Above: Website concept. Image by nmedia/DepositPhotos.
Originally published on Ian Reid’s website and is adapted and reproduced with permission.
A real estate client of mine shared with me an important insight when we talked about his website, which is part of a bigger brand building exercise. He said, “One cannot sell real estate these days without having online real estate.”
This got me thinking. Your website is a virtual building where you conduct business. You may use Facebook and other social media but that cannot replace your own virtual real estate. You need to own the space you work in. This is above all the key to starting any website development.
You own the space, you decide what goes inside and you decide how you want people to live in it. It’s not subject to algorithm or design changes, and is certainly a better investment in the long-term than relying on just Facebook, Instagram or whatever the flavour of the month is.
This is why it’s important to think of your website as a home that lives and grows and changes. It evolves as your needs change. A website isn’t a simple business card, it’s definitely not a press ad. It’s not even a brochure for your business. It’s designed to be you online. So just like you don’t stay stagnant in life, neither should your site. The content you put there will always change and grow. Without the right content you don’t have a home, just an empty building.
A website needs a solid foundation.
Every building needs a good foundation, a floor space to start the execution of the vision. However you need to come up with a plan.
A website plan is simple. What are you going to put into this space? What do you want people to do when they visit? Think of a man walking into your store and 5 seconds later walking right back out. How are you going to keep the visitor and customer there? To do this you need a list of things that the website contains. This is your “Content Plan”.
I usually ask prospective clients to fill out a short brief of what they want the website to be. You can fill it out online and I’ll give you an idea of how long and how much it would cost. If you read through the rest of this post, you can pretty much get a gauge on what it costs.
So now you need a budget. There are many options available to you, an almost infinite number of options, but ultimately you need the right solution for your budget. We build many different types of sites and landing pages, but the most popular are Content Management Systems like WordPress, Drupal or Magento; the other sites are what we call the “web builder” sites like Wix.com and Weebly.com-–we do them all.
Maybe a wix.com web builder site may be good for the immediate future, but what happens in a year or two when the business grows? You may need to move to something else. I always advise clients to not take the easy way out and go the web-builder route, but to engage a team to build on a solid, more secure CMS. It works out better and cheaper in the long-term.
Finding the right building contractor
A website needs an address, or as its called, a domain, and you need to have a unique one. You can do your own search via godaddy.com or a similar registrar or let us find the best domain for you at the best price and you own it forever.
Next comes server space. Not to worry! You don’t have to buy space in the same place you bought the domain. There’s a lot to consider here when buying server space: the size of the space, the utilities to run the space effectively, security, all the things a real building would need.
You also have to be concerned with the technical support you get when the server goes down. Again, not a problem. We deal with all of this on your behalf. You would not have to worry about what we call the “backend” when you contract us to do a website.
So you will need the right building contractor and manager to get the site up and running as smoothly as you can. Because this is the stuff that doesn’t interest you. What interests you is: “How is this going to look!?” Well, that’s where the content comes in.
Total cost at this point. $US175
Window Dressing and Interior Design
We’re at the stage now where we need a design a theme to contain the content. This is pretty simple. We put up some rough “wireframes” based on the content plan and show you how the main pages will look and some of the sub pages. If you’re okay with the design of the site. We can go to build. In most cases a theme would have to be purchased and installed. We usually use specific themes such as Avada by Theme Fusion, but if you saw a theme you’d like we’ll do some research and see if it’s the best fit.
We use Avada for WordPress because of its awesome support, user base and it’s easy to maintain. There are so many themes out there it’s hard to choose. The facts are, not all themes are created equally. You really need to know those that you can easily customise, are supported and can work well with your backend. Some themes are bloated messes and can actually cause more harm than good by slowing your site down or injecting harmful codes and so on.
Once we have agreed upon the direction of the look and flow of the site, it’s time to start uploading content. This is mostly stuff you will supply. Imagery, logos, product demo videos. If you require us to create content for you we will have that as a cost. But for now if you have collated all your content, We will populate the site. Then we run tests.
Total cost at this point. $US1,000 with your content supplied
Testing, testing 1-2-3. . .
In an ideal world you’d test the hell out of a website to make sure it flows correctly. What you do is you put into a test server away from your main server, do the tests and when everything is good you move it and make it live. Its like test driving a car before you buy. You need to also have users try it out in a controlled environment to see if they know how to use it.
Most, if not all websites have to function extremely well on a mobile or tablet and under slow network conditions. We install analytics in the back-end to determine which pages perform well and which pages don’t. We also do questionnaires and feedback forms to find out where we can improve and what issues users are having.
Testing involves more time and resources and it’s an investment you shouldn’t ignore. On larger, more complex e-commerce sites security and payment system integrations are key. To do this effectively we need a test server to make sure the processes are within guidelines. The e-commerce provider we recommend is First Atlantic Commerce. The cheaper alternative is using PayPal to process any transaction, both local and foreign, and this has been proven moderately successful for local small business startups.
As was mentioned before, a secure website is key. If you don’t build the proper locks your site can be hacked and used against you. Backups are also a key component that separates an “okay” website build from a “professional” website build. This website gets on average 500 malicious login attempts and thousands of spam comments a month. So keep this in mind when you’re thinking about choosing a web developer.
With testing the cost is now around US$3,500
Your Website is Open for Business
Once the site is launched for the next month troubleshooting and testing continues. A copywriter is essential to proofread and make sure the content is clear and there are no grammatical errors. Also what’s important at this stage are all imagery having proper captions. This is important for Search Engine Optimization or SEO. Your website should have the right keywords and great content so that when people perform searches it would be nice to have your website come up first.
The next step is promotion. The website will need an ad campaign in Google Ads to make sure that your website does come up first in a search. We provide this as a separate cost. You also have to consider email form integration, and in the case of e-commerce sites, email subscribe forms and integration with Mailchimp or Constant Contact. Email is still a very powerful way of reaching an audience and has proven more successful in some cases than posting ads on social media. The other integrations we suggest are Facebook Messenger and “Chatbots” where people can ask questions and have content pushed to them regularly.
In total, the cost of a new website can range between US$175 and $US5,000.
You do need a website.
In the day and age of increased costs and tight budgets you might say. “I don’t have the budget for this!” But keep in mind this is a site that you can have for almost forever! Once the setup is done and everything runs smoothly, the only job left is to promote and continue to build and expand on it. What content you put up makes the spend worthwhile. If you don’t have plans to update regularly or you don’t think you can keep the content fresh, a simple one page website from wix.com would work just as well. But in the coming years that may not help to keep your business growing.
Just to give you an idea of how the move to online retail and using online to generate leads for your business (whatever it may be) you can read these articles that talk more about how people have used a website to boost their small business.
The Last word
A website is just the building. You still need to bring people to it. Long gone are the days when there were very few websites. Now the playing field is vast. You need an effective search ad campaign and a good digital strategy to make sure your business succeeds online. Because as my real estate client said “When I succeed you succeed!”
Ian Reid runs his own brand consultancy ReidDesigns.pro. With over 20 years in the marketing and advertising business, he specialises in using data and design to build companies digital real estate and help increase their profitability.
His passion is making the web an easier, more fun place to navigate and technology more accessible to children with special needs. He believes technology is essential for helping those who are on the Autism Spectrum communicate and find opportunities in life.”
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