This is the first part of the ‘Build your online presence’ by Maryke van Rensburg – Owner of Freelance Express – Your Online Specialist!
A robust and effective online presence for your business starts with an interactive and functional website.
To create a website you will need:
A DOMAIN NAME
A domain name is not something that just falls out of the air and should not be taken lightly. It should:
- Represent your business name
- Be SEO (this will be discussed in another part of this series) compatible
- Easy to remember
- Easy to spell
- And, if at all possible, without hyphens, underscores or numerical numbers
Hosting, for most people, is a foreign concept. In essence it means, that the domain name is the address of your website and the hosting is the actual house where the pages, scripts, images and other stuff, such as your email accounts, are stored.
If you are keen to use an HTML website (static website) – that your developer needs to change whenever you need any changes made, you won’t need any databases for your website.
If however, you would like to make changes to your website on your own with an administrative back-end (this is called a CMS system), you will have to have a database.
The size of your hosting package will depend on the amount of functionality you would like to have on your site. If you are planning an eCommerce website, make sure that you take a bigger hosting package.
Most developers make use of WordPress (which is the most popular CMS system in the world) and Joomla as CMS systems. Therefore, it is important that your hosting should be on a Linux System.
Things to look for in a host:
- The host must be reputable and must be able to guarantee at least 99.9% uptime
- Have firewalls, backup systems and other security measures in place to keep your site and emails safe
- Must be able to assist you with any problems within 24 hours
As discussed previously, you will have to decide between a static or interactive website. Cost wise it could be cheaper in the long run, to go with a CMS based option.
What is a CMS system? A CMS System is a Content Management System which an administrative back-end where changes can be made easily, when you need to. No need to wait for a developer or designer to change HTML files and reload. The changes are instantaneous and live as soon as you hit the ‘publish’ button. The most popular and user friendly CMS used today is WordPress.
After you’ve decided on your platform, it is time to work on your content.
A lot is being said about ‘content is king’ and SEO and things related to it. It is very important but the most important is that you must write your content from the shoes of your client.
If you – for instance – have a website about financial planning, it would make sense to explain the jargon to the client. Don’t just talk about a retirement annuity, explain what it is, the benefits, different types of annuity. Always remember that the prospective client landed on your website because they were looking for a specific product and most likely more information about the product. If your site gives the prospective client the info he needs, the product he needs and he sees that your site is reputable, chances are … he will become your client. So, in as much as ‘content is king’ the king is nothing if his subjects don’t understand or believe him. Remember to check your spelling and grammar and it is also wise to not write in too high English.
Content should always be easy to understand and read. Make good use of Call to Actions on specific pages and if possible, have an online chat system.
The home page of your site is the virtual welcome mat of your website. It must contain concise information with links to more detailed information.
Your contact and social media details should always be prominent on your homepage and it is also a good idea to have a ‘quick contact form’ on your home page.
Remember the good old days with pictures plastered all over the pages? A flash bit stuck to the top with clouds drifting by and music playing as soon as you enter a site? ALWAYS STAY AWAY from these bells and whistles! Your client DOES NOT appreciate you tapping into their bandwidth when they visit your website! And most importantly, you don’t want twinkling stars and flashing red letters to distract your prospective client’s attention from buying from you.
If you make us of a slider at the top of your site, it should always highlight the most important parts of your business/product or service. Don’t just have a slider because it is nice to look at.
Everything on your website should be there to inform and to get the prospective client to make that crucial first contact.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A WEB DESIGNER
- The designer should have a portfolio to showcase its previous work.
- Testimonials and references from previous customers
- The ability to listen and produce what you want
- Creating websites that are Google Friendly and adheres to Google Algorithms, terms and conditions
- Creating websites that are responsive and equally accessible via computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets
- The ability to grow with your website as you make plans to implement more functionality to your site
- Your web designer should be able to advise you on best practices as well as offer solutions for unique problems
Next time we will look at how to pull everything together and we will take a look at how to get your site out there and be seen by potential clients.