"When will our website be finished?" It is one of the most common questions posed by small business owners eager to consider this item on their to do list complete. Yet it is not one that has an easy answer and indicates a lack of understanding of how dynamic your online presence needs to be to continue to compete and grow.
In fact, the initial creation of your website is just the first stage in it's lifecycle. As your business scales and evolves your website will need to adapt to fit growing needs. You may need to incorporate additional functionality, split the site into different segments, or offer new ways for your visitors to find and interact with content.
The website will also need to be developed over time to meet the ever-changing digital demands and trends. A website that was designed to meet cutting edge specifications 15 years ago looks pretty out of date now!
Not to mention technological changes to devices, browsers and multi-media formats that all have an effect on how your website will be viewed by visitors. What is considered to be best practice now may be ineffective, dated or even non-functional in a year's time.
For this reason, beware of selecting a web developer based purely on price for the initial website creation! Selecting the lowest bidder can often result in paying a higher price in the long run. You want to find a designer that is passionate about what they do, knowledgeable about current best practices, and has their finger on the pulse of changes on the horizon. They should be familiar with multiple platforms, CMS and types of code, and be able to clearly explain why they recommend specific choices for your website. However, it's not just about the code. Don't overlook the importance of the human element. At the end of the day you want to be comfortable talking to your web developer about your ideas and vision for your website and business. Make sure you choose a team who you feel comfortable with, can easily communicate with and who understands your core goals and objectives. Your relationship with your web developers is probably going to be a long-term one, spanning multiple projects to keep your website up to date. Be sure that they will offer you full support for ongoing maintenance and improvements.
Having a web development team you can rely on for support is great, but you will get more value out of your website if you can manage ongoing content updates in house. This will give you more control over your costs and ensure that any money you invest in your website is spent on more technological issues. It will also let you make quick changes without depending on anyone else's schedule.
For this reason, it is important that you choose a content management system (CMS) that your team can use comfortably and confidently to regularly add new content such as blog posts, products, and web pages. Similarly, it should be straightforward to manage and update existing content, letting you stay in control of keeping information up to date and fresh. Have you ever visited a website in July only to see a message about their Christmas holiday hours? Or seen a promotional message for Mother's Day when you visit in October? Maybe the last post on a website is from 3 months ago… or even longer! These things don't give the impression that anyone from your business is monitoring your website. A lack of recent, up to date and current content on your website can make visitors question the accuracy of all information. Even a small amount of doubt can be enough for them to choose your competitor. Don't lose customers this way! Although adding and editing content to your website can seem daunting, there are many popular CMS platforms available that are easy to use. Some of the most widely used platforms for small business sites are: