Part 1:

So, after much thought, debate, soul searching and presumably many memos, meetings and conferences, not to mention infinite cups of coffee, your company or business has decided to take the plunge and join the rest of the planet online.   In other words, you need/want/must have a website devoted to your enterprise.

Like many newbies entering the web for the first time, or even if you have an established site, but it isn’t generating the volume of traffic you anticipated, or you just want to update or improve on your current site, there are initially more questions than answers about how to make the darn thing work for you.

Relax; it’s really as easy as ingesting the contents of the average 40 volume encyclopedia.   I’m joking of course, but for many, that’s certainly how it seems.  To give you an idea of what it really entails, this is the first of a 4 part primer on what you need to know.   The real trick to it is to simplify the process, and these are some basic elements to consider;

 1) Recognize the essential requirements for your site, and what you want it to accomplish.

For many businesses, the idea of a website seems like a natural extension of your mission statement, but the reality can be more challenging than you think, especially if there’s no clear idea of what you expect from it.   Don’t make the mistake of assuming some flashy graphics and web slang will get the job done; it’s all about understanding the nature of your business and then getting that across in an effective and engaging manner.

This essentially means that you have to understand your customers or clientele, and what would interest them in your business over that of your competitors.  It’s not merely a matter of undercutting, but of highlighting the features and benefits of your business over any other in the market.

This may seem like common enough business practice, but it involves a dedicated recognition of who your customers are, what their needs are, how best your company addresses those needs, and how your website can distinguish and demonstrate these elements to your best advantage.

Many companies wrongly assume that throwing up a bunch of pictures of your products, while ramming home the idea that your prices can’t be beat is all it takes.  If your average customer is affluent, more concerned with quality than cost, or is more interested in long term service i.e. product or tech support rather than the price point, then making this the focus of your site will not serve your business well.

So begin with your customer, their interests and needs, what attracts them to your business and what keeps them coming back to you, and incorporate that into the structure of your site; it’s not only a more pragmatic approach to getting your message out online, but it’s a more logical way to reach those who are looking to find you as well.

It’s also a good idea to investigate your competitors’ sites as well, not only to see what approach they employ, but also to ensure that you differentiate from them in both content and style.

There are literally reams of online information available about getting your site off the ground, which are invaluable if you’re a small business that has a finite budget available, which I’ll cover in part 4. 

If your budget is more substantial, I recommend you consider a professional web designer, but shop around and get some referrals before settling on one, as there are unfortunately a good deal of shysters out there that can make your first web design experience about as pleasant as a colonoscopy, as many have found to their chagrin.

Ray Litvak
Web Content Writer ~ Toronto, Ontario Canada