This past weekend I was home sick and Ocean’s Thirteen was on cable. During the movie the character Roman Nagel, played by Eddie Izzard, says to the characters Danny & Rusty, “Boys you’re analog players in a digital world”. I always loved this line; it reminds me so much of business today. So many people get caught up in what they are comfortable with and their current way of doing things and miss the changes happening around them. This is a common pitfall when it comes to developing a website.
The Analog Website (The Old Way Of Doing Things)
When I started out developing websites back in 1997, small business did not have the budget to use systems like we have today. Many small businesses relied on tools like Microsoft Front Page or early versions of Macromedia’s Dreamweaver to layout a web system. These tools progressed and other products came to market, like Apple’s iWeb and Adobe’s Go Live. Each tool had its pros and cons, but what they did not have is the ability to quickly add on complex development or modules.
Becoming a Digital Player
For the past five to ten years, it has become more cost effective for small businesses to have a website that allows them to grow and scale quickly and easily. Today’s open source tools and available applications for managing content and web infrastructure make it easier for small businesses to have a website with more dynamic features. And today’s customers expect your business to be as competitive as larger businesses.
So how do you become a digital player if you are still learning the game? Before you take the leap to hire a web development firm, you should spend some time working through these 4 steps:
Identify The Business Goals of Your Website
Build Your Site Map
Layout The Framework
Research & Identify Functionality
Today we’ll focus on Step 1.
The purpose for your website is to bring you business, so before you get caught up in the colors, design and overall function – stop and set some goals you’d like to achieve with the site. This process may seem simple, but try to avoid tech speak and the comparison between you and your competitors. Don’t talk about other websites that you want yours to look or function like. Look at your needs in every aspect of your business (sales, marketing, operations, etc.) and then determine the goals of your website based on that information.
Is it meant to generate new business? If so, how? Do you want your website to allow for greater customer communication? How? How about internal processes you want to streamline? Are there marketing initiatives that need to be integrated into the website? Do you have social media strategies planned? How does your website relate to these plans?
Be specific in your list, and think about what you need today to grow your business. There is a difference between need and want and clarity here can make a big difference in your budget. Focus on your company. What third party systems do you need to integrate with your website to help with growth. How will you be marketing your business online? Have you identified SEO and SEM strategies for you business website? These questions will play an important part in the building process and should be clarified before you build a new website.
Let’s not forget about the real reason we’re all in business – people. Your website should be guiding the user to what she needs and wants from your business. Think about how you would guide someone face to face through your store or through a presentation. Also recognize that people connect the dots in different ways, so you need to give them more than one way to find what they need. At the end of the presentation or the walk through the store; however, we want to close the sale. Your website should be designed to guide people down virtual paths to close the sale. These processes should be identified before you start building your website.
When creating and reviewing your website goals, you also want to define your customers’ digital expectations. Today’s online customer will make assumptions and they are frustrated when your site does not live up to those technological expectations. Identify these items prior to laying out your website content or design. For example, do your customers expect your website to be mobile ready? You can find a few more ideas in our previous post on “How To Avoid Alienating Your Website Visitors.”
Every time we start a new website, we begin by asking you to identify your business goals and exploring how the website will support those goals. You may have the most beautifully designed website in the world, but if it doesn’t drive your customer to the sale is it worth it?