Consistency is also essential, since you'll want to create a recognizable style which people will identify with your business.
4 - Your Audience
You cannot get started with any form of online marketing, including developing your website, unless you have a clearly defined audience which you have become very familiar with. You need to get to know your targeted audience so that you can provide them with the content that is most likely to interest them. Once you know your product or service, you will need to learn about the people who are most likely to be interested in it. This means engaging your potential customers directly either through social networks or forums or learning from successful competitors in your niche.
5 - Your Goals
No successful business, either online or traditional, can succeed without a clearly defined set of goals and a plan for the long term. As you make your foray into the highly competitive world of online business and marketing, you're going to want to establish a roadmap to success which you can realistically stick to. To begin with, you will need to set up activity goals rather than financial ones, and doing so will help to ensure that you stay committed to the ongoing marketing process once your have established your website. You will also need to keep your goals and purpose in mind during every step of the actual website design process.
6 - Media Content
Particularly if you are planning to launch an e-commerce website, you will need high quality images to represent your products. Having video content is also extremely useful, since it provides you with a great opportunity to showcase your products, provide tutorials and more. When looking to purchase something, people are far more likely to pay attention to visual content rather than spend their time reading through a wall of text. However, it is also important not to have too much media content to such an extent that it slows down your site. You should also host any video content off-site, only embedding it on your own website instead.
7 - On-Site Advertising
Many people make their money online solely by advertising. On-site advertising may include pay-per-click advertising programs or affiliate products. However, if you are selling your own products or services online, advertising anything else will likely end up detracting from the user experience. On-site advertising is often something which is heavily overdone, and no one likes to be bombarded with aggressive advertising when they are browsing the Web. Use only the advertising which is necessary for the success of your website, and never use intrusive methods such as popups or other things which interrupt the user experience.
8 - Cross-Platform Compatibility
Cross-browser and cross-platform compatibility is absolutely critical in times when people use a wide variety of different ways to access the Internet. Long gone are the times when surfing the Internet was largely restricted to a handful of Web browsers on desktop operating systems. Today, it is crucial to plan for cross-platform compatibility from the very outset of developing your website. It needs to look great both on desktop and laptop screens as well as on the smaller screens of mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones. You can either deploy responsive web design techniques or have a separate mobile-friendly version of your site.
9 - Analytics
Tracking the performance of your website and the growth of your online business is absolutely critical for discovering both its strong and weak points. You can use a variety of tools to track things like bounce rate, popular pages and learn where your visitors are coming from. You'll also want to keep track of your conversion rate. Some popular tools which almost every successful webmaster uses include Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics. Using these tools, you will be able to see which areas of your website marketing process are working for you and which ones are holding you back.
10 - Security
If you are planning to take payments through your website or have user accounts containing any kind of personal information, security is crucial. All e-commerce sites should deploy SSL encryption to ensure that sensitive information is kept safe and away from prying eyes. Security is also a major factor to consider when choosing an appropriate hosting company. No webmaster should ever skimp on this essential area, since doing so can lead to financial disaster and a terrible reputation for your business. Throughout the website development process, you should thoroughly review all security features in your web design and framework.
11 - Continuous Improvement
Using analytics to track the performance of your online business, you will be able to expose the underperforming aspects of your website and the marketing processes which surround it. Continuous improvement refers to using this information to make tweaks and changes as and when they are required rather than giving your site one or more major overhauls in the future. You should look at your business website as a long-term project which needs continuous nurturing in order to maintain your reputation and earn the trust of your visitors and customers. Do not be afraid of reaching out to customers for their feedback as well.
12 - Website Marketing
Your online business only starts with your web design, but there is a whole lot to do once your website is up and running. You will need to dedicate time to marketing your website on a regular basis. Among the various tried and tested effective online marketing tactics are social media marketing, search engine marketing, email marketing and content marketing. You'll need to set up social networking profiles for your website, design interesting, engaging and relevant targeted email newsletters and optimize the content of your website and other online portals for the search engines.