(Our work: Website for Malvern Memorial Kindergarten)
Your website is your 24/7 salesperson that helps people find your business and become paying customers. So, pause for a second and read this before you start building your first site.
(Skip to the steps if you’re short on time!)
I had already been programming for more than a decade when computers were still a mystery for most in 1995. I remember the cold winter day when I published my first hand-coded website (fun fact: the IP address was some uni URL followed by ‘mpsim’, a subset of my initials)— I sat in front of the screen thinking, “Now all I have to do is to build traffic”, and added a visible counter to the nav bar. I was officially a digital marketer.
Fast forward 5 years to the dot com boom, a crazy time where us Aussie contract programmers were building sites out of energy drinks in London. Saatchi, the UK advertising agency was brain-sucking in anyone who knew about websites, as some venture capital firms were throwing money at web start-ups for 10 or 100 time valuations overnight.
Knowing these sites could have been done for a fraction of the cost, I went back to Melbourne with a handful of UK clients who were delighted to pay Aussie rates. And this was how it all started. (Plus, I could finish my postgraduate degree while designing and coding websites at night for the likes of Toni&Guy!)
So, how do you get the best out of your website build and how much should you pay for it nowadays? Here’s the triple bottom line I’d advise to anyone— What your site looks like, what it does, and how well it works.
Simplicity is key. Whenever possible, always choose the simple route. Keep designs clean, paragraphs short, and make sure things are as clear as possible. It allows visitors to focus on what really matters on your site and accentuates call-to-action. If you’re not a seasoned designer (or if you want to save some big bucks), just get an existing template that is clean, minimal and most importantly, responsive on all devices. A well-designed site is a good user experience (UX), and a good UX leads to higher conversions.
Tip: always bring references (such as sites you like) to your digital agency for quality discussions on design. Get the expectations right at the start.
“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”— Steve Jobs
Here are the four types of websites and their tips and tricks:
1. Static – Use a CMS like WordPress and you might not have to go back to your agency or pay for ongoing external costs (if it’s well built of course).
2. CMS – Content Management System is ever evolving. A good rule of thumb is the amount of $$ you will be spending on the site.
– If you’re spending over $500k, go for enterprise platforms like Adobe or Drupal 8.
– Opt for an open-source software such as WordPress for anything under that amount.
3. eCommerce –
– use Shopify or WooCommerce for small proof of concepts
– rebuild in BigCommerce as a step towards enterprise
– Magento 2 for anything close to enterprise (we do not recommend looking at Magento if your 24-month investment is under $300k)
4. Special Features – This could be any additional feature— higher traffic, content requirements, drop shipping, or event / ticketing sales. For building CRM we recommend using Hubspot.
Provide a clear, functional specification so everyone has a good idea of the complexity of the functionality and the ongoing costs.
Site speed (scored by online tests like Google) is also essential. According to Google, 40% of consumers will leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load.
No commercial website is without CapEx and ongoing costs. Your site will require maintenance and monitoring to tackle problems such as site errors, speed deterioration, or even being hacked. These ongoing costs are tricky as resources, time and effort, and the minefields in under costed maintenance aren’t often taken into consideration.
Lastly, don’t get on board with an idea simply because they are presented by ‘work friends’. You could easily land well below average or get fired for overspending on a mediocre website.
This is of course, merely scratching the surface of website building. But the 3 key takeaways here are: use references to discuss expectations, simplify where possible, and figure out the ongoing costs.
Your website should never be finished. Continue making improvements as you learn more about your target audience.