How to build an effective website – Part one

A Website that works? It’s all about planning.

Having a website that actually works for your business as opposed to one that’s simply there will be determined by what you do before you even start googling for a web design agency.

Yogi Berra (the New York Yankees catcher, not Boo-Boo’s pal) said: “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”

There are a lot of websites out there that have ended up in that nebulous “someplace else”

And why? Simple really. There was no planning.

Planning is key. Objectives don’t tend to work without one. To throw another quote out there, this one from aviation pioneer Antoine de Saint-Exupery: “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

This is so true when it comes to creating an effective website.

In this, the first in a series of blogs about creating websites that work, we’ll talk about that all-important planning phase.

Ask yourself “Why”?

The “why” may seem obvious, but it’s actually the hardest thing to pin down. And if you don’t get the “why” right, you’re going to end up with a meandering site that has no clear objectives (which will in turn confuse the user and get them clicking elsewhere).

The “why” is in effect your site’s reason for being. It’s core. It’s fundamental truth (if you want to get all boomshanka about it).

Once you’ve got the “why” sorted, you’ll be surprised at how smoothly everything else slots into place.

Here are some thought-starters to help you with your “why”.

  • Provide a positive first impression to potential clients or employees;
  • Generate more leads for your sales team;
  • Generate direct revenue (e.g. online store);
  • Be a great resource of information;
  • Build your brand;
  • Start an ongoing relationship with users;
  • Motivate visitors to take some kind of action or get behind a certain cause.

Step Two: Develop a Strategy

Once you know your ‘Why’, it’s logical to put a sensible strategy in place to achieve it. So how much strategy do you need and who’s going to come up with that strategy?  This will depend on several different factors and is usually different for every client.  Let’s use a couple of case studies to illustrate the point:

  • A small busy local mechanic on the corner has been in business for 20+ years, is well known and gets most of their business through word of mouth and repeat business. They don’t need more business, however they’d like to provide information to clients around their area of expertise, updates around business hours during Covid Alert Levels, and provide directions to their workshop as it’s in a tricky to find location.

The strategy for example may be to develop a very simple website, perhaps with only a handful of pages, focusing on their history in the community, perhaps with a page outlining their particular areas of expertise and a very clear contact page, not only showing a relevant Google map but also a graphic or good quality photograph showing how to navigate to their shop.

This is an example of a simple strategy – often a client will come in knowing this, or we may draw this out of them via a series of questioning during an initial consultation.

  • A large construction consulting firm is well established and has a solid client base with a firm grip on a several key sectors of the market. With this said – they’re looking to expand their service offering into new market sectors to gain more revenue share.

There’s a lot to think about before diving into a new or revised website build here.

Do they need a dedicated website to focus on the new market, or can they simply add pages / content onto their existing site?  Does the new offering require a new brand or can it be effectively represented under the existing brand?

How are potential clients in the new market sector interacting in the digital space? Are they actively searching for said services in Google search and if so, is there a large enough commercially viable search base to warrant an accompanying SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) of SEM (Search Engine Marketing) content plan for the new website?

What about social media channels? Is the business active in those spaces too – and if so, how can this be leveraged to increase the effectiveness of the site?

Is there a high level of competition in their new targeted sector which may give a steer as to how much work needs to be done in order to compete effectively?

What do their potential users want to see on a website – e.g. relevant project case studies, areas of expertise, staff bios showing years of competence in the industry, relevant credentials / associations with industry bodies etc?

Is a focus group needed to draw out this information either internally or externally?

With the above in mind, what journey do we need to take the user on to achieve the desired goal laid out in the “Why”?

We’ll talk more about the Journey in our second blog: “You’ve Got The Why – Now the How..

Thinking about website security.