Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Webify Your Trade 2: Thinking Up the Website.

thinking man So let’s do our website. A couple of posts ago I had covered the reasons any business should have a website. The idea is also that a website shouldn’t cost a lot to put together and can even be free. Secondly, a website no longer requires any technical expertise to be done well, look professional and be useful. Sure high end sites need the technology experts, but to do a simple functional website that supports a basic business and it’s processes doesn’t. More importantly, you can do it yourself. However, if you want a little more (or a lot more) you will need to willing to spend some money.


What do you really need?

The first thing to do, is not to investigate technology, but to determine what you really want to accomplish. What should the website need to do in order to meet your needs? I would suggest the following based on my original post.

  1. A place where people can at first glance see what you do and what you offer.
  2. A list of your products.
  3. Your business processes – how they can make use of your service.
  4. A means to contact you.
  5. A means to be contacted by you.
  6. A means to give feedback about your products.
  7. Incentives to buy from you.
  8. Self-manageable with no technical expertise required.

Your peculiar needs may differ, but this should cover the general needs of most. Now let’s turn those needs into an actual site.


The Home page

This is a page where you give a succinct intro to your business, product or service. This is the first page most people see. Two sins you should never commit. First is don’t overload it with text. The internet generation have very little patience to read things so make your text meaningful and pithy. Secondly, pictures are essential (to the whole site, not just the home page). Get good ones. Third, the content needs to change frequently. You need to keep this page in particular fresh. Remember those incentives we talked about? This is where you advertise them. The home page is where you carry on the conversations about your business. The whole conversation doesn’t need to be on the home page, but it does need to start here.


A products page (or pages)

This is your online catalogue. You need to think about your products and how they are categorised. Is there a natural category? For instance, if you sell cars, a natural categorisation is brand (Toyota, Honda, Peugeot) or vehicle type (sedan, SUV, bus) or price range. Ideally, you other to be able to combine the different methods of categorisation, but with a focus on simplicity and self-management we may need to only do simple lists. An additional step should be the ability to click on each item and see more details about that particular item, maybe place an order or at least make an inquiry.


A contacts page and contacts mechanism

You need a page where all your contact information is posted. Though, arguably you could have all this info on your home page where it is front and centre. Secondly, from some of the other pages, such as your products pages you should provide a means where people can quickly email a query to you. This could also be your information acquisition page. As much as you need your potential customers to know how to reach you, you need to be able to reach them too. One way is have a contact form where they post their questions or service requests to you and you collect their info as part of the same process. On the other hand, if we are getting really minimal, the contact page will just have a link that opens their default mail client. As I have mentioned (and will continue to) there are most sophisticated things you could do, but we are focused on simplicity.


Make Conversation

The fourth thing we need is a means to get a conversation going. Blogs in general, such as mine, have a comments section where people can leave comments about the blog posts (hint, hint). That may not be common on most sites, but it is a great place for people to quickly engage with you, leave testimonies, suggestions and recommendations.

So with this starting point, we can look at the options of free sites and site-building tools out there. One more thing though, as much as I have rattled on about being able to do this for free, I absolutely do recommend that you buy yourself a web address of your own.