A Practical Guide To Website Projects
Posted: 22nd August 2017
Posted in: Building A New Website
Thinking About A Website? Simple Steps For Getting Started
You may be thinking about a new website to launch a business, sell products or to promote your services. You might also be looking to rebuild your existing website for a more modern design and updated functionality… whatever the reason, a website is the most important business tool you can invest in, and if done well, will become your most valuable lead and enquiry generating resource.
Consider this, an effective website will:
- Work for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year
- Is open, even when you’re closed
- Does not take holidays or sick days
- Is not restricted by geographic boundaries
- Can physically capture leads and enquiries 24 hours
- Can be there at the time that people are actually searching for your product or service
- Is the only distribution channel you can own and maintain 100% control of
- Be your lowest cost marketing channel
Is The Process Easy?
No. Like all things in life it takes effort, but it’s not hard either. Like any other aspect of your business you just have to take charge of it, make it a priority and invest a bit of time.
With our 13 years experience we’ll happily help and guide you through the process in order to make it as easy as possible.
At the end of it all the initial effort will be rewarded exponentially as your website goes live and begins to gain increased visibility for your business in the online environment.
The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll begin to see the returns.
1. Selecting A Domain Name
You will need to register a website address (referred to as a domain name or URL). Your domain may be your business name but it does not have to be, it could be a shortened version of your business name or a variation that may include other words (keywords) to help explain your business or service.
Because of the vast number of domain names you may find your domain of choice is not available, it’s really a case of being creative to find an alternative that works.
- The shorter the better
- Does it match your business name or explain what you do?
- If you’re targeting Australian business then a .com.au is best, it also shows people that you’re a registered Australian business (you have to have a current ABN or ACN to register .com.au)
- If .com is also available it is worth considering registering to protect your brand
Some businesses register multiple domains so they own variations, the only benefit in doing this is to protect your business. These domains are not of any individual benefit unless they have their own individual websites attached to them. If you register multiple domains we’d recommend redirecting them to your main domain name.
Also, as soon as you have a domain name registered, you can then setup your business email accounts so they reflect your domain name (eg: [email protected])
There are a number of registrar’s that provide domain registration services. We can provide advice on what domain would be best for your project, we can check availability, register and manage on your behalf. The cost of domain name registration starts from $30 for 2 years registration.
2. What About Hosting?
Once your website is complete it has to ‘live’ somewhere, this is referred to as hosting.
Hosting is an incredibly important aspect that unfortunately many people don’t pay attention to. The hosting environment is responsible for some very important aspects of your website including security, reliability, speed and performance.
“Would you use a $10 lock to secure your premises?” – consider hosting as your lock to the online world. There are many hosting providers that offer low cost hosting and there’s only a few that deliver what they claim. Hosting is a service where you really do get what you pay for and it’s not until something goes wrong that the value is understood and the lessons are learnt.
Also, hosting is not a ‘one size fits all’ service, the hosting setup should be tailored to suit the requirements of your specific project to ensure the best possible security and delivery of your website.
Ask questions such as;
- Where are the servers located?
- Does the provider utlise a CDN (content delivery network)?
- Who maintains the hosting servers?
- What backup contingencies are in place?
- In the event of an emergency, how accessible is the support?
- What does the hosting package include? (security patches, website updates, backups etc.)
7thVision have our own dedicated servers based in Australia allowing us to maintain a secure and reliable hosting environment for our clients. We also utilise the latest techniques to ensure your website is delivered fast and secure no matter where your customers are located using a CDN. Our managed hosting means that the buck stops with us if anything happens to go wrong. This allows us the ability to take full control and rectify any issues quickly and effectively rather than having to work through third parties to identify and correct issues – often a painful and slow process, especially when you count on your website for business.
While it’s not compulsory, we do encourage our clients to consider hosting with us to ensure high quality monitoring, the latest security updates and maximum up-time.
3. Choosing A Digital Partner?
We understand your website is an important component of your business and it’s expected that you may speak to few providers before making your decision.
The first thing that’s usually surprising is the broad range of costs quoted. Our industry is not like a normal retail environment where there is a ‘recommended retail price’ or a governing body to oversee standards. This makes it difficult for you to compare ‘apples to apples’ and to decide on the best option.
There are plenty of ‘low cost’ website options and almost everyone knows ‘A mate that knows a bit about computers and says he can whip up a website for a few bucks’. Yes, that is true. It’s relatively easy and quick to get something basic online and those solutions can be fine for personal or some basic websites. But if you really are serious about your business’ online presence and you understand the importance of increasing your visibility, enquiry and lead capture then you need a website that has been built correctly and that will work for you.
Think of your website like building a house; solid foundations will ensure a solid building and will prevent issues and costs in future. If you want to do extensions (such as adding functionality or features to your website) then the foundations are stable enough to handle them rather than hitting a wall and having to go back, rebuild and start again.
In short, a bit of investment in the beginning will ensure the best possible results going forward ensuring your business has a quality, flexible and effective solution providing long term value and return. It will also help ensure you get your website finished quickly (rather than waiting on your mate to return from their holiday in Bali). This is where specialist web developers provide real value.
Tips for Choosing Your Web Developer:
- Look at value, not just price
- Consider the website as an important tool for your business, and allocate a budget accordingly
- Consider the long term value and return, not just the initial cost (break the initial cost over 4-5 years as this is what you should expect on average)
- If possible, meet the developer/s in person so you know the team you’re partnering with
- Do they understand your business and your key objectives, not just the technical stuff?
- Check their reputation and ask for referees
- Are they a one man operator, or are they a team (important for support, reliability and ongoing help when something needs attention)
- Can you manage the website content and simple updates yourself?
- What platform or framework will they be developing on (eg: WordPress etc.)
- Make sure you get a detailed outline of the project scope, inclusions and costs
- Ensure the project price is ‘fixed’ and not just an ‘estimate’
- Go with whom you feel most comfortable with
When you are choosing a web developer, look beyond your website build, this should be the beginning of a partnership that may stretch many years. Ideally, your web developer should be seen as an important resource that you can call on to help support and grow your business with you.
7thVision has over 13 years experience in delivering successful websites and online solutions for our clients. Our in-house team of 8 professionals provide expertise and advice on all aspects of web design, development and online marketing. We pride ourselves in tailoring solutions to the needs of each project and delivering professional projects that drive business success.
4. Choosing A Content Management System?
A content management system (CMS) is the back-end platform used to manage your own content and perform basic website changes. This means that once the website is live you can easily and quickly make content changes and updates (text and images) yourself rather than having to spend time and money going back to a developer to make changes.
There are many CMS options available and we will always guide clients on the best option for their business however we generally recommend WordPress for the majority of our projects.
WordPress is the most popular CMS globally and when setup correctly it’s a very easy to use, secure and flexible solution which provides;
- Efficiencies, flexibility and cost savings in relation to content management and website updates which can be handled by you.
- Flexibility to add content, new information and additional functionality to the site as the business grows and new opportunities or services are introduced.
- Ability to structure all pages for effective keyword targeting to support SEO strategies.
- Regular updates (to both the CMS and the hosting security) to ensure currency and security.
- Should you need to change developers or move your site, it’s easy to find other experienced WordPress developers and suitable hosting.
- WordPress is an Open Source project with hundreds of people all over the world working on it. It also means you are free to use it without paying anyone a license fee.
We include training in our project scope and show you how to use the back-end, giving you the ability to easily add or update information.
5. The Process
OK, you’ve chosen your web developer and you’re ready to roll. What’s the process and how can you help to make it flow as easily and quickly as possible?
5.1 This Is A Partnership
Signing an agreement and selecting a provider does not mean you just throw the keys over and wait until your development team delivers your completed project. That’s a bit like waiting for a roast duck to fly in the window onto your plate.
It is your business and you do need to take responsibility to ensure your new partner has all the components they need to build and deliver the best possible result.
Likewise, your developer needs to manage the project and keep you informed of progress as well as ensuring the project remains a priority in terms of progression once the required components are supplied.
If it is not seen as a partnership from the beginning then it will reflect in the final result and the project will run the risk of stretching over allocated timeframes – not good for either party.
5.2 Website Plan/Sitemap
The first step of the process is creating a website plan (or sitemap), this is a simple process of identifying the main areas of your website (think the main navigation headings) and content pages that will form the hierarchy of your website.
This plan will form the backbone of the project and will assist your website designers and developers in creating the structure and determining what content will be required.
Example Website Plan:
- = main navigation headings
- = content pages / dropdowns
- Home Page
- About Us
- About Us
- Meet Our Team
- Our Services
- Service A
- Service B
- Service C
- Image gallery
- Video gallery
- Latest News
- Contact Us
Website Plan Tips:
- Don’t overthink it
- Keep it simple and clear
- Highlight what matters (secondary information can be placed as pages under main headings)
- If you have trouble understanding it – a customer never will
- It’s not set in stone, you can always tweak it later if required
Once you’ve finalised the website plan, we suggest you create a document to reflect it (a Word doc is fine). This will provide you with a road map to start writing your content and gathering the content required for each section of the website.
You may have heard the phrase ‘Content is King!’ and while nice visual design and images are really important, at the end of the day if your site is not easy to read, informative and relevant to the users needs, then it will not generate interest and call to action. Content really is the most important element of your website.
Search engines (Google) scan the content of your website to ‘rate’ you or allocate your ranking (the position you show in searches). While there are many aspects that contribute to your website ranking, by far the most important is the quality and relevance of your content. At the end of the day the objective of search engines (such as Google) is simple, they want to deliver content to people that’s most relevant and informative to their query.
Creating and supplying your content is your responsibility to provide. It’s generally not included in the standard project scope unless specifically stated (content writing is a service that can be provided at additional cost).
Many clients can struggle with writing content, we’ve heard ‘I’m not a writer’ many times in our profession. The truth is, you don’t necessarily need to be, we recommend that you take the knowledge you have of your business, understand what your customers are looking for and how you can help them – then put this into words!
Don’t overthink it, a good way to approach it is pretend you are talking directly to a potential client about what you can provide and why they should consider you as the best choice. After all, while the internet is huge and sometimes seen as impersonal, it’s still about a ‘one to one’ conversation between your business and a customer.
Professional Content Writing – if you’re really serious about your digital strategy and your website content – or you’re totally lost for words – the services of a professional writer is worth consideration. Based on your brief, they will research and write, taking into account keywords which will provide further value in terms of SEO (search engine organisation) value. We have our own talented website writers who can assist our clients if needed and costs can be provided based on requirements.
- Create a master document (a Word doc) which reflects your sitemap and add your content to each section/page
- Keep it simple and easy to read
- Keep your tone consistent (eg; informal and relaxed)
- It must be original as Google will penalise you if you have duplicate content
- Be friendly, professional and positive
- Avoid technical terms and details (unless you are speaking to those that understand them)
- Waffle on or overcomplicate
- Copy or use content from other websites or sources (Google will find and penalise duplicate content)
- Be afraid to give it a go – you’ll be surprised how much easy it can be once you get started
Once you have the draft content completed you can provide it to your website designer, your content will provide the best base to design the page layouts, tell your story and guide your customers to your call to action.
The internet remains a visual medium and images and photography play an important role. When a visitor hits a website you literally have a few seconds to engage them, if you don’t, they’ll move on and never return.
The use of attractive, good quality images is very important in conveying a positive and professional first impression. The equation is simple – rubbish in, rubbish out. No matter how talented your web designer, without some good quality visual elements (logo, graphics and photography) it is very difficult to create a good looking, informative website.
There are a few options in relation to imagery:
- Provide your own – great, problem solved! Although it’s important to understand that not all images you provide may be of use. The website may require high resolution or a different aspect ratio (eg; landscape rather than portrait). Provide the highest resolution photography possible and your website designer will guide you from there.
- Hire a photographer – great, but an expensive option. It is always worth consideration if you are willing to invest. A professional photo shoot will provide you with a suite of good quality images that specifically represent your business.
- Ask your suppliers or industry bodies – if you use, sell or distribute your suppliers products they may be able to provide you with some images to use. Likewise, if you have an industry body they may have images you can access (for example tourism suppliers may be able to access local or state tourism body image galleries).
But not all businesses have a lot of existing imagery, and may not be able to afford a photo shoot, so what then?
Stock Images – stock images can be accessed through image libraries for commercial use. They are an excellent option for quality photography and graphics (and even video) that will add a professional feel to your website.
There are both ‘free’ and ‘paid’ stock image providers. Some examples of stock image libraries are:
- www.shutterstock.com (Paid use)
- www.istockphoto.com (Paid use)
- www.gettyimages.com.au (Paid use)
- www.unsplash.com (Free use)
- www.pixabay.com (Free use)
- www.pikwizard.com (Free use)
It is recommended that you discuss your image requirements with your development team so the best course of action can be taken for the project.
- Go through your images and collate them, either on USB or using a file sharing service (eg; Dropbox) that can be shared and synced with your developer as you update your content
- Try to provide the largest, highest quality version of each image
- Use your ‘Website Plan’ document to note what images you’d like used on each page
- It’s ok to use a mix of your own images and stock images
- Use stock images if you are lacking your own
- Spend time looking through image libraries and note the reference numbers of images you like so you can give to your developer as a guide
- Use any images without permission – it is a breach of copyright and you do run the risk of action (this includes copying images from Google and other websites)
- Use low resolution or low quality images and expect a good result
5.5 Design & Layout
Once you have appointed your website developer (and agreed on project scope and costs) it’s time to formulate your design brief. It is through this discussion that aspects of the design and layout will be covered;
- Branding – do you have a logo or existing branding?
- Colours – what colours represent your business, what do you like and don’t like?
- Website Plan – what is the proposed website structure and key sections/pages?
- Content – what content do you have available? Eg; existing flyers, brochures, text content etc
- Images – what do you have, what needs to be sourced?
- Are there example websites that you specifically like or dislike?
- Do you have any specific input on the overall styling and functionality?
- Are there other elements to consider? (eg; social media, news posts, embeded videos etc.)
This should be a very easy process and your web developer should help guide you through. This design brief will form a guide that helps create the design layouts, the layouts will be presented to you to view and approve before moving further with the project.
- Design is very subjective, the more you can guide the website designer on what you do and don’t like, the more efficient the process will be and they can deliver your vision effectively
- If you don’t really have a vision, let the designer take charge – after all, they’re the experts! Be open minded and trust their expertise
- Don’t hold back with any direction or any likes/dislikes. The more information you can provide the better it will be for everyone
- It is worth making a list of websites, or design styles, that you like – this provides good reference for the website designer
- Don’t approve until you are 100% happy, major changes after designs are approved will take additional time (and possibly cost)
- Listen to your designer/developer, they know what works best, if they have suggestions they are likely worth considering
- Don’t let the design overwhelm the message (no use having all the bells and whistles if your customers don’t understand what you do)
Once design layouts have been approved the project will go into development. This is generally the longest period of the project as the developers are working on bringing the designs to life.
Once development is nearing completion, you will generally be provided with access to a ‘development link’, allowing you to view a first draft of the working website. You can then see areas that need attention (content gaps, images etc.)
Note that at this point the developer will still be working on aspects of the site and will not be a finished, polished product. It is simply used to view progress so you and the development team can work together to finalise the project ready for launch.
5.7 Final Review
Once you’re happy with the content and overall development of the site, it’s ready for a final review, this includes proofing all website content, checking all links, website forms and making any final changes and amendments.
6. Preparing To Go Live
Finally! Your website is ready to go live but what’s the process and what’s required for launch?
- Domain management details – the developer will need access to your domain management account. The login details need to be provided by you as the client (unless the developer has registered the domain for you). If you have lost these login details or forget who your domain is registered through then discuss with your developer, they can do a search and point you in the right direction to retrieve the details.
- Email accounts – Do you need email accounts setup? Otherwise who is your current email provider? If you use an IT company to manage your email, provide their details to your developer so they can work together and ensure there is no disruption to email.
- Ownership – upon confirmation that you are happy to launch the website, we recommend that there’s a formal project sign off and approval process. This is not only to confirm you are happy with the delivery of the project and to go live, but it should also sign over the copyright of the website to you as the owner. This will ensure there are not ownership or copyright claims in the future.
- Training – if you are using a CMS (content management system), then you should be trained on how you can access and manage your website content. 7thVision include training within the scope of all our projects. Training generally takes around 40-60 minutes and can be done face-to-face or remotely. Often the training will take place earlier, allowing you to review and finalise the content ready for launch, this gives you good practical experience using the CMS.
Your development team will go through pre and post launch checks and also post launch testing (browser testing, mobile testing etc.) Once the site is live there may be a few minor bugs that need fixing, generally these are minor and can be corrected quickly.
Congratulations, your website is now online and ready for the world to view!
7. Online Visibility
Having a professionally designed and developed website will give you a solid foundation to build your online visibility.
If you have used 7thVision, your project will include foundation SEO (search engine optimisation). However there are many tools and options you can harness to further drive your online presence and search engine visibility and improve your rankings.
Where you want to go from here, and how serious you want to drive your online presence is up to you.
View our ‘Getting Out There – A Guide To Online Visibility & Digital Marketing’, this covers aspects such as:
- SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
- SEM (Search Engine Marketing)
- The Value of New/Blog Posts
- Email Marketing
- Social Media