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The basics - Building A Website 

Despite having the best of intentions, designers & creatives can have a tendency to concoct a masterpiece that doesn’t necessarily equate to a money-making project. Sure, when you are building a website, you need a brilliant concept, but don't focus on this entirely - there is much more to setting up a website.

Yes, it may look visually stunning but, ultimately, the message may not support your philosophy, therefore your customer may not pay for your services. The key is to create an inbound marketing content strategy AROUND the foundation of your idea. 

There’s nothing more disappointing than having a creation that you slaved over trampled on by a stampede of criticism, especially when it is relatively easy to avoid this. You want to avoid the classic: “yeah this is great, but” line. Let’s eliminate the ‘but’ & combine fun with functionality! 

Before you can find out how to make a good website, you need to establish how you can hit your customers' sweet spot by answering these questions.

1. What Does Your Company Provide?

We'll need to establish what your company ethos is before you begin work on your site. If you don’t know, don’t begin anything! A thorough understanding of who you are, what you do and how long the company has been around often supports the creative narrative going forward. However, if you run an aquarium that sells tropical fish but they also sell logistical support for offshore facilities, you need to make sure you get your head around both elements of the business. The smallest miscommunication can cause confusion before you’ve even begun building a website.

2. What Are The Objectives?

What does you want to achieve out of this? Sure, attention is great, but what is your goal? Requests? Sales? Business analytics? More sign ups? Maybe you want your newsletter opt-in to be expanded, more information on how to advertise on social media or call to actions to be installed at the end of blog posts

Some business’s simply want to keep pace with similar organisations, but smaller businesses have a tendency to ask for something off the back of others' success ‘just because’, 'John and Sheila' have it, and now they're sitting on a yacht in the south of France. Remember, it may well be working for John and Sheila for a reason you know nothing about.

With the guidance of your designer's expertise, you need to find your own voice and personal niche. If you have no idea what your brand logo or philosophy is, then it may be worth walking away from a project and re-assessing. At the end of the day, if you don’t know, you’ll never be able to execute a business goal that doesn’t exist.

No website can exist for the sake of it, you should accomplish something far more than a return on investment. Your may want to educate your audience, encourage sales and increase brand awareness. This is a three-stage formula that proves successful, but it’s about finding the balance. You may want to suggest these initially to get the creative juices flowing so that the project can begin to sharpen and eventually be locked in place.

3. Do You Have A Website?

Understanding the philosophy of your old website is crucial to plucking out the most valuable content and stripping irrelevance. Remember to ask questions to understand the site back to front. What would you like us (the designer) to carry over to the new site, for example. Or, to optimise the site through key words, you may suggest Google Analytics be set up to generate reports on what’s working and what’s not. Essentially, you want to establish where you should best spend your time. Time equals money in any business so learning from past mistakes is a very useful task.

4. What Makes Your Company Stand Out?

What's your niche? What makes a visitor choose you over a similar competitor? you need to understand, fundamentally that there are many different companies with the same principles that can deliver a service through a higher ranking. Nobody wants to be the after thought, however, complacency is the number one reason that online presence can progressively decrease, sometimes without the business owner even being aware. Never assume that because you were once number one, that you still are. If your page has a browser response rate of 2 days vs a competitor with 24 hours, fine tuning these minor details makes all the difference.  

Are you the cheapest? Do you have exclusive products? Everything from great first impressions to brilliant customer service creates a journey and storyline for the visitor. Find out what makes you remarkable and communicate this message through rich content & design. Whilst you shouldn’t focus entirely on your competitors, it can only benefit your brand to know who they are; a subtle eye on similar companies is healthy.  Think outside the box and create an edge for your brand that can’t be replicated. There's no harm on focusing on the less obvious competitors too. They may have a powerful idea that you could expand on or they may have missed a trick that you can execute (especially if your budget is higher). For example, if you’re a theme park, don’t just look at similar theme parks within your county, expand and check out other regional and international theme parks too.

5. What Websites Do You Love?

Come on, admit it, you’ve seen them around. You’ve been jealous just at the sheer sight of their online presence.  But instead of reluctantly appreciating the vibe you wish you had and thinking 'That's nice' through gritted teeth, why not delve deeper into this feeling? So many companies are afraid to emulate the beauty of similar companies sites through fear of plagerizing. Within reason, this is simply not the case. You can make a cocktail of success out of a drop of this & a splash of that to make your own original flavour.

In reality, there is always a compromise to be made between what you actually wants and what your designer knows is best. You may not like blog content on a website. My answer to that would be. That’s nice, but did you know that your audience REALLY do like blog content? The point I’m making is, try not make an emotional decision. The cold hard facts are you have a responsibility to deliver content based around what your AUDIENCE likes, not what you like on a personal level. Equally, don’t be hesitant to explore sites you don’t like. This will allow you to see what NOT to include, opening the door for what TO include.

6. What Are Your Customers Up To? Who Are They?

You’d be amazed at how many businesses have no clue who they are selling to. Some might go as vague as to say, ‘we sell to everyone’. Well, I hate to break it to you, but this isn’t true, even with HUGE corporations like McDonald's, they don’t sell to ‘everyone’. For example, you wouldn't see a vegan visiting McDonald's for a cheeky big mac.

However, this doesn’t mean you can’t create your own version of the coined term ‘everyone’- based on demographics and customer research. We call this a buyer persona. A semi-fictional representation of your brand's typical customer based on data. You’ll be able to entertain and engage with your audience based on just one person who represents everyone! This is not just based on age and gender, spiderwebbing into something called Psychographics. Here, we explore pains, fears and problems your buyer persona may have. As a designer or content writer for a website, it’s our job to communicate this emotional narrative to your audience. 

7. What Features Do You Want Your Website To Have?

From email collections to social media implementation, you have made the decision to get a new website for many reasons. Some believe it’s standard to have particular online marketing features on their page such as a blog or landing page but others may be completely oblivious, leaving it up to you to educate them on the benefits. Find out immediately what it is that your client wants and avoid any awkward stumbling blocks in the future. clients aren’t always forthcoming about what they want, so be sure to gain a clear understanding of your rough idea and make it solid. Trust me, miscommunication is a huge reason behind breaking a web design project. Probe with questions and be clear.

8. How Will You Record Your Results?

Work out what success means to you. The obvious answer is money, but when you begin using your new site, you want to measure any success that comes your way. Considering this sooner rather than later will ensure that this is incorporated into the brand design process, pushing your site to the next level. Achieving success in your eyes and not the designer is the key. It’s your opinion that counts! Did you get lots of traffic from you designer's web design tips? Did the number of sign ups increase? If yes, you’ll have referrals coming out of your ears in no time. Simply put, if your site delivers results and you can prove it with statistics, you will see a lot more value in the process. 

9. When Do I Start?

Designer by day, salesperson by …day? Remember to differentiate between your two roles. When you enter talks with a web design agency, it’s important to nail your brief and be bold in your approach. Ask questions like: "So, I have a launch date in mind, can you facilitate this?" Being concise eliminates any ambiguity over the project. Naturally, when setting up a new website, the magnitude of the task could appear so overwhelming that you could procrastinate, forgetting all about that lovely consultation you had 3 months ago.

So there you have it, 9 essential questions to ask when building a website.

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