Both a loaded and a vexed question and the answer of course depends on quite a few variables but here are some general points that can be considered.
You can do it yourself
There are a number of ‘free’ website building platforms around. ‘Free’ because most will have addons that you need to pay for. Perhaps the best known is WordPress but others include WIX, weebly and sitebuilder.com to name a few.
Unless you have the time, patience and confidence to tackle building your own website it is probably best you find a developer who will use one of these programs to build a site for you. It will cost of course but at least you can focus on running your business while your site is being built.
But a customised website is better.
Spinoff Digital does build WordPress sites but also specialises in developing customised websites designed and coded from scratch. There are plenty of upsides in having a customised site including superior graphics which better represent your image, a fully customised layout (some web building programs have layout restrictions), improved security and search engine optimisation benefits to name just a few. The downside is it is going to cost you more but as the old saying goes, you get what you pay for.
So if you decide you are not going to build the site yourself you need to choose a web developer to work with. This is a topic for another day and will be covered in a future blog post so check back in the near future.
Here are a few general best practice points to consider:
- What is more important design or functionality? Well neither, in that one should not compromise the other. When we come to a website it has to be appealing but at the same time it needs to serve its purpose. Be wary of a web builder who is predominantly a designer or one who is mainly a developer.
- Your website must be fully mobile responsive. This means the site resizes for smaller screens, tablets and phones. All the information on the desktop version of your site must be on the resized version. This is a Google stipulation.
- Look at what your competition’s websites and do it better. Pretty much a rule for marketing and sales in general but by looking at your competition at least you have a starting point.
- Run the navigation across the top of the site and not down the side. The very large majority of websites have the navigation across the top of the page and this is what people expect. It is the KISS principle. You don’t want to give visitors to your site any challenges in finding their way around.
- Display the main menu items with drop downs in the menu structure. Some websites only display (hide) minor menu items on the page accessed via a main menu item. You should be able to mouse over a menu and see all the drop downs from the header of the site no matter what site page you are on. Google prefers this.
- The menu names should be in text and not created in images. Images look nicer but google can’t read them. You can tell the difference by mousing over the menu name. If each letter highlights individually then it is created in text. If the name is highlighted as one block then it is an image.
- The menu should be anchored to the top of the site. That is, when you scroll down the page the menu is always visible at the top of the page.
- No information should be more than three clicks away and preferably only two.
- Calls to action or click magnets. When someone comes to your site you want them to do business with you. Put you phone number in the header and carry it throughout the site. Place links to forms through the site prompting site visitors to complete a form to obtain more information from you.
- If you are a business for walk in traffic display your address and opening times prominently.
- No page should have incomplete information. Might sound pretty basic but there are plenty of websites out there with a message on a page which says something like ‘content coming soon’.
- The site should load quickly preferably in under 5 seconds. There are local factors that can affect the speed of a site beyond your control and your website developer’s control such as your internet connection (and we know how dicey that is in Australia), the device you are viewing it on (if a mobile device the connectivity of the device at a given location can vary), the device itself in its age and what else you are doing on it at the time. You can test your site by simply loading a competitors site and then load yours comparing the times.
Your website is the public face of your business and this is the strongest argument for having a customised website. For many of your clients their first contact with your business is through your website. If your site is not up to scratch visitors to it may never become clients.
This blog post really only just scratches the surface. It is recommended you speak with a well credentialed web developer, sit down with them and plan what is best for your business.