What you need to know about planning a website project
The Marketing Department website is a resource to guide visitors who are not experienced with the design and development of a website and post launch website management including maintenance and website marketing.
The FAQ Knowledge Center discusses all of the elements of a website project into key topics that should be considered in every website development including:
- Website Design
- WordPress Content Management System (CMS)
- Content Strategy
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Google Analytics
- Internet Marketing
- Domain Name Management
- Website Maintenance
- Website Security
- Website Hosting
In addition to the Knowledge Center, the website incorporates a Website Design Options Center.
The Website Design Center lets you visualize different design options:
- Fonts & Button Designs
- Header Design Options
- Main Photo Layout Options
- Select Photos for Your Design
Under the umbrella of Website Development, we have created a page dedicated to previewing over 900 website design layouts to choose from for your website project.
Why do I need a website?
Not having a website in today’s digital world is equivalent to not having a business card. If you don’t have a website 30% of consumers won’t consider doing business with you. Even a one-page, optimized brochure website can work and is certainly better than no website. Your website is a lead generating channel you do not want to be without. It will build your business, help establish your credibility and strengthen your relationship with your ideal customer.
Why build a website? According to statista.com the United States had 275 million Internet users in 2018; and that number is projected to grow to 310.1 million in 2022. According to Inc. magazine, “Studies have shown that over 70-80% of people will research a company on the web before making a purchase decision, usually by visiting its website.” Without a website you are missing out on millions of perspective buyers. People use the Internet like they once used the Yellow Pages – your business needs a website to be found.
Here is a story that illustrates what can happen with an online business when you correctly identify your market, buyer persona, and what the purchaser is looking for.
How do I choose between custom or semi-custom website design?
Investing in a website for your business is a critical part of your marketing and branding strategy. There have been many studies done over the last several years by leading research organizations that all lead to the same conclusion. The first time anyone encounters your brand will likely be online through your website. So that first feeling and user experience will create that first impression. And we all know the old adage – you only get one chance to make a first impression!
So the first question you are likely to consider is: how do I want to build my website? This is true if you are a do-it-yourselfer or plan to hire someone to build the website for you.
You have many options to consider which are driven by your budget, your expertise and your goals for the website.
Using template-based page builders, with drag and drop design interface does not require much skill and is inexpensive compared to the alternatives. However, the design look will be limited by the builder options available, and it is more difficult to search engine optimize (SEO) the website because you have no access to the back-end of the website where much of the more advanced SEO magic is happening.
A more robust option is to build a WordPress website using a page builder, like Divi, Beaver Builder, Elementor and others with feature rich page builders and page editors. These WordPress page builders come with libraries of hundreds of pre-built designs you can customize or personalize to your personal design preferences. This is the semi-custom option, which is less expensive than the custom approach because you are significantly reducing the design time and you get a head start on the development because the selected theme allows you to upload a pre-built page with your selected design.
To develop a custom designed website, a graphic designer creates multiple design concepts (typically three Home pages) for consideration. Then the team will collaborate to iterate the design concepts to deliver something unique for your website experience. Once you have a Home page design, then you need to incorporate the design elements into all the other pages (About Us, Contact Us, Products or Services, etc.). When all the pages are designed, then each page has to be programmed from scratch.
By comparison, a custom design effort is many times more time intensive than starting from a pre-built design, even one that is personalized for your personal preferences.
If you have a unique vision for your website and you can afford the additional expense, then custom is the way to go. If your budget is more modest, personalizing a pre-built design (semi-custom) is the best option.
How much does it cost to build a website?
The answer to this question is it depends. It depends if the design will be custom programmed or if you are starting from a site-wide pre-built theme or a page template.
And, of course, how big the website is, meaning is it a simple five-page website or a 30-page website or a 100-page website. So, the simple answer is a few thousand dollars for a basic brochure site, to several thousand for a content rich lead generation website or one with some custom functionality, to tens of thousand dollars for a big catalog site.
The cost to build a website incorporates many elements, including:
- Developing branding and positioning messages
- Installing the Content Management System (CMS) and Theme
- Headline copy
- On-page copy
- Meta Tags
- Graphic design
- Custom, usually developed in Photoshop
- Adapting a design based on a Theme or Template
- Installing the website onto a server to allow development (a.k.a a Staging Site or Sandbox)
- Creating a development environment (a.k.a. a Staging Site or Sandbox) on the server
- Install WordPress and Theme
- Create a Child Theme
The concept of a Theme and Child Theme is like installing Excel and then creating an active Spreadsheet as your workspace, so if you did an update of Excel, it won’t affect the active Spreadsheet. A Child Theme is used to isolate the active work space from the main Theme.
- Custom programming
- Custom configure a Theme builder
- Install & configure a pre-built Theme
- Install and configure Plugins to support special functions like calendar, testimonials, FAQs, image sliders, e-commerce, and more.
- Quality assurance testing of all functionality prior to going live
- Transferring the Staging Site to the Website Hosting server
- Addressing security concerns with malware protection and SSL Certificates
- Incorporating Meta Tags (Title Tag, Meta Description, H1 Headline) for basic search engine optimization
In addition to the above development cost, there are ongoing annual cost for:
- Domain Name
- Website Hosting
- SSL Certificate
- Website Maintenance
What to Look for in a Web Design Company?
As a business owner or marketer, you want to put your best brand persona forward. You want to make sure your prospects and customers see you. You want to look to the experts to design and build your website. Start with their technical expertise.
It takes knowledge, time and expertise to design and structure your website correctly. Find a company that is experienced and up to date on Google algorithms to ensure your website can be properly indexed by search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo and others. Look for a company that has both design and marketing experience. A well-rounded agency with marketing expertise will help you with your branding, Call to Actions (CTA) for lead generation, response forms and other marketing tips and tricks to turn visitors into customers.
Users are utilizing mobile devices more than ever. Your web design company should know all the ins and outs of designing for mobile devices. Find an agency that has been in the business for a while and has a portfolio of diverse websites across multiple industries.
At your initial meeting with the website design and marketing team be sure to notice if they are listening. You know what you want your website to do. Their job is to listen . . . then advise you on the best way to design and organize your website for the results you want.
Don’t forget to talk budget and payment terms. Knowing how much you can budget will also help an experienced agency to help choose between a pre-built website or a custom-designed site. Maybe you can’t pay for everything up front, find an agency who offers flexible payment terms.
Ask about support. Ask if you will own the website and if you will get the keys to the kingdom, meaning they will give you the login when the site is launched and paid for.
Make sure if you need your developer to purchase your Domain Name (URL) for you that they do it using your credit card and purchase the Domain Name in your name so you own it and use your email as the admin for the Domain Name account so you receive renewal notifications from the host service.
How do I Develop a Business Strategy for my Website?
Good for you for recognizing your website needs a business strategy. Before building your website decide what you want it to accomplish and what functionality you need.
- Some websites are structured and designed specifically to generate leads, others serve as an online brochure, some enable customer service.
- Sometimes the business goal is to establish a business’s credibility.
- Some websites are designed for public relations/media management, or to present the business owner or specific staff members as Subject Matter Experts (SMEs).
Your goals, whatever they are, should be based on your value proposition, a thorough understanding of your target market, buyer personas, and the prospect/customer’s need for information throughout the sales process.
When setting business goals and thinking about content (the copy on the page, Blogs, videos, etc.), remember you only have seconds to:
- Communicate what your website (business) has to offer
- How it can remedy their problem(s)
- Or answer the questions that brought them there.
Be clear and concise about how your business can address the prospect’s pain points.
- What exactly are they looking for? Is your website providing it?
- Is there a strong Call to Action (CTA) and a way to capture prospect information?
A website can be more than a brochure, it can be a lead generator.
Test, test, test. Test your business assumptions. You won’t know how well you’re meeting your goals unless you have Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and can measure and analyze the results. Measure those things that directly affect your business. How many leads have been generated? Not just how many visitors have landed on your website, but how long did they stay on each page; what pages did they visit? Did one page generate more leads or engagement than others? A good tool to use for measuring and analyzing results is Google Analytics (it’s FREE); your web developer can help you install Google Analytics and an ancillary product from Google called the Search Console.
Determining your website business strategy in five easy steps:
- Decide what you want your website to do: set goals
- Develop a plan and set goals on how the website will support revenue goals
- Clearly and concisely determine how your business addresses the visitor’s pain points, and how this will be reflected in the website design and branding approach
- Test your business assumptions
- Measure, Analyze, and Optimize
From a business perspective, it is important to recognize, that while a website project has a beginning, middle and end when it goes live, a website is never really done.
How do I determine what pages I need for a website?
According to HubSpot’s website marketing expert Neil Patel, in his blog “The Four Most Important Pages on Your Website (& How to Optimize Them)” there are four pages a website should never be without. We agree. They are the:
- Home Page
- About Page
- Contact Us Page
Patel notes that these are usually the most often visited pages.
After these pages you need to decide what pages are necessary to meet your business goals and those pages will vary. Depending on your business, you may want:
- A Products or Services Page
- A Portfolio or Projects Page
- News Page
- A Photo Gallery / Our Work Page
- An Industries Served Page
There are some website builders who recommend a separate FAQ Page and a separate Testimonials Page.
We believe frequently asked questions and what your customers are saying about you should be incorporated onto the page relating to the specific questions and the testimonials should relate to the specific product or service being discussed on the page.
How Many Website Pages I Need?
Google indexes (captures) and ranks the individual website pages, not websites. The more pages your website has the more content you will have which may increase the amount of traffic. The more traffic generated, the more likely it will rank well by Google, especially if you keep adding fresh, relevant “original” content that is referenced on other high quality websites. If your website is offering multiple products or services, you will want to assign a page to each one rather than put them all on one page. A good strategy is to create a Main Products or Main Services page. Think of the Home page as a Table of Contents for the whole website, and the Main Product or Services page as a Table of Contents dedicated explicitly to what you sell. Doing this allows you to optimize the content for each page for a richer user experience, and also make it easier for the search engine to categorize the content on the page.
In addition to the primary pages (Home, About and Contact), additional pages should focus on and promote your product or service. Will a simple description of the product or service be sufficient, or do you need to think more like a catalog structure, where many versions need to be described.
Don’t create pages that contain duplicate content or has content that is not helpful. Don’t copy and past content from competing websites. Google’s algorithm is very intelligent and is able to detect if you copied copy from someone else’s website. If the search engine detects this they will just ignore the content over time.
The easiest way to determine if a page is useful is to ask yourself:
- Does the page speak to your ideal customer in a way that answers their questions with relevant content related to their inquiry or research?
- Is the page substantively different from your other pages?
- Is the on-page copy unique (original) content?
- Does the page play a role in the buyer’s decision paths? If yes:
- How is it helping to build trust?
- Does it move them along the buyer’s journey?
If your answer to these questions is no you probably don’t need the page.
Once the site is launched, it is important to look at what’s happening with your pages; if a page is bringing in traffic but it’s not converting visitors to leads you may want to rethink the on-page copy and strategy.
There is no right or wrong answer to how many pages you need, it depends on your marketing goals, what you are selling and what you want the website to accomplish. It is generally believed that the more helpful and informative the content is valued by your ideal customer, the better the website will perform.