The world is divided into two types of people; those who open a new product, look for the instructions, sit down and read them cover to cover and those who open a new product, throw the instructions away with the packaging and then proceed to try and work out how something works.
I am firmly of the former type, I love instruction manuals, forms, catalogues, anything with lists or how to guides are for me. There are plenty of people in this office who unfortunately for me (the instruction reader) fall into the latter type and constantly have to refer back to me (the instruction reader) when they cannot work out how something works or they have proceeded to break it!
I use this analogy for a very good reason. At the moment my focus as the GM of TWS is on customer service and the role of our support staff. We have recently launched a pilot phone support program and on the back of this hoped success the role of our Account Managers will change to offer a much more pro-active and advisory role for our clients. During my years here it has become clear to me that we too also have the same two types of clients; those who read everything we send them, do their own research and come to us with all the relevant information ready to go and those who haven’t read our proposal or supporting information, haven’t prepared themselves to build a website and really don’t have much of an idea beyond the fact that they know they need a website for their business. The job of the Account Managers and Designers is made so much more difficult because they have to work out what it is that the client wants and how they want it done and this is all while trying to produce a website on deadline.
‘But you are the experts’ would be the response to this statement, yes as a web and online marketing company we are experts in our respective fields but we are not experts in every business out there and as such we find that when we work with clients in a collaborative manner we all get a much better outcome. We need your advice as to how your industry works and how you think your customers think, buy or enquire. We have found that those clients who have not read the information they have been sent, don’t really understand why they need or want a website and even what they have paid for struggle to get through the process without difficulties.
Here are some tips for anyone who is thinking of having a website built with us or anyone else to avoid this.
- Understand why you want a website - is it to generate leads? Make online sales? Brand awareness? All three? What functionality do you think you will need? Gallery? Shop? Postcode locator? Have you seen functionality on other sites that you would like?
- Think about how your business will operate online. Do you need to take payments online? Will you be issuing invoices? Do you want people to contact you straight away by phone or by email?
- Your website is not going to run your business. Every website needs someone to look after it, edit it, make tweaks and monitor its performance. You cannot build a website, set and forget. Having a website is an ongoing project. Building and maintaining a website requires some understanding of how the internet works; you will need basic skills to maintain the website using the CMS or via code if no CMS is offered. If you are not technical at all you will struggle to understand the basics. You need to ensure you have someone in your business or an external IT company who will be able to assist you. Your web designer and Account Manager will offer assistance as much as they can but ultimately it is your responsibility to maintain your website. If you don’t think you can do this then you will have to look at the real possibility of paying the web company to do it or an external IT company.
- Read everything that is offered to you. Whether it is information about the product you have selected, support articles, the functionality your website will have or just an email letting you know what to expect next, read it. The more you understand about the process, the easier it will be for you.
- Understand the roles that different people will play in the process. Ask for an explanation at the start as to who you will be dealing with. Will it be one person or many people?
- Do you have a clear idea about the look of your website? Are there corporate colours that have to be used, are there colours that you hate and would never use for your business? You need to flag these sorts of preferences at the start of the process rather than once the designer has actually done the design.
- Do you have a timeframe that you want your website to be completed in? This is a vital piece of information that must be communicated right at the start of any project. Just as when you are building a house, best laid plans often don’t work as you might have hoped. Delays happen due to illness, holiday, more work than expected has to be done etc. If you have a tight timeframe then you may have to sacrifice something in order to achieve this date.
- What are the ongoing fees? Having a website costs money, it has to be hosted, changes may have to be paid for, and if you want support this will cost money. Most web companies including us charge an ongoing monthly fee to cover support, use of the CMS and hosting. Make sure when comparing ongoing fees you are comparing apples with apples and not a cheap hosting fee with a hosted CMS licence fee (which is what part of our fee is effectively). If you don’t think you will use the services provided much then you may be able to ask for a cheaper rate but remember in order to offer the services when you need them the company has to ensure they can afford to have the staff ready to go.
- Keep it simple. Often clients come to us with a really good idea for an online business but they over think it, often don’t take our advice and end up with an unnecessarily complex website to manage. The way that it works for the end user must be simple and intuitive; the way that you manage it should be as simple as possible too. Giving yourself lots of work to do when someone buys or makes an enquiry is not the best use of your precious time. Make the website work for you.
- Have you thought about how you are going to market your online business or website? There is no point spending all your money on your website and then wondering why no-one is visiting it. It is like opening a shop in a back street with no signage and getting no customers. You have to tell people about your website, advertise where you can, get as much PR as you can, engage an Online Marketing company to run ads on Google, go to trade shows, put your URL on your emails, send email newsletters to anyone you think will read them. You need to build awareness of your website in order for people to visit it. The more exposure you get, the higher your traffic will be. It is very simple.
There are many more things that will help you as you build a website but hopefully reading these instructions is one them!