You really must give careful thought to what it is you want your website to do for you and for your website visitors. Until you have done this, you are at the mercy of any web designer’s whims and habits. You are also in danger of paying too much for your website at the beginning.
Before you talk to a designer…
You need to decide what it is you want your website to do, to achieve or to accomplish. You may not want to everything at first, but you need to have an overall plan so that what is created in the early stages will support things you might add later.
Show your products
One simple function of a website is to show people what you do, what you sell, what you create. Or you might be simply explaining what services you can offer and why people might make use of them.
You might be happy with that at the early stages, with potential customers being enthused by your ‘online brochure’ and emailing or telephoning you to take their enquiry further.
Explain what you do
Tell people about the services you offer, the additional aspects of your business that may not be immediately obvious from a newspaper advert for example.
Manage newsletter subscribers
Allow people to sign up to, or unsubscribe from, a newsletter about your organisation, your products.
This sort of thing must be run professionally to ensure that collected information is managed both ethically and legally.
Collect survey information either anonymously or with contact details. Assemble basic information from a potential customer or member so that when you contact them you have the foundation information already in an organised format.
Sell products or services
You can sell your products through your website: using an e-commerce shop system. You might want to start with a low-cost, easily-managed system that can later be expanded to a fully-fledged shopping system.
Consider how you store your product or membership information already. A good web developer will work from that system rather than try to sell you an inappropriate ‘off-the-shelf’ system.
Beware: many web developers have arrangements with credit card payment providers whereby they receive a commission on every one of YOUR sales forever. Such people cannot be truly independent.
Provide after-sales information
Many web users will look for good quality after-sales information BEFORE they buy. If your manuals, instructions, return policies and general advice for use of or installation of products is good, customers will have greater faith in your products.
Offer free samples
You can offer free samples of products, free surveys or just some good examples of what you do.
Manage accommodation reservations
You can provide an online diary of availability either of you or of your product – holiday accommodation would be a good example.
Beware: some web developers will try to convert you to their ‘off-the-shelf’ system which may not suit you and may mean you have to change your own systems. A good web-developer will work from whatever system you already use.
Present an image gallery
You might want to offer a gallery of images of products, pictures of previous work. You might want to update this regularly or not very often.
Show people where you are
You might want to provide static or interactive maps for visitors to find you, your events, your work examples.
Provide a diary of events
You could display a diary of events where people can meet you and see you at shows or exhibitions. You might want to show people what’s going on locally or nationally and that is relevant to your business or organisation.
Collect basic pre-sales information
When you first speak to potential customers there is often a series of basic questions that need to be asked. Why not encourage them to provide this information online, in their own time, so that when you talk with them, you already have the basics and get straight into developing a ‘customer relationship’.
This can be done without people necessarily having to give personal information which can put them off.
Provide online quotations or estimates
Taking that process a step further, it may be possible to use your website to provide an initial estimate or quotation based on the basic information provided. Give visitors the choices, let them build up an estimate before they speak with you. Let them feel they have a stake in what is going on and that they are in control.
You could offer visitors the chance to actually book accommodation, book a survey visit, book a meeting time. Depending on the way you work this could be a definite booking or could be subject to you confirming by email or by telephone.
These are just some of the simpler possibilities.
You need to think about:
- what you want to achieve
- what you can offer
- what takes time at the moment and could save time if it was on your website
- where do you want to start and where do you want to end up with a website
Try to be clear about what you want. When you talk to a good web-developer you might see other possibilities but if you are clear before you start talking, you will have a clear basis with which to start. You will be less susceptible to being ‘dragooned’ into things that are not necessary.
Set the long-term targets, the medium-term targets and the short-term targets.