Help! I need a website!

This is the plea I get most often from entrepreneurs and small businesses. Then they hand me their homemade business card with their clip-art logo and I visibly cringe.

I respond to their request with “Why?” This is a tough question for most. They just know that Google helps get business. Without a focus and purpose the site will fail. There will be no effect on business, no additional marketing value and no visible results.

Before you think about hiring a web programmer, here is some food for thought:

What is your brand? –
More than just a logo, it is your corporate message. This deserves more thought than choosing the clip-art from WORD that best represents your business. It deserves an understanding of the target market, the company’s desired perception, the corporate culture, the competition… the company story!

What is the purpose of this site? – Is it going to be an online brochure of your services? An e-commerce site that sells product? A data gathering, interactive form that helps to qualify customers before you approach them? A blog? A portfolio?

How will this site be found? – Most entrepreneurs and small businesses have the expectation that they put a site up on the internet and business will come pouring in through Google… simply not true! It takes experienced Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to make any site found through search engines and to have those searches return quality results. Make your expectations clear to your programmer so they can best manage your expectations and results. And don’t be surprised when additional services are needed to get what you want out of SEO.

Who is going to be in charge of the upkeep of this site? – One of the biggest complaints of businesses with outdated sites is that it is difficult and expensive to change content and that they want to be in control. NO PROBLEM! You should be. But you should also be prepared to keep the content fresh and relevant. There is nothing that says unprofessional and “I don’t care…” like an outdated site. WordPress is just one of the many open-source content management platforms that will place you in control of the site content once it is programmed. Communicate your expectations to your website programmer early in the process.

Of course, there is much more to be considered and any good programmer will ask you the hard questions before you start the process. But these basic questions are a running start to having a successful, productive, result-oriented website!