Hello, World – A quick guide to getting your business online

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Those two words were the first ever published on the “World Wide Web”, back in the days of green displays and noisy, dial-up modems – the “Web” being what we now interchangeably know as “The Internet”. In previous months we have covered the foundations of starting a new business: Finding the right business idea, doing the necessary and proper planning and creating what defines you – your brand. This month I am going to explore the next most important part of communicating your business to a world of prospective customers… building and publishing your website.

Almost all business starts online – even when it doesn’t.

I know that sounds strange, but I’ll explain what I mean. There are still businesses that, to this day, believe they do not need a website. Then, not far behind those people, are people who are of the view they only need something basic online because they have to have something. The fact is, however you do business, at some point most of your prospective customers (and other stakeholders like the bank, suppliers and so on) will want to look at your website.

There are broadly three types of business:

  1. Those doing business entirely online
  2. Those doing business partly online
  3. Those doing business entirely offline… but need to have a presence online.

My point is that a website is, at the very least, your online brochure and your opening gambit; it sets the scene for a customer. It is often one of your prospects’ first points of reference and what will form their early and important perceptions of your business. Whatever its purpose, your website is your window to the world and therefore it’s crucially important it sells you really, really well.

The “F” word is the most important thing of all.

There is one word, and this applies to many things in marketing, that you should remember above all others. A four letter “F” word. Yes, you guessed it, the most important thing about a website is how it makes someone FEEL. The rule of thumb is that, within a maximum of 5-10 seconds, someone visiting your website will have made up their mind as to whether they think you are a credible (and attractive) supplier to them or not. You’ll know from your own experiences that if you visit a website that looks rubbish, you will instantly form the opinion the business is going to be rubbish too. That’s involuntary and how our brains are wired to work. You are expecting visitors to your website to think good things about you and commit their time in engaging with your company, maybe even to put trust in your brand if you are selling products online.

We don’t trust bad websites and we don’t hang around for websites that are slow or confusing – that’s the bottom line. If your website feels bad, then that’s what you’ll make potential customers feel about your business and they won’t even take the time to talk to you. So, golden rule, don’t publish a bad website that creates bad perceptions as it’s better to have nothing!

What’s involved in creating a “great” website?

The short answer to this question is that it doesn’t have to cost anything. But… it usually does. You can put the time and energy in building a website yourself but, remember, just as there are experts in many professions the web industry is no different. In fact, building a decent website often calls on the skills of no fewer than five experts.

At TFA, we have marketing professionals who first consult with the clients, understand them and their business, then put together the “big idea” that will help them stand head and shoulders above their competitors. Then there are the graphic designers; the creatives who have spent years learning the very particular differences between good and bad design and how to get all of the details perfect.

What about the text? Well, that’s down to copywriters who are great at communicating your proposition and your story in a way that gets customers wanting to connect with you. Nothing technical has even happened yet! By the time the developers get involved, the visual and written side is ready to go and they will physically build it to be “pixel-perfect” (meaning faithful to the design). Their job is to make sure it looks and feels great across every browser, platform and device – whether a big screen or a small screen – it has to look good and work great for every kind of user.

That’s four areas of expertise that all have a crucial role to play in creating a website that’s “great”. So, you have to manage your own expectations and ask yourself if you really think you can be an expert in all of those things, and do it yourself, or whether it’s worth investing some money in people who do it for a living. The sites people have built themselves certainly stand out!

How much does a good website cost?

The cost of paying a company to build your website is, like most things in life, wildly varied. You could spend £500 on a car, or you could spend £500,000 on a car, both of which will (hopefully) get you from A to B. The difference between the two is that people will form different opinions about who you are when they see you driving down the street in an old banger or a brand new Rolls Royce.

When it comes to pricing, the number of pages is not the overriding factor. What you will, and should invest your money in, is quality. Quality design, quality content and quality build. The customers you are trying to attract do not care remotely how the site was built or how many pages there are; what they care about is how your website makes them feel and whether it meets their needs. For a small business, a website can cost as little as £250 but you will generally get what you pay for – a basic, templated site with very little flair or wow factor in the design and content. Small businesses should choose a strong creative agency, with skills in all of the above areas, and should expect to pay anything between £1,500 – £5,000 for a great website.

Believe it or not, for bigger sites and brands, websites go way beyond this, easily into the tens of thousands, six figures and beyond. Just make sure you budget properly for it and invest what you can in making your business as attractive as possible online – don’t waste your money by under-budgeting, you’ll pay for it later.

Time to sit back and watch the business roll on in!

Well… not exactly. A great website is only half the battle. How are your visitors going to find you? There are currently 644,000,000 websites online so yours will be a proverbial needle in a digital haystack. You will need to drive website visitors, or “traffic”, to your site and that can be achieved in many different ways. The ways that will work best for your business will depend on what you do and who you are trying to reach…

To learn more about how we, at TFA, can help get visitors to your site, or even if you need help getting your website vision up and running, contact us today, click here.
Written for, and featured in Pulse Magazine