I need a website but I don’t know where to start

posted in: General | 0

So what should I do to get a website up and running?

Approaching a website designer can be a daunting task, especially if you’re not really sure what you want, or even what your options are!  It is a really good idea to approach a website designer with an idea about what you’d like your website to achieve.

Often a designer is happy to help you with this, and can give you ideas but ultimately you know your business best.

Remember the old saying ‘there is no such thing as a stupid question’.  If you’re not sure ask because a good company will be happy to answer all of your questions.

Deciding on a Structure

The first thing we ask here at DoodleIT is what kind of structure you have in mind.  This helps us to understand the size of your website and how much time is involved in developing your site.

However this is often easier said than done.  Here is our guide to deciding on your website’s structure.

1 – Make a list of the information you’d like to give your visitors

This is a really good starting point.  For example if you are a bed and breakfast, what would you like to tell your visitors?  Imagine you are your customer – what would you look for when you visited a b&b website?  You might want to include things like:

  • Where you are (a Google map is handy as it lets visitors zoom in and out)
  • When are you available?  Maybe you need an availability calendar which allows customers to book and pay a deposit online?
  • How expensive are you?  The facilities and quality of a B&B can vary a lot, and you normally get what you pay for, so letting your visitors know upfront is important.
  • What can they do in the area?
  • Gallery showing photos of your rooms and the area you are situated in.

2 – Have a look at other websites in your field

Your competitors are another good way to see what you might want to include on your website.  They may have some great ideas you’d like to tweak for your site and may well give you some inspiration.

It is also a great way to find out what you like or don’t like online e.g. you may love large photos and a clean uncluttered design.  Similarly you may love colours and websites that create a real ‘home from home’ feel when you look at them.

3 – Think about what search phrases you want your website to come up for.

Google’s robots navigate your website to decide what you’re all about and what kind of searches your website should come up for.  Google makes their money by providing users with the most relevant results for their search, so websites that are most likely to be what they’re looking for.

A robot can’t see your photos or even a pretty colour scheme.  It doesn’t know that you’re a luxury guest house based in Betws y Coed unless you tell it you are!

So as a rule of thumb you need a page for each search phrase you’d like to come up for.  This is only a guide, for example if you wanted to come up for

  • B&B Snowdonia
  • B&B Betws y Coed

Ideally you’d need a page focussed on Snowdonia and a page focussed on Betws y Coed.  To you and me it may seem obvious that Betws y Coed is in Snowdonia, but Google’s robot doesn’t know this unless you tell them!

While it is sometimes possible to target more than one phrase with one page it is best to separate within reason – it’s a bit like being a ‘jack of all trades but master of none’ in Google’s eyes if you try to do everything all on one page!  It dilutes how important you are because you’re essentially saying you do a bit of everything all crammed into one page.

If you were Google, who would you think was a better bet for a search ‘B&B Betws y Coed’, a website with a page dedicated to this, or a website with one page saying ‘B&B Betws y Coed, B&B Snowdonia, B&B North Wales, Bed and Breakfast in Wales, Accommodation in Betws, Where to stay in Betws, B&B that’s the best in the world…’ you get the idea!

You’d choose the specialist.  So that’s why this might help you decide on your website’s structure.

4 – Think about your budget

At DoodleIT we see developing your website as a long term partnership, so in our eyes your initial budget doesn’t limit you completely as your website can always be added to over time.  However it does help if you have an idea of budget as it can help us tell you what your options are within this.

4 – What is the aim of your site

Our website aims to give our visitors a lot of information.  We wanted to be very open with our customers and explain how things work so that they can have an understanding of how things work.

Some websites have a lot of information, whilst others aim simply to give out snippets of information and encourage people to call for a chat.  Using our B&B example from earlier, you may choose to ask people to call you for booking rather than booking online to keep a more personal level of service.  Sometimes this is a choice that websites make.

Having a think about these points can really help you prepare for your chat with a website designer.  A good company will take the time to chat things through with you and where possible even arrange a face to face consultation to help understand your needs.

Looking at your quote – how do I decide?

So you’ve spoken to a few companies and received a few quotes.  How do you decide which company is offering you the best deal?

1 – Understanding the technical bits!  Not all quotes are equal…

Every industry comes hand in hand with its own set of jargon and web design is no exception!  Although we try not to use jargon sometimes it slips in without you noticing because it a part of day to day life here.

The most important thing is for you to understand your quote.  Don’t be afraid to ask – I’m pretty sure there are things about your industry that your developer won’t understand either!  Personally we find it frustrating when developers try to blind customers with science by providing quotes that are way too technical for someone outside the industry to understand.  You may not want to know the ins and outs of every detail, but we want you to understand what we’re doing and why, not least because we think you deserve to know where your hard earned money is going to!

Things to note:

  • Is the quote detailed?  This is important so that you know you are your designer are on the same page.  I’ve seen so many proposals saying ‘a 4 page website.’  My comment is always ‘4 pages of what’!  4 pages could mean a lot of different things to different people.  I like to know exactly what I’m getting and I’m sure you do too.
  • CMS or Content Management is a way for you to update your website yourself.  This can be really simple, but I’ve seen some systems that are very complicated.  Make sure you ask for a demonstration of how it works so you can see for yourself.
  • SEO.  This is search engine optimisation.  Most companies will include a basic level of SEO within your quote but try to understand what this includes.  If your industry is very competitive you may need more than this to compete and get up there on search results.
  • How much do additional pages cost?  It helps to know upfront a cost per additional page OR if you can add additional pages yourself within certain sections.
  • Updating your site – a website that is out of date is no good to anyone.  How are you going to keep your site fresh?  If the developer is making your changes how much will this cost?  This is usually part of a yearly package following on from your website development but it’s good to know upfront.

2 – What about ongoing costs?

Your website will come with ongoing costs.  Depending on your developer and what is included this can vary.

Why are there on going costs?  

Domain name – this is the name of your site e.g. doodleit.co.uk and is renewed yearly or bi-yearly (Depending on whether it is a .com or .co.uk etc).

Hosting – every website online takes up space.  The larger your website the most space it takes up.  Online space is rented and is paid for either monthly or yearly (it’s a bit like renting office space).  Depending on the size of your website you might need better space (more powerful with better features) and so you might pay more for this.  It’s like renting a shop with more shop front or perhaps in a better location.  What’s really important is that your site is hosted in the UK (if your target market is here in the UK).

Support – what happens if something goes wrong?

Software updates – the web is changing all the time.  Good companies know this and work this in so that you don’t have to pay extra for it when it comes up.

3 – Updating your website (CMS)

Sometimes there is a yearly fee for making use of the developers Content Management System (CMS) to update your website.  If you aren’t doing the updates yourself there might be a ‘maintenance fee’ for keeping your site up to date e.g. text changes or a new page.  Is this included in your quote and if not what are the fees?

4 – Support included

Different companies offer different levels of support – some charge per hour, others are happy for you to call for a chat, some might only give email support.  Ask questions like ‘what if I have a problem on a weekend?’.  Most companies have some kind of out of hours service.

Here at DoodleIT we respond to urgent emails over weekends and bank holidays but aren’t usually available via phone unless something urgent happens.  It’s just good to know how best to get in touch with your developer out of hours – for example sending us an email over the weekend really is the best way as it comes through to our mobiles wherever we are!

5 – Gut feeling!

At the end of the day, we do business with people.  Whilst you don’t need your web designer to be your best friend, if you put all their technical expertise to one side, are you able to deal with the person on the other end of the phone / email / table.

In our experience there are a lot of great web developers out there with fantastic technical skills BUT few programmers have the people skills to work with and understand the needs of clients.  That’s an entirely separate and special skill in itself.

So find a company you can work with, one where you feel like your business matters to them.  Your web developer should be an important part of your team and so it is important that they fit in well with you and your company ethos.

Thank you for reading…

Thank you for taking the time to read our article.  We really hope it was useful and that it helps you feel prepared for taking the first step and calling a web developer.

So if you’re looking for website design in North Wales visit our website to find out more about our team here at DoodleIT and see examples of our work .