New Website? What You Need To Know About Managing Expectations
This post was updated in November 2016.
In a recent feedback email, one of my web clients suggested that I discuss managing expectations more thoroughly with new clients. It's a great idea.
The world of websites and design and online platforms can be rather confusing when you're also trying to run a new business. It's really important that businesses know how to make the most of their new online venture. And that means managing expectations.
What should you look for in a new website? Here are my top 3 tips for small businesses:
1. A clear message
A business website is the online face of your company. It's important that it: a) looks good, b) performs efficiently, and c) networks effectively.
Getting a) and b) working is relatively straightforward; you decide on the aesthetics (colours, fonts, images, layout, etc) and the functionality elements (single page, drop down menus, blog, and so on), and then you enlist a web designer or developer like me to make it happen. You'll work together to bring your vision and ideas to life in line with the technical web building stuff.
Part c) is a bit more tricky because this is your responsibility. In order for your website to network effectively, it has to sell your company message. Which means, you need to know what that message is and how to explain it to others. Preferably in a single sentence!
Some things to consider:
> What information do you want on your site?
> How do you want to portray your business?
> Who is your target audience?
> How do you want to engage with your customers?
A good web designer will help you to figure all this out via a detailed brief. It's business 101.
2. It's a process
Creating a website is a process. From the brief to the designing itself and then changes and edits afterwards. You may not have a fixed idea in your head from the start, and as well, your ideas are likely to change along the way.
Websites start with a basic framework, usually 4-5 pages that usually include a homepage, about and contact pages, and 1-2 more detailed work pages such as your services, vision, awards, and so on.
From this framework, you can then add another, optional, layers. Do you want a blog? Will you have regular news or changing menus, or is it a static, informational site? Do you need to book services or display social media accounts? This layer really depends on your business and the level of engagement you want - and are prepared to commit to - for your website.
Part of the evolving process is that you can change your mind! Whether it's the layout, the colour scheme, or the content, this stuff is easily altered. I design sites in Squarespace and it's quite simple to change between templates. I can even do two mock up sites in different templates as a comparison.
Understanding that web design is a process also means that you don't have to do everything at once, and your site doesn't have to be 100% perfect at its launch (though I'm sure it will look awesome). Your website will evolve and grow, just like your business, and that may mean changing things down the line.
My own site has evolved and changed over 6 years, 3 web platforms and 4 countries. I've now designed it to a level that I'm happy with but I still tweak it, rewrite pages, add and remove features, and I probably always will. It's awesome though, IMO.
3. Embrace specialists
Outsourcing isn't a new concept but it's one that business owners around the world should embrace and use more frequently. Contractors, temps and freelancers are growing exponentially as workers demand more flexibility and we all try to squeeze more time out of our days. Evidently, if you're reading this, you're thinking of hiring a freelancer like me to design your website or write your online content. That's great! Not just for freelancers but for you too.
Wouldn't it be awesome if working for yourself meant never stringing together another company blog post or trying to come up with snappy social media updates? Well, outsource and it can. Instead of trying to manage aspects of your business that you find fiddly, frustrating, or deathly boring, let someone else do it. Strangely enough, you'll always find someone who really loves doing the stuff you'd rather avoid.
Case in point, I'd been dithering over my blog mailing list for forever, and then a few months ago, I finally outsourced it to the Lilac Frog, a Mailchimp pro. $200 and a few days later and I had a responsive, weekly RSS newsletter ready to go. Huge time saver.
So too, in mid 2016 I hired a virtual assistant. Now I have someone to proof all my blog posts and articles, do my social media and blog graphics, and help me with strategy. It's a huge time saver.
RELATED POST: 21 Reasons Why You Need To Hire A Virtual Assistant
Consider outsourcing as a necessary business expense. You'll easily recoup those costs in more time and a whole less stress, which let's face it, is kind of priceless.
The other awesome thing about specialists and websites is that as your business grows and evolves, you may want more out of your site. Maybe you'll want to reach out to your customers via social media or blogging, start a sister site, or sell products online. Specialists will be the people to make it happen. From SEO experts and digital strategists to bloggers, social media gurus, copywriters, and e-commerce developers, they're only a click away.
Finally, enjoy your site! Invest in setting it up well and it can do great things for your business, sell your message and save you time.
This post was updated in February 2017.
About the author: Lilani Goonesena is an Australian freelance writer, Squarespace web designer and blogger currently living in Vientiane, Laos. She is passionate about helping creative women freelancers kick start their businesses with web design and content, blogging and her awesome weekly newsletter on digital marketing, social media, content, SEO, web design and "all that online stuff". She also writes food and travel articles for businesses and magazines, and blogs at the delectable Eat Drink Laos, just for fun.