Here you are. It's 2017. Almost every business has a website.
The ones that do not probably should. The cost has come down over the years and functionality has improved.
Having a website was once like having an online brochure. Today it's like having a 2nd front door.
This guide was created to help businesses owners make sense of all the fancy words and expressions that web “specialists” throw around.
It will help you make an informed decision on the matter.
Here are the topics that we will cover:
- Does my business really need a website? Isn’t everyone using smartphones nowadays?
- What options exist to get me up and running with a website?
- How to choose a service provider for the long run?
- Some more terms that we will define in the weeks to come:
- Mobolo Recommendations
Let's start with a simple topic:
Does my business really need a website? Isn’t everyone using smartphones nowadays?
Yes, and, Yes.
The beauty with smartphones is that it allows to interact more closely with website content. At the simple tap of a thumb, a customer can email you, call your front desk or even set your office as his destination.
A well designed website can essentially act as your company’s mobile application. Traffic is split 50/50 between regular browsing and mobile browsing. Mobility is a priority as its share of page-views increases year over year.
What options exist to get my business up and running with a website?
Doing It Yourself (DIY)
There is an infinite number of options available when it comes time to do it yourself.
If you are ready (and have the time) to roll up your sleeves and get to work, it's definitely worth having a look at the various options.
It may take you a while to select the right platform but if you chose this route, don't assume that all tools are created equal.
The biggest risk to lookout for is to overlook the importance of a specifc feature and eventually run into a wall when the feature is needed.
To help reduce this risk, look for a platform that offers the ability to export your website.
Most freelancers get contracts through referrals. If you're looking for a freelancer yourself, it may be a good idea to ask colleagues or fellow business owners if they have worked with anyone in the past.
Online listing sites such as Kijiji (Canada) or Craigslist can also be great ways to find freelancers who may not have the budget to advertise through traditional media.
The main advantage of working with a freelancer is that you will always be dealing with the same individual. This reduces the risk that information with get lost along the way.
Unfortunately, dealing with a single individual also means that you don't have much recourse if all of a sudden you are unable to reach this individual.
Before making a decision, it's always a good idea to think about the worst case scenario. Would you business be negatively affected if you site is down for a few hours? For some of you this may be unacceptable while for others it may be worth the savings.
Typical Cost: Low 4 Figures
Web Design Agencies
Web design agencies are typically easier to find because of their larger marketing budget.
Since agencies typically serve a larger pool of clients they are likely to have reviews online. It's always a good idea to look at a company's reviews on Google. Don't be afraid to dig deep.
One of the advantages of working with an agency is that they typically offer various services in addition to web design.
Typical Cost: Mid 4 Figures to Low 5 Figures (cost can increase from there with additional services)
Tips to Help You Make the Right Decision
- If an acquaintance gives you a reference, be aware of the possibility that the person is being "compensated". If you feel like you're being sold to you probably are. Use your best judgment here since a referral can be a double-edged sword.
- Your mileage will vary greatly depending on your locality and the type of work you’re looking to have done. Make sure to do your research when making a decision. If you like a portfolio but aren’t completely sold, don't hesitate to ask to speak to an existing client.
- Don’t underestimate the human interaction factor when making a decision. You may have to work with your service provider for many years. The web is evolving rapidly and once you get a taste of success from your online initiatives, you may be dealing with your service provider very often.
No Matter Which Option You Choose, You Need To Learn Some Terminology
CMS (Content Management System)
What is it?
A content management system (CMS) is a software application or set of related programs that are used to create and manage digital content. CMSes are typically used for enterprise content management (ECM) and web content management (WCM). Definition from Techtarget
The most common one is WordPress (over 25% of websites worldwide are running it) https://martechtoday.com/wordpress-used-on-25-percent-of-all-websites-report-151115
Why does having a CMS matter? Because it allows less experienced users to add and modify online content.
Choosing a domain name can be very important. .com, .ca, .net, .org are the most popular domain names for canadians but new domain names such as .co are becoming popular
Use .com or .ca to create a good foundation for strong SEO later on.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
This is a term you will hear a lot. SEO is about configuring a website so that it looks attractive in the eyes of Google and other search engines.
Be very wary of companies who try to sell you ranking services but can’t demonstrate that they have been able to boost the ranking of other customers in the past.
In the world of search engine optimization, no one knows for sure how search engines will react to changes on a site.
While it is important for sites to be created with SEO in mind, the most important factor is and always will be content. Google wants its visitors to find the content they are looking for. Sneaky tricks may help you rank for a few months but any successful long term campaign will require quality content (Such as this guide? I hope!) and promotion of said quality content.
You will here the terms on-site and off-site SEO. The former describes changes that are made on your online property while the later pretty much means any external factors that affect your ranking on search engines.
When you hear web pros talk about responsiveness, they are talking about a web page’s ability to scale to fit different screen formats (resolutions).
Properly designed websites must look great on all devices.
Think: Computer vs. Smartphone vs. Tablet
Hosting is the service that makes your website accessible to visitors. You have probably heard the word “Cloud”, well websites are hosted in the cloud.
No two clouds are equal.
Even if your site doesn’t receive a lot of hits yet (visitors), it’s important for it to load quickly. My rule of thumb is that sites should always load in 1.5 seconds or less. Anything more and you may be placing additional hurdles in the way of visitors who are trying to become clients.
We don’t like: “Shared Hosting”
We like: “VPS - Virtual Private Server, Dedicated Server”
This is latest standard of the code that makes websites look the way they do.
Almost everything you see online is HTML5.
It has made it easier to create rich, media intensive pages. You encounter HTML5 whenever you watch a video on your iPad or fill out a quiz online.
SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer. You probably recognize it as the padlock that shows up at the top of your browser when you visit a secure site.
The details of how it works are outside the scope of this guide but it means that communications between your server (host) and your visitors are being encrypted.
Here are some more terms that we will define in the weeks to come:
- Google Analytics
- Google My Business Listing
- Split Testing
- Bounce Rate
- Domain Authority
- Page Authority
- Follow vs No-Follow Links
Now that you know some of the lingo associated with website creation, it’s time to work your business owner magic and figure out the arrangement that will propel your business to new heights.
Here at Mobolo, we specialize in helping business owners make the right technology decisions. To help our clients stay ahead of online trends we offer small business website design and maintenance for a fixed monthly fee.
If you found this guide instructive, please share it with your friends and colleagues!