So you’ve finally decided to take the plunge into arranging a website for your business. Congratulations!
Websites are a truly astonishing means of not only promoting your business but improving your productivity as prospects help themselves to information about your business and even sales, allowing you to get on with what you do best.
But great results don’t happen at the tap of a key. Effective websites take considerable time, effort and often expenditure to get a great result.
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And they can be challenging to put together – particularly in the wrong hands.
Those of you who have had more complex promotional pieces like a full colour brochure or an advertising campaign will be able to manage their website creation far better than someone who hasn’t.
You will already be familiar with planning and executing the various creative and technical requirements websites entail.
But if you haven’t, you may well be in for a steep learning curve.
In this blog piece I’ll go through the various main components of a professional website so as you are reasonably prepared for what lies ahead.
It may seem odd that something as familiar as photography is given so much priority here but it’s for very good reason. Embarking on your first experience with professional photography can be quite a shock to anyone familiar with the immediate point and click world we now live in.
And in the majority of cases you will need professional photography. The reason for this is that the public have become accustomed to the top shelf images that professional promotional materials deliver.
Every photograph (or ’image’ as they tend to be called in the creative industry) you see in a print or television ad, brochure and now website has been painstakingly composed, lit, dressed and finally shot. Then it might be ‘photoshopped’ to achieve a final glowing result. They are the polar opposite to the snaps you take on your smartphone. And they carry a price tag to sustain the professional labour involved in this process.
If a pro photographer is beyond your budget, you can source excellent images from a stock image library. Whatever you do, do not simply copy an image from another website and copy it without the permission of the website owner or photographer.
The very best websites have usually been created by professional designers who have spent hours drafting, finessing and finally creating the all-important look of your website. And like photography, this does not come cheaply.
At least these days there are a range of impressive and affordable design templates that already have much of the design work completed, but can have imagery and colour schemes altered to complement your own ‘corporate identity’ or logo.
Either way, expect to spend some time in the creation and refinement process of your finished appearance.
3. Create, amend, approve
Each of the creative and technical components of your website will need to move through a careful and often lengthy process of creation, amendment and finally approval.
This will need to happen for each of the content (words and pictures), design (appearance and navigation) and technology (functionality) of your website.
However, much of the hard work involved in this process can be reduced if you are using template websites or pre-built website platforms which really require inspection and demonstration instead of draft and approval.
As indicated above, professional help costs and because websites are a relatively complex medium, you may need a considerable amount of labour to achieve a professional result.
The good news is that the aforementioned templates and pre-built website platforms will reduce the cost considerably compared to a fully bespoke website.
But like anything involving quality, if it sounds too cheap to be true, it will be.
As if complex printed materials like brochures aren’t complex enough to create, the amount of technology that underpins today’s websites is enough to make the smaller business operator wish they lived in a simpler time.
But like most technical developments, there are plenty of pros that come with the cons. In the case of websites there are three clear ones:
Distribution – once your website is published to the internet it can be accessed by anyone in the world with an internet connection – except perhaps China
Editability – unlike printed and recorded media, websites are never ‘set in stone’ (assuming yours comes with a content management system for ongoing editing).
Data – pretty much every aspect of your website can be completely and precisely measured so you can accurately assess your return on investment.
Again, in good hands this process will be relatively simple, but the more customised your requirements are, the more time consuming and expensive your website will become.
As indicated above, what makes websites quite different to any other medium is that they are not static or fixed – you continue to alter them all the time to remain relevant, fresh and current.
It’s a bit like painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge – once you finish you start all over again.
So it’s important to never consider or assume your website to be ‘finished’ as such. It is simply the finish of a phase and the start of a new one – ongoing content, creative and technical maintenance.
Whilst the website creation process is by its nature, going to be different for every single business, this guide should at least provide you with some insight into what to expect from the creation of your first website.
All going well it will yield a result that is not only something to be proud of, but will make an immediate and ongoing impact on your bottom line.
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.