Top 12 Tips for your Website
Here’s 12 important things to think about when creating a new website. Please don’t hesitate to Contact Us if you’d like to chat to our friendly team about the best way to apply these tips to your website.
1. How Is Your Branding?
Your business logo, and your branding can completely change the way that your clients, and potential clients view your business. Poor branding can cost you business, and for this reason it’s extremely important that you decide if your current branding is suitable before going ahead with designing a new website. It is not only extremely important that your branding suits the style of your business and your target audience, but it should also be consistent across all of your marketing material. Please ask us if you would like advice on this, or if you’d like to discuss the best way to update your branding.
2. What’s in a (domain) name?
A domain name is your address on the internet (e.g. johnsplumbing.com.au). If you haven’t already secured a domain name for your business, this is something you will need to do before launching your website. Choosing a domain name is an important part of branding your business, so here are some tips to help you choose the right one:
Choose the right extension.
The most common extensions are “.com”, “.com.au”, “.net”, “.net.au”, “.org”, “.org.au”. For businesses that primarily operate in the Australian market, “.com.au” is usually the first choice. If your business needs to appeal to an international audience, “.com” may be more appropriate. “.net” and “.net.au” domains are generally only considered if there is no availability for your preferred names in “.com” or “.com.au”. “.org” and “.org.au” domains are most commonly used in not for profit organisations.
Choose a domain that is easy to remember and is closely related to your business name.
Usually the easiest domain to remember is your exact business name with the “.com.au” or “.com” after it. For example, if your business name is “Westside Pest Control”, the most logical domain name choice would be westsidepestcontrol.com.au
Choose a domain that is easy to spell.
This is sometimes unavoidable if your business name is hard to spell, so you might like to also register additional domains with common misspellings. If you do register additional domains, these can easily be configured to redirect to your main domain.
Avoid hyphens in the domain name.
It can sometimes be tempting to include hyphens in your domain name to separate words (e.g. westside-pest-control.com.au). While this does make it more readable, it makes it much more confusing to explain verbally. If you are looking to make the domain name more readable without using hyphens, you can capitalise the first letter of each word when you write it down (e.g. WestsidePestControl.com.au). Domain names are not case-sensitive, so people will still arrive at your website no matter which letters they capitalise.
3. Collect testimonials and case studies
Testimonials can be an extremely useful sales tool for your website (and your other marketing materials too!). However, they can be just as harmful if you’re not careful. Your testimonials need to be legitimate and sincere, and there are a number of ways to ensure this.
Firstly, who are they? For your testimonials to look legitimate you should at least include their full name (not just their initials), as well as their location. A suburb and state is usually best. If they are representing a business, then include their business name, and you should also provide a way for them to be contacted so that their testimonial can be backed up. So for example, ask them if they mind if you include their website address. If you’re struggling to find enough people to provide testimonials, this can also be a good way to turn your request into an opportunity for them – you are advertising their business and creating a good inbound link for their website (which is good for their Google rankings!). But always remember to ask for permission before publishing their testimonial.
Including a photo is also a great way to improve the credibility of the testimonial (and definitely don’t fake this with a generic stock photo!).
Another tip is to choose testimonials that have a specific message in them. For example, a testimonial like “I chose your restaurant for my mum’s birthday, and we couldn’t be happier with the service, the food and the ambience. Your lamb shanks and risotto were to die for!” is far more effective than “You have great service and awesome food”.
Now where on your website is the best place to put all these great testimonials? The home page is a good place to start. Maybe just one or two in the side bar, or a single sentence testimonial in the header. A good idea is to have a few of them “rotating”. This keeps the website interesting, and also allows you to have more than one on the home page without taking up too much room. In addition, you can also have a page dedicated to testimonials, or better still, have your testimonials interspersed throughout your content. For example, if you have just launched a new product, you could include a testimonial about that new product on the product page.
4. Do you need a Content Management System?
A Content Management System (CMS) is an incredibly useful business tool, as it allows you to update the content on your website yourself no matter what your level of computer skills. Excite Media’s CMS allows you to update text, images, links, files, tables etc. all extremely easy. You can even add complete new pages to your site within minutes, while still keeping the consistent professional design. Why pay someone to update your website for you, when you can quickly and easily do it yourself!
5. Will ecommerce work for your business?
There are certain types of products that are particularly suited to selling online, however there are other types of products where customers will be hesitant to make an online purchase. This can be because they would prefer to see the product in person, or if it is an expensive item they may prefer to speak with a sales consultant before purchasing.
If you don’t think your product is particularly suited to selling online, you may opt to have a “Product Catalogue” that simply allows customers to browse information about your products, and prompts them to contact you (or visit your physical store) to purchase.
6. Decide what the main goal of the website is
When most web design companies build a website, the emphasis is on visually pleasing graphic design, and a functional technical design. However, it is extremely important that your website is focussed primarily on guiding the website visitor to take the action you want them to take. Deciding what action this is revolves around identifying your business goals, and developing a strategy to achieve these goals by getting into the mindset of your website visitor.
This desired action could be anything like: “pick up the phone”, “sign up for an e-newsletter”, ”submit email enquiry”, “make an online purchase”, “have quality perception/ high opinion of our brand”. Whatever the desired action is, it is crucial that it is identified before the website building process starts.
7. Construct a sitemap
Before getting a quote for your new website, have a think about what pages you think you would like on your site. Of course this is not set in stone to start with, but it will be a good starting point to build on. Here is an example of a simple sitemap:
Once you have decided on an initial sitemap, this will make it easier for you to start writing your content. You may then decide to alter your sitemap accordingly after making a start on your content.
8. Get permissions for any images you display on your website
Before displaying images of any kind on your website, you must ensure you have permission to do so. It can be tempting to use images you stumble across on other websites, or images that you find in “Google Images”, however in most cases it is not legal for you to use these images on your own website.
Fortunately, there are “Stock Photo” websites that offer royalty-free images for you to legally use on your website. The most comprehensive of these sites is www.istockphoto.com , which has a library of millions of images for you to search through (there is a small cost of approximately $5 per image). If you would prefer not to pay for stock photos, www.sxc.hu offers 100% free stock images, however there is a much smaller selection compared to the paid stock image websites.
A handy tip to remember when searching for stock photos is that the first page of results that come up in your search are also the most likely to be frequently used by other companies. Try looking through a few pages of results before making your choice.
9. Look at other sites to find out what you like
When initially looking at a new website for your business you should keep your eyes peeled for websites you come across where you like the design, the functionality, or even any of the marketing tools used. Keeping a list of these at the ready will help you to discover your goal for your new website, and work out what is going to suit your business best. Also keep in mind that your website can grow as your business grows.
10. Research your competitors
When planning your website, it is essential that you review what your competitors are doing. This doesn’t mean you necessarily need to steal their ideas (although you can if you like!), but it can help you decide where to position your business in the marketplace, and may give you ideas on how you can stand out from your competitors.
Start by preparing a list of competitor websites, and for each one make a note of what you do and don’t like. You can also makes notes of any ideas you get that you would like to implement on your own website.
11. Organise your photos
Photographs can often make or break a website design. It can often be the difference between a cheap looking site and a highly professional site. The first step is organise the photos you currently have on file. Move them into appropriate folders and then show these to your web designer. They should be able to give you advice on whether they are suitable or not. If they aren’t suitable, they will be able to recommend a photographer to take new photos for you. Alternatively they may suggest using a stock photography website such as iStockPhoto.com to source photograph appropriate photos for your site.
12. Consider your contact method
Another decision you need to make for your website are the contact options you provide your website customer. Ideally you want to offer as many contact options as possible, such as phone, email, fax, postal address, Skype address etc.
However, you need to be sure that all your methods of contact are responded to professionally. For example, if a website visitor decides to call you, ensure you answer the phone clearly and with a friendly manner, always stating your business name so that the caller can be sure they got through to the right place. If you put the caller on hold it is important to carry over your professional website branding to your On Hold message. A professionally recorded On Hold message not only solidifies the professionalism of your business, but can also be used as a sales tool.
Another example is if you have a contact form on your website you need to make sure you respond within a reasonable time, as your website visitor may be shopping around and this is your opportunity to impress them with a prompt and friendly response.