To paraphrase Einstein, “Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler.” If you’re wanting to keep up with business in today’s marketplace, that means you need a website or online store. There’s a deluge of information available about the topic online, and some of that comes from so-called “experts” who are still coding sites like it’s 2000.
So to help point business owners in the direction to start asking the right questions, here’s my simple (but not simpler than they should be) recommendations to consider when planning a new website, or an overhaul of an existing one.
These are basic questions that should be considered regardless of how your site is being made. If you or your IT guy are making your own site to cut down on costs, this is a great jumping-off point to start planning and find out what questions you’ll need to answer as you go along. If you’re contracting your site design, then this is a list to help give you a baseline knowledge of what you should be looking for in a designer. That way you can avoid people selling the proverbial headlight fluid for your car.
Pictured: the internet in a simpler time. Photo copyright Scholastic
Without further ado:
- Unless you’re planning to sell products on your site, I’d recommend WordPress for starting out. Everyone has their own favorite platform, but WordPress is the industry standard at the moment, which means more support, more people who know the platform, and more plug-ins available so you don’t need to pay for custom coding as often. WordPress hosts literally almost ten times as many sites as their next leading competitor, so unless you have a very specific reason not to, that’s what I recommend to my clients. While other options can have their uses, unless you have very specific needs and a professional tells you that a different route would be better, stick with the basics. Similarly, if you’re in the market for an e-commerce store, you’ll want to go with Shopify for the same general reasons.
- Sites should be optimized to work on mobile devices, because over two-thirds of your traffic will likely come from people on their phones (and that amount is growing every year). You also want a site that will load fast, because if people look you up when they have a spotty internet connection, you’ve only got about a 2-3 second window to catch their attention before they bounce.
- Talk to your site designer about how you’re planning to get traffic too, because there are a lot of ways that affects your site design. Do you want to spend the time making content for your site to rank well in google to get traffic? Are you going to bring folks to your site from social media instead? Or is your site just a landing page for for Google Adwords and Facebook ads? Anyone who pitches you a one-size-fits-all site is behind the times, because every site is different just like every business.
- Video. Video. Also, make sure you’re set up to have video on your site. Did I mention video? Over the next three years, we’re likely going to move towards 90% or more of all online content being video. Jump on that trend from your starting point to stay ahead of the competition.
- Hosting. Figure out what kind of traffic you’re planning on getting to your site, and make sure your hosting will accommodate that. People bad-mouth some hosting companies, but look behind the emotion-driven reviews to see what’s actually going on. Trade secret: if your site is small, Godaddy works just fine, regardless of what the haters say. On the other hand, for lots of traffic, go with something a bit more rugged like Bluehost.
So armed with these basic questions, you’re better prepared for your move online. Use these as a road map for where to take your questions when talking with a site designer, and when you come to a relevant answer, dig deeper into it. The web is here to stay, so turn your ball cap around, hop on a keyboard and let’s go!