I was recently involved in a website development project for the launch of a new product. The client had no knowledge or experience in website design and development (which is often the case for first time website owners) and had entered into a contract with a company that would design and build her a website.
The whole project went downhill fast and after six months, my client still doesn’t have a website.
The aim of this article is to save you from similar frustration with your new website.
And, more importantly, wasting time and money on a website that won’t adequately support your business.
The client had no website plan and hadn’t given much consideration to what she wanted her website to actually achieve. Naturally, we both assumed that the web development company would assist her in developing website objectives, consult with her on the website building process and provide the necessary information needed to build a functional website.
How wrong she was!
The client soon knew that entering into an agreement with this web development company while having little understanding of the services they would be providing, was a huge mistake!
My role in the project is web copywriter. This role is much harder to do when there is no plan or strategy in place. The content part of the website is often an after thought and not considered until after the design or development stage.
The copy and content should be one of the first priorities in website planning.
As well as your keywords, when you structure your website, you need to consider what you want to say to the people who visit your website.
Thus, I was horrified when I started the job to discover the client had not been consulted or briefed on any of the above. This certainly made it a lot harder to fulfil my role, and to appease my client, I ended up playing the role of a holistic web consultant including establishing a website plan, strategy, objectives and functionality – a role that the web development company was originally hired to do. I am sure you can probably imagine my client was not too happy having to outlay costs to two separate entities to do the same type of work.
By now you might be thinking “why the client didn’t terminate the arrangement with the web development company”.
You see, that’s where the problem was and it was then that my client realised her mistake. She had signed a contract and paid a deposit for a service with very little knowledge and understanding of what she was going to receive (or lack thereof I should say). It wasn’t until I came along that she started to understand and learn the concepts and strategies around building a website and the extent of knowledge and advice that should have been delivered from the web development company.
Fortunately we knew about Grassroots Internet Strategy and the eCourse “Step-by-Step Website Planning for Start Ups” , which saved us many hours in putting together a website plan quickly.
Like most small business owners, my client assumed she would be guided throughout the process and be advised on best practices for website development and structure.
After all, that’s why the majority of small business owners employ “expert” web companies such as these. Most small business owners are too busy working on their business let alone to try and educate themselves on website development and online marketing.
That’s what web development companies are paid for right?
Wrong! Not all web developers and designers are created equal.
Here are three things we learned that every business owner must know when planning a website and before choosing a web developer and/or designer.
1. It is critical to have access to a Content Management System (CMS).
A CMS is the back end of your website and you need to be able to control and access the back end at your whim. This means you can add or delete pages, and edit, delete or add content and copy yourself without the need to go through your developer or designer every time you need to make changes to the copy. You should be provided with a log in to the CMS and this means you have instant access and control of the content of the website. For example, if you have an events calendar or a list of events on your website and a date needs to be amended or deleted, you can edit this information immediately.
2. Do not enter into an arrangement with or pay any sum of money to a web developer or designer until you are fully aware of the work they will be providing and exactly the sort of website they will be building for you.
Never sign a contract until you fully understand what you will be paying for.
For example, my client was provided with a basic checklist of the ‘features’ that she would be provided with such as SEO, shopping cart functions and the number of pages she was entitled to. The checklist itself did not explain what any of the functions and concepts meant and my client was left to find out these terms for herself.
When my client received the checklist she assumed that the company would explain everything to her. When she did ask them, they provided her with very basic information and it was up to her to initiate feedback. Your web developer should be proactive in consulting with you.
3. Plan the website you want.
You need to establish what it is you want your website to achieve. For example, is it to generate online sales, to build a list of contacts or simply to inform your customers of your products and services?
Be clear what you want your website to do before you even approach a web development company. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that they need a website just because their competition has one or it just seems like the right thing to do. Wrong. Give careful consideration to why you need a website and how it is going to benefit your business. For example, what do you want your customers to find out about your company on the website and what do you want them to do once they are on there?
We are happy to recommend the Grassroots Website Planning eCourse as a resource that provides step by step information on putting together your Website Plan.
Think carefully about what you want your website to achieve and make sure that when you approach any web developer or designer (or copywriter for that matter) that they clearly explain the level of services they will be providing. Make them earn your trust.
Remember this is your website and you have ultimate control. If you are unsure of something, make your website service providers explain things clearly to you in detail.
Your website represents you and your company. Never settle for mediocrity.