Commissioning a new website

Introduction

Commissioning a new website for your business can be a daunting task. As a web design agency, we are often approached to provide quotes to develop websites for all kinds of businesses. In some cases we are surprised by the lack of information that is available for us to provide an accurate quote.

Working on a laptop

For example, ‘I would like a 5 page website. How much will that cost?’. Not only is this unhelpful from the point of view of providing an accurate estimate, but it means that not enough time has been spent thinking about what the new website will do, who is it aimed at, what budget is available and how we will measure the success once it’s launched.

Before you embark on getting quotes for your new website, time needs to be spent thinking about what you want the website to do and how that fits in with your business.

This short blog post highlights some of the key areas that you need to think about when commissioning a new website. If you would like to discuss your new project with us then please get in touch.

Market research

Before you commission a website you will need to ensure you do adequate research on your target market and competition. What sort of individuals, groups or businesses do you want to attract? Are they within a certain age bracket? Are they based in a certain location? Defining these characteristics will not only help your business, but will enable the website design agency to develop a website that appeals to your target market.

You may also want to research your competitors. Who are they? Are they performing well? What content do they have on their website? Where are they on Google for your specific search terms? Having the answers to these sorts of questions will put you and your business in a much better position when commissioning a new website.

Of course you can ask an agency to undertake this work for you as part of the project.

Useful Link – The Marketing Donut – Your Target Market
http://www.marketingdonut.co.uk/marketing/marketing-strategy/your-target-market

Functionality requirements

Functionality is an important part of any project and it’s one of the main factors that determines the cost of a project. You should spend a bit of time thinking about the pages that you want on your website and what you want them to do. For example, a page with just text and images is much simpler and cheaper to produce than a page which requires a secure login for members.

Defining the required functionality will ensure that the estimate you receive from a web design agency will be accurate. Remember that the more information you can provide, the more accurate the estimate will be.

Useful Link – Mashable – Website Must Haves
http://mashable.com/2012/02/09/website-must-haves/

Budget

Always have a budget in mind when commissioning a new website. We’d encourage you to share your budget with the design agency because it provides them with relevant information in terms of what you can afford and how to get the best from your budget. There is no point asking for a website that has all the bells and whistles if you have a budget of £500. By declaring your budget early on, you’ll save time all round.

Useful Link – Web Success – Importance of Budgeting
http://www.web-success.net/importance_of_budget.html

Content

Content is king. That’s a phrase that you will often hear when talking about websites and SEO. There’s no point having a great looking website if the content is lacking quality. Content is probably the most important component of any website and it’s something you want to get right.

As a web design agency, we will request some sample content to be provided before we start a project. We do this because it gets the client in the right frame of mind and means they start thinking about the content at the start of the project. Don’t think you can just leave the content to the end. After all, the website should be designed and built around the content that you want your visitors to engage with.

Also, remember that writing for the web is very different to writing a report or presentation. Your content should be written so it’s easy to scan and digest. There are lots of online resources available that provide guidance on writing for the web.

Useful Link – WikiHow – Write Successfully for the Web
http://www.wikihow.com/Write-Successfully-for-the-Web

Content management system

When your website has been launched, you’ll want to start adding and amending content. To perform well in Google, you must update your website on a regular basis. To do so, you’ll need a content management system, often referred to as a ‘CMS’.

The good news is there is no shortage of choice when it comes to a CMS as there are hundreds available. You may not have a choice though, as most web design agencies have a preferred CMS that they like to work with. For us, we use WordPress on our larger websites and Perch on our smaller websites.

Useful Link – Perch – A Really Small CMS
http://wecreatedesign.co.uk/portfolio/perch-cms.php

Useful Link – WordPress
http://wordpress.org/

Aims and objectives

It’s important to have a clear idea about the aims and objectives of your website. You should go back to basics and ask yourself why are you commissioning a new website? For example, is it to generate a new income? Increase leads? Reduce costs? etc.

If you have a good understanding of what you want from the website then it will be much easier to drive the project in that direction. For example, if you want to increase leads then you will obviously require some call to actions on the website that make it possible e.g. request a call back or enquiry form that your visitors need to complete.

Maintenance

You need to think about what happens when your website has been launched. Do you want to have peace of mind with the ability to call upon help when you need it? If that’s the case then you may want to ask for monthly support e.g. 2 hours a month. Or, if you are happy to leave things as they are, you can contact the web design agency as and when you need to. It really depends on how much and the kind of support you need. For example, a large online shop will require more support than a small static website.

Search Engine Optimisation

Any decent web design agency will build a website in a way that is ‘search engine ready’. This essentially means that they have done as much as they can to make the website search engine friendly. This includes providing the ability for you to edit the matadata, especially the page titles which are so important for Google. It should also go a little further though and include things like images having alt tags, code developed in a standards compliant manner and an xml sitemap that you can submit to Google Web Master Tools.

This will ensure your website hits the ground running and will save you both time and money in the future when commissioning specialist search companies to improve your ranking.

Useful Link – Six Revisions – 10 Excellent SEO Tips
http://sixrevisions.com/content-strategy/seo-tips-improve-web-design/

Return on investment – has the website been a success?

A basic requirement for any website commission is that you get a return on your investment. However, if you fail to define what success should look like then how will you ever know? At the start of the project you and your team should define key criteria which you can then evaluate once the website has been launched. This could be as simple as an increase in traffic to your website.

If you have an existing website that you are having redesigned then chances are you have some analytics software running on your server e.g. Google Analytics. This is a great way to get a benchmark of how your website is performing before you undertake any work.

You should insist that any new website has Google Analytics installed as it’s one of the best ways to keep track on how your website is performing and highlight any problem areas. We install analytics on our websites as standard.

If you would like to discuss your project then get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.