We are starting to see more and more website vendors claiming to offer a truly DIY website.
And certainly the notion of a DIY website is certainly far more plausible that it was a decade ago. The engine of these websites, content management systems (CMS) have come a long way since the early days.
CMS vendors have worked hard to make the process of assembling a website as easy as possible – certainly for an ‘entry level’ result.
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But how many smaller business operators truly have the skills to achieve a professional result? And given most of you have businesses to run, is it really a good investment of your time to acquire them? Or are you better finding an affordable professional?
One method that is often overlooked to achieve a truly professional result is to have a professional complete the initial website, but then provide the tools, training and support for you or your staff to maintain it.
This approach really provides the best of both worlds – a professional starting point but still with the tools and support to maintain the site professionally.
Either way, let’s take a look at just what skills are required for a truly professional result.
1. Using a CMS
CMS vendors have genuinely attempted to create an assembly/editing interface that is within reach of the most basic computer user. But reasonably proficient use of Microsoft Word or equivalent is probably the best pre-requisite for using a CMS.
Previous manipulation of text, images and links by using Word or even PowerPoint will make the transition to CMS guru a relatively simple one.
Unfortunately, many proclaim that mastering a CMS will make you into a web guru. But this is a long way from the truth.
Most of us have visited professional looking websites only to be greeted by poor grammar, spelling and really just poor writing. Who hasn’t been to a website which is too wordy, too technical or just plain boring.
Like brochures and advertising before it, websites need to be able to take your key messages and communicate them in a way that is interesting, enticing and where the web is concerned, action oriented.
And the number of websites that don’t meet this description shows just what a skill it really is.
3. Search engine optimisation
Even if a site looks and reads well, nobody may be able to find it from search engines! This situation is surprisingly common. Many businesses invest tidy sums into their new websites only to find that they are nowhere on Google.
There’s a whole range of factors that determine good ‘on-site’ (as distinct from off-site) optimisation, way too many to go into here. The main ones aren’t overly difficult to learn but if you are in a competitive industry, professional help will be required at some point.
Most are familiar with simple menu structures like the standard Home, About, Services (or Products), Testimonials and Contact, etc. But what about beyond this? What if you have large amounts of content to present and in turn to find?
Whilst some find navigation relatively easy to achieve, many don’t find it quite as intuitive and so can get bamboozled when trying to work out the best way to layout their content and create easy ways for your visitors to find it.
5. An eye for design
Up until very recently you really did require a professional designer to achieve a truly professional look for your website. While some of today’s very comprehensive and attractive design templates can provide a great starting point for the all-important appearance, it’s amazing how quickly a great looking website can quickly look like a dog’s breakfast when put in the wrong hands.
No matter how good some design templates are, getting them to work around your logo and colour scheme takes considerable skill or at least a well-trained eye.
6. An understanding of photography
Whilst the inclusion of cameras in today’s mobile phones is a wonderful toy for personal use, it has also given the impression that anyone can be a ‘photographer’ and give them license to use these images on websites.
Unfortunately this capability is also a death certificate for your website. Professional photography, even if it is sourced from stock libraries, is absolutely essential for professional websites and under no circumstances should be compromised.
7. An eye for marketing
When so much attention is given over to creative and technical requirements of a business website, the fact that it is fundamentally a marketing tool can often get overlooked. So while the images need to be pretty, the appearance stunning and the copy enticing, if it doesn’t work hard to engage customers and move them down the purchase path as promptly as possible, it will fail you
In other words it has to promote the latest offer, invite visitors to sign up to your email or social networks, upsell and cross-sell your product and so on. Otherwise your hard-earned traffic will just click off – potentially forever and more likely than not to a competitor.
Of course, a good web professional will allow you and your staff as much DIY which is right for your business, whilst still providing the professional help you need both in the creation and ongoing maintenance of your website.
And if they don’t it’s a great reason to find another.
In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.