10 Step Checklist To Ensure Your Website Is Fit For Purpose
It’s pretty straightforward to get a website live nowadays and there’s lots options open to you, from the down and dirty shared platform sites such as 1&1, template solutions such as Wordpress, to the all singing all dancing bespoke builds that are tailored to your businesses requirements. However, there are a number of factors you need to consider if you want a website that’s truly fit for purpose.
Follow this 10 step checklist if you want to make the best website you possibly can:
1: Define your necessary features
Before you start designing, you need to lay the foundations of your website. Think about your target customers, what they will be looking for from you and then plan the functions you need in your site – if you’re running an e-commerce business, for example, your requirements are going to be very different to that of an independent contractor who’s just looking to create an online business card or portfolio for the business. So, take the time at the planning stage to ensure you understand what your customer requires and ensure these are covered before considering the look and feel.
2: Map out your pages
Once you’re happy you understand the requirements and functionality of your site, make a sitemap. Your sitemap should outline all the sections/pages your website needs, such as your homepage, products & services, about, contact, returns policy and any other sections/pages required. Structure your main menu and any sub-menus that you might have and remember to plan your sidebars and footers if you know you’re going to use them.
3: Choose your website builder
Next, you’ll need someone to help you bring all these ideas to fruition. If you have the skills or want to keep costs to an absolute minimum, you can build the website yourself using a website builder and a template. If you don’t have the skills or require something more professional or bespoke, you will need to engage web developers. If you are taking this route, you should really consider approaching a design agency – the reason being they can help you with combining good design with thoughtfully considered SEO (search engine optimisation). Being a team you are more likely to have access to on-going support should you need it. A freelance developer may look more cost effective but most developers are not designers and you will need both. Additionally, you will almost certainly require some level of on going support, with freelancers you have to accept they may not be available or worse still they may take a full time role or disappear and you have to start again.
4: Think about SEO
If you are looking at an e-commerce site or using your website to attract and generate new business then SEO is critical. If however your site is merely a reference/portfolio site for clients to refer to, then SEO is less important, but generally you’ll be looking to rank highly in Google in order to increase business enquiries and sales. It’s therefore important to ensure your site is ticking the necessary boxes to reach SEO requirements, so ensure that your site is responsive and suitable for users accessing it on any device. Think about page loading times, keyword optimisation and even the security and speed delivered by your host, as these factors (and many more) combine to impact on your SEO position.
5: Plan your content and editorial calendar
Even if you’ve followed every one of these steps and executed them perfectly, your hard work won’t count for much if you don’t keep your site updated, so have a plan for filling your website with content. Ideally, you should be posting new, good quality content at least once a week on your site if you want Google to pay attention to it, plus returning users want to see fresh information. For this reason, it makes sense to create an editorial calendar that focuses on producing everything from category content for each of your pages right the way through to relevant topics for your blog. If you don’t have the skills, time or inclination to do this on a regular basis, employ a content writer or ask the agency to put a content/social media calendar together for an agreed fee and let them manage this for you.
6: Factor in promotion
Don’t forget to actually point people in the direction of your website! A good website doesn’t mean much if no one’s using it, so ensure you direct traffic to it. Think about your marketing strategy, consider who your target audiences are and how you can get to them in order to drive them to your site. If you are an existing business you should have a data list of emails, existing or new, that you can look to engage via online channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube etc. Think of ways to keep them on your website once you’ve done the hard job of bringing them there in the first place by ensuring they are presented with relevant content. Add internal links to your website so the user clicks around your site and encourage them to sign up your blog, newsletter, provide them with useful support information such as hints and tips and downloads to further encourage engagement and business opportunities.
7: Choose a reliable host
Next, you’ll need to someone to host your website. It’s important you choose carefully, as you’ll need to balance a variety of factors. For instance, consider:
- Managed or self managed
- Support levels
You’ll also need to consider which type of hosting is best for you, such as cloud hosting, dedicated hosting, SSD hosting or VPS hosting for example. Again, if you are using an agency, they should be able to recommend and provide these services for you.
8: Track and analyse performance
Sync up your website with Google analytics – you’ll need it if you want to track how many hits your website is getting, as well as the demographics of your audience too. You can find out the location of your customers, their ages and genders, and many other important pieces of information that can be very useful for developing your business strategy and online marketing approach. Here’s a handy guide on how to set it up.
9: Continually improve
Be prepared to continue to improve your website, gone are the days when you could create a website, post it live and leave it for years. Like all things, web design moves on over time, and your site can quickly become out dated or no longer reflect your business or the needs of your customers. Expect to make improvements at least once a year if you want your site to look and function better than your competitors.
Finally, your site may be business critical or a supportive marketing tool, either way you should ensure you have a maintenance agreement in place to prevent the unscrupulous hackers getting into your site and using it to distribute undesirable and offensive materials. Ensure it’s kept maintained so you don't have broken links and out dated code that can lose you Google ranking to your competition. With a maintenance agreement in place you'll have regular backups of the site should anything go wrong and support when you need it – after all, you wouldn’t buy a new car and not have it serviced!