When Ian Murray relaunched the website for his pub and restaurant Inn on the Beach, his first consideration was a visual one. ‘We felt we needed a website that was more dynamic and engaging for our customers both visually and in terms of telling our customers the story of our business and what we’re about.’
On the old site too much text was hampering the user experience. ‘I wanted the story to be told by pictures. Our strongest hand is our location; the first floor of the pub has a view right out into the Solent and the Isle of Wight. So there needed to be lots of imagery that sold the dream of sitting on a beach and enjoying the sunset.’
Murray says that he is frustrated by websites that don’t display clear contact details, so he made sure every page of the website displayed phone numbers and email addresses. When relaunching, Murray found transferring domains from one host to another was a challenge. This resulted in the site being down for about 24 hours while the new one hadn’t gone up.
Rob Pierre, managing director of digital marketing agency Jellyfish explains the domain transfer process: ‘You take all the URLs on the existing websites and then do ‘301 redirects’ which are basically permanent redirects. You shouldn’t lose the SEO benefit if the modern equivalent URL is very similar to the original URL.’
Murray spent around £2,000 on the relaunch in total, and was able to save money in such areas as sourcing images. ‘We got involved with some local photographers via photo sharing site Flickr, who let us use their photos on our site for free, which benefited them too as they got increased exposure for their pictures,’ he explains.
Andreas Voniatis, director of website optimisation service company Alchemy Viral says it’s important to get the best brains in if you’re outsourcing the design of your website. ‘You only get one chance to make a first impression,’ he says. ‘Rather than outsource something to India or eastern Europe, its important to get someone who lives in the UK, who’s extremely skilled in graphics but understands the industry and UK culture; then they’re more likely to keep in touch with your target market.’
Commenting on the need for website specialists, Amy Kean, marketing manager for the Internet Advertising Bureau, says: ‘When launching or re-launching your own website, it is advisable to invest in a company dedicated to online creativity and website design as well as having a sound knowledge of website usability and accessibility guidelines.’ ‘A significant investment at the beginning of this process can serve to avoid later costs if changes are needed due to a poor user experience or bad feedback.’
Managing the website’s content
Choosing WordPress as a content management system (CMS) makes the most sense for Voniatis. ‘You want a dynamic website you can update frequently without having to call the programmer each time you want to add a new page.
‘A custom, bespoke system is something a lot of IT programmers will recommend because they can programme it any way they want. The trouble is it can be expensive and you can limit yourself. If your programmer gets run over by a bus you’ll need a replacement programmer who then has to learn the system the website was founded upon before being able to do the work you want them to carry out.’
Pierre of Jellyfish says, ‘The CMS should allow you to put in place certain brand guidelines so you can specify things like text sizes, but also give flexibility to add pages, content, rich media and allow the CMS users to feel like they have complete ownership.’
Pierre adds that while it may once have been a good idea to cram as many key words onto homepages for SEO reasons, now less is often more. ‘As Google algorithm processes get more and more intelligent with the way they’re spidering their sites, trying to cram into as many keywords onto your landing page is not best practice. Just focus on creating a site with good descriptive SEO-friendly copy and good images to convey the right message.’
How important is a forum on a website? Voniatis says, ‘It is essential for someone who’s selling products or services online which are downloadable or shipped/dispatched but in some cases, like like a restaurant or pub website, a forum is not really appropriate. A forum compared to a blog requires more resources like moderators to monitor the dialogue and make sure there’s no trolling.’
A blog on your website may be a more cost-effective idea. Pierre adds, ‘We think a blog is important, it’s a very contemporary source of information and as long as it’s kept up to date it can induce activity and engagement among users. If it isn’t updated frequently it is a negative though.’