Getting your business online

If you are looking to produce a website have a very clear idea of what it is you want the site to do, as you should be able to justify every part of the costs involved in building, hosting and maintaining the site.

A presence on the web can help you achieve the following objectives:

– educate people about your products
– capture people’s details so you can build a relationship with potential customers
– provide a cost-effective channel for selling products
– broaden your reach
– reduce costs
– offer an added-value service to existing customers
– add a source of advertising revenue
– strengthen relationships with customers and suppliers

Check out your competitors’ sites

It’s a good idea to check out your competitors’ sites and other sites that achieve the objectives you’ve set out, to get an idea for the kind of site you want. Your website needs to attract customers to your site and keep them coming back. You can make your website more interesting by enhancing the content, for example, offering your customers a newsletter with up-to-date and helpful information about your business/sector.

See also: Top 8 reasons why your business should get online today – There are numerous benefits to building an online presence. Here are just eight of the top ones

Search engines such as Google and Alexa can help you find out information about popular websites – it can be useful to browse different websites to get an idea of what attracts customers. Useit.com has useful information on increasing the usability of websites.

Think like your customer

“Be clear about who you are talking to, and what you want to tell them – remember your website has to be of interest to them, not you, so define your customer reach carefully,” advises Mark Brunet, ICT development manager for Sussex Enterprise and UK online for business manager for the Sussex area.

Your website should also be quick and easy to use, so donÂ’t get carried away by features that may be unnecessary when you first set it up. Your customers will be interested in what products you sell and how much they cost.

“Think about the customer base you are appealing to. The majority of people use a dial-up modem, so your website will need to place emphasis on speed and ease-of-use,” advises Brunet.

Designing your website

There are basically three options available when it comes to designing your website:

– you can choose to do it yourself, using website design software such as Dreamweaver

– you can have it custom-designed

– you can use an off-the-shelf, online software package which will be more cost-effective but which may lack flexibility

“The do-it-yourself option, using for example Dreamweaver, tends to take up a lot of time. The plus points are that it can be quite cheap, but you will need to sort out areas such as hosting and email, and this can be time consuming. A custom-designed option is the most expensive, but can deliver the results,” advises Alistair Lees, managing director of Assertis, an internet design, development and consultancy company that created Online Biz Builder.

The core issue to concentrate on, adds Lees, is the benefits a web presence will bring to you – focus on what you want the website to do and what the customer gets out of it, rather than any bells and whistles.

Top tips

If you do decide to employ the skills of a professional web development company, Will Nickson, partner in The Logic Group, a specialist technology company which provides consulting services, recommends the following:

– Create a specification for your website in as much detail as possible and send this off to at least 4 companies. Set a strict budget and see what they will do for it

– Only consider using companies that can supply references and show you their portfolio – the market is saturated by ‘so-called’ web design agencies

– Ensure the company you choose has offered you the ability to update your own site – it could be costly if you have to keep paying the company to make minor changes to your site

Go back to the sites that you like the look of, or those that you think work well, and find out who designed them, and how much it costs. Ensure you also get as much feedback as possible from friends and family for each stage of building your website.

Related Topics

Online business

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