Building a Value-Added Website: Planning and Payoff
Why are websites important? To be more specific, why are good websites important? Your website is the public face of your business. It is how potential customers find you, or find out about you. It can drive sales and effortlessly increase your availability to potential customers. However, websites are a double edged sword. While a good website will build your reputation, a bad website will tarnish it. A poorly functioning website is like a poorly functioning storefront, and will cause potential customers to call your competence, dedication, and legitimacy into question.
So how do we avoid bad websites? Even better, how do we create good websites that take advantage of all the opportunities a digital landscape provides? The first step is to re-frame the question. Before we can figure out how to make a good website, we need to ask what makes a website good? Thankfully, to a business owner, the answer is simple. A good website adds value to its business.
And how do we do that? The first step is to plan. Ask yourself the following questions:
Why do you want a website?
What features can you include to help achieve this?
How will you measure your success?
What’s your ideal budget?
Let’s Get Started.
Question 1: Why Do You Want A Website?
The very first question to answer is what your site’s fundamental purpose will be. Specifically, what kind of value do you want it to add, and how should it do that? Here are three distinct ways your website can add value to your website:
Direct Revenue: usually featuring a storefront or product, these sites are designed to independently generate revenue for your business using means such as sales, or hosting ads.
Indirect Revenue: These sites are made for pushing physical (in-person) sales, creating customer leads, and establishing your business’s brand.
Publication: These sites are created to host content, be it galleries, essays, videos or anything in between.
A site provides value in any combination of these purposes. Archimedes’ website generates indirect revenue and publishes the blog you’re reading right now! However, keep in mind that some of the strategies used to accomplish these purposes can conflict with each other. For instance, hosting advertisements may bring direct revenue to your site, but at the cost of indirect revenue from the many people who find it distasteful to see an ad from something already advertising to them.
Once you have your site’s purpose outlined, you can use it as a guideline for your decision making. Always be asking how a decision may help fulfill, or hinder, your site’s purpose.
Question 2: What Features Can You Include To Help Achieve This?
Once you have a purpose defined, you can start planning out how your site will accomplish it. It’s good to get these ideas defined early, as having a general idea of what features your website will have is vital to choosing the tools you’ll use to eventually build and maintain your site. Once you have them written down, you can use them as a checklist to ensure you have all the tools necessary to build your site.
While brainstorming, be sure to think about exactly how each potential feature will fulfill your site’s intended purpose and whether it’s worth the cost. For instance, forms will provide an easy method for potential clients to communicate with you, thus helping with indirect revenue generation, and are often a feature bundled with site builders. Meanwhile, setting up an e-commerce system is vital for an online storefront, but expensive if online sales aren’t a key feature of your website’s purpose.
Question 3: How Will You Measure Your Success?
While a defined purpose can act as a simple map outlining where you want your business to be, defined objectives and empirical data make up a high-powered GPS system telling you exactly where you are and where you’re going. But much like websites, there are good objectives, and bad objectives. The most effective ones follow the SMART goal setting process. Specific. Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. It’s difficult to analyze whether or not your site has “Driven Sales” but you can easily see if it’s “Achieved a 5% increase in appointments scheduled online through the month of September”.
Every change you make should be in fulfillment of a properly-defined objective, and you should always measure your objectives’ results with reliable, empirical data. Doing this prevents you from flying blind and wasting valuable resources on decisions and implementations that do not achieve the results you’re looking for.
You can use many different data points to analyze the success of your objectives. Web analytic scripts bundled with your web platform, or offered by a third party such as Google Analytics, can collect site data such as view counts, bounce rates, entry points, visitor demographics and more. Meanwhile, if you need qualitative data, you can go old fashioned with surveys, or usability testing.
Question 4: What Do You Want To Pay?
The last thing to consider before implementing your website is how much, and with what, do you want to budget for it. While all websites will have some monetary cost, there are actually two more variables that can vary your financial investment significantly: time and flexibility.
As the saying goes, time is money. And it’s important to balance it carefully in long term projects such as website development. Building a website on your own can shave a significant amount of your monetary costs. However, the hours you spend designing, building, writing, and maintaining your site are hours you can’t spend on other projects and tasks.
Though today there is an amazing variety of tools and platforms you can use to build your site, there’s no guarantee they can build exactly what you want. For ease of access, many web builders, such as Squarespace or Wix have limited customization options. Meanwhile complex, or custom features can cost a lot of time, or money, to make. To prevent extra costs in money and time, it’s important to budget out how much flexibility and customization your features need before committing to a tool or platform.
It’s likely you’ll be balancing all three of these costs, but thanks to the large number of varied tools and platforms available, you can create a budget that makes the most sense for your needs. Some solutions are quick and cheap at the cost of flexibility, while others are expensive but quick and highly flexible. We’ll cover some of these strategies in the next post, choosing a platform.
Write the answers to these questions down and hold on to them, they’ll help you throughout the entire process of creating a value-added website, including our next post where we’ll be looking at some different tools and paradigms you can use to start building and hosting your site. In the meantime, Archimedes C&C is happy to help plan, evaluate or build a value-added website that best fits your business needs. Just give us a call.