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How to build a successful website print Print

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A well-designed and easy-to-navigate website is essential for any business, large or small. We’ll show you what your business can gain from a website, key tactics for choosing what functionality to have, and what's involved in building it.

A well-designed and easy-to-navigate website is essential for any business, large or small. We’ll show you what your business can gain from a website, key tactics for choosing what functionality to have, and what's involved in building it.

Whether you’re looking to replace your old website, or building your business’ very first website, this article will take you through the basic things you need to consider.

How to build a website

Benefits of a website

Customers expect to be able to find you online, and an internet search is often the first thing they’ll do when they’re looking for a product or service. So if you don’t have an online presence, the chances are you’ll be overlooked entirely. But being in the game is far from the only benefit of a website. Here are a few others:

  • You can sell your products or services online with an e-commerce site, so it’s another way to generate revenue. 
  • Transcending time and distance –
        • Your website is ‘open’ 24/7, so potential customers can browse, research, book and buy from you whenever they want – not just between 8am and 5pm when your shop or office may be open.
        • A website means you can reach people worldwide. You could easily find yourself with a number of international customers, which could leverage into exporting opportunities. 
  • Better customer experience – people like buying products online, the option of an online booking system, and researching before they buy.
  • Reducing costs – this is especially true if you’re doing all your business online. For example, if you’re selling a skin-care range, you’re saving on shelving, displays, rent and rates. 
  • Developing a customer database – you can use your website to build up a database of leads. You can use the contact details you collect to send e-newsletters (a great relationship building tool) and to profile and analyse your customers – another valuable marketing tool. Privacy is important, so reassure customers their data is safe and is not going to be sold; collect only the basics you need, give an easy way to “opt-out”. Read more about why databases are a valuable asset
  • You could create a blog (a website or area of your website that is frequently updated with articles) to build interest in your business and position yourself as an expert in your industry. 

Essentially, a website can be a cost-effective way to grow your business.

Running costs

Running your website involves three main on-going costs:

  1. The hosting of your site by a hosting company. The more features you require (for example, secure credit card transactions, email accounts) the higher the monthly hosting fee is likely to be.
  2. Your domain name, which often needs to be renewed annually.
  3. Maintenance and updating to keep information fresh and current. This can be done either in-house or by a web developer. You want people coming to your site to see the current state of your business, not a newsletter and specials from 3 years ago.

If your website has online sales functionality, such as ANZ eGate™, there may be a running cost related to this in addition to your hosting costs.

Key tactics for website content

Some of the main tactics that the best websites use to encourage people to visit and spend time and money on them are to:

  • Provide unique, quality content. For example, instead of just selling DIY bookshelves, it might include a how-to video.
  • Keep it up-to-date - a neglected or static site will very quickly become stagnant, defeating the whole purpose.
  • Avoid basic design flaws – these include sites that are slow to load, difficult to read, tricky to navigate, no incentives to buy and no reasons to return.
  • Include a customer feedback section. Ask for testimonials from your customers and put the best ones on your site. This ‘social proof’ of how other people have experienced your business can give confidence to your prospects, encouraging them to buy from you.
  • Feature online-only deals that are updated regularly to encourage customers to come back.
  • If you have an e-commerce site, where visitors can buy your products or services, ensure that there is a privacy statement and evidence of credit card security, for your customers’ peace of mind.
  • Include a Frequently Asked Question page. People are likely to come to your site wanting to research your products or services, so make sure you make it easy for them to find the info they want, from what your opening hours are, to how long delivery takes (if appropriate). Think about the kinds of questions customers ask you by phone and face-to-face, and develop a useful, comprehensive list for your website.
  • Use social media. Social media channels like Facebook and Twitter are a great way of opening communication and forming dialogue so you could set these up and make people aware of them through your website. For example, Farmers uses their Facebook page to interact with customers about upcoming specials and events, as well as career options. If you engage with your customers online, they’re more likely to return. Read our article, using social media to grow your business.
  • Set up Google AdWords so that your website shows up in the search results when people search for relevant key words in Google. For example, Jim’s Custom Choppers could create AdWords that show up when people search ‘new motorbike Christchurch’.
  • Include your website address in all your promotional material such as direct marketing material, your emails, radio or TV adverts.

What functionality do you want on your site?

Think about which elements from the tips above that you want on your site. You should also browse other websites - particularly your competitors - as if you were a customer. Make some purchases and find out what works and what irritates you. Identify which features you like, and aspects you think could be improved. If you find a particularly impressive website, contact the business and ask who designed the site.

The clearer your thinking is about what you want your website to achieve, the better your chances of success will be.

Build your own or hire a web developer?

This depends on how complex you want your website to be. If you decide to develop a simple site, then you can probably accomplish this quite easily yourself, using online tools. Shopify is a website building tool than can give you a customisable e-commerce site based on popular designs quickly and at a relatively low cost. WordPress is a popular website building tool too. It’s easy, it’s free, and you can perform all the required updates yourself.

If you’ve got more complex ideas for your website, or if you want to create a site that’s unique, then you might consider a specialist who you’ll work with to develop a comprehensive website that’s not only visually superior, but which offers a full online shopping experience if you want to sell online.

Choose a web designer with the same care you would select any sub-contractor. It’s more important to get value for money than the lowest price. Check out other sites they’ve designed and call their clients for references.

Naming your website: pick a domain name

One of the things you’ll need to do when building a new website for your business is secure a domain name – your internet address or URL. Try to come up with something that reflects your business. For example, if your business is called Jim’s Custom Choppers, you could try to nail down

Best practise is to make sure the name is short, easy to remember, and makes sense to customers. The URL is much better than

Search for “domain names” on Google to find a company who can register them for you and compare prices.

Tips for building your website

When building your site, keep the following in mind:

  • Quality content that drives traffic will improve your search engine ranking, which in a nutshell, means that your website is nearer the top of the list when people search for keywords relating to your website on a search engine like Google. But you can also improve your rankings by using SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) techniques such as using popular search terms - keywords - in your content and titles. For example, Jim’s Custom Choppers website should include words like ‘choppers’, ‘motorcycles’, and ‘motorcycle accessories’.
  • Get outsiders to test the site and report on usability. Try shopping on other sites and imitate the features that make the whole experience as easy as possible.
  • Check your website from multiple devices (laptop, tablet, mobile phone) and make sure it looks good on all of them. It’s especially important to make sure that it’s easy to view and use your website from a mobile phone. Google penalises websites that aren’t mobile-friendly, preventing them from ranking highly in relevant searches on Google.

Measuring the success of your website

How you measure the success of your site (your site metrics) depends upon the objectives you've set for the site. With the help of Google Analytics or other tools, it's possible to measure virtually any action a visitor takes on your site. For example:

  • The number of visitors. As you become more familiar with your web stats, you’re likely to want to look at the number of unique visitors and the number of visits.
  • Which pages on your site get the most visits.
  • How people are getting to your site. Are they finding it through a Google search? Are they clicking through from your social media pages or your e-newsletters? Are other websites linking to yours and sending lots of traffic to your site?

Once you get an idea of the typical visitor flows to your site and to certain sections of your site, you have benchmarks to assess the changes you might make to your site and to set goals for improved results. Here are some of the site metrics that could be useful to you:

  • Sales Conversion Rate: average number of orders per month divided by the average number of visitors per month.
  • Cost per Order: average monthly marketing and web hosting expenses divided by the average number of orders per month.

Measuring the key metrics for your site will help you learn what needs to be changed to improve results. For example, you could discover that very few people land on your ‘buy now’ page and those that do click away from your site shortly after landing on that page. Could you improve the navigation to this page? Or freshen the content to make it more engaging e.g. by adding photos, or a more prominent ‘buy now’ button?

Your web stats will also give you clues as to whether your marketing campaigns are working. For example, if you see a big jump in visitors to your site shortly after advertising in your local newspaper with an ad that includes a link to your site, you could conclude that the ad was successful in driving interest in your business.

Want to learn more?

Check out our workshop, how to promote your business using the internet.

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