Websites That Make (not burn) Money Part 1: What exactly do I need?

3 Feb 2016
  • A big pile of burning money

So - you’ve decided it’s time to take the bull by the horns and get an amazing new website for your business.

You’ve heard it’s the ‘thing to do’ and you’re missing out... it needs to work on mobiles and tablets (because just about everyone has them these days and is looking for info on the go), it needs to look ‘up to date’ (otherwise it makes you look like your business is behind the times) and most importantly it needs to raise your profile, generate more traffic, and in turn give you more leads and sales. But currently you have a site which was built several years ago, the content is old, the design is not exactly current to say the least, and in fact your business itself has moved on since then, so it no longer reflects who you are as a company and what you offer. And as for where you're coming up in Google searches... well, let's not mention that. Or the fact your competitors are all on the first page of results. Your old website isn't accelerating your business strategy, it's probably dragging it backwards. Even worse, you suspect it could actually could be damaging your brand, your market share and your reputation. But you’re not sure what sort of budget you’ll need, and how to make sure to see a return on your investment.

What to do?

In this 4 part series, we’re going to walk you through what you need to do step by step, from figuring out what you need, selecting a web team to build it for you, how much you should expect to pay (and for what!), and why deliberating too long and letting the competition get ahead of you can cause your business real damage.

So let's start at the beginning. No... I mean RIGHT at the beginning...

The word 'start' made out of scrabble letters

You know you need a new website but don’t know where to begin. After all, you're not a website designer. You know your own core business well (or you should!) but you don't know the technical jargon to ask for what you need, and come to think of it, what DO you really need?

The first step is - requirements. And we don't mean a weighty old epistle with tonnes of pages. Getting requirements right isn't about websites, how they are designed or built, or any of that shebang. Not just yet anyway. The first thing is to get right back to basics. The right website needs to address the needs of the person using it. Of course - that's the golden question (and the golden answer!). Before doing anything else, you need to know what the 'job to be done' is for your website (and indeed your business). You need to focus on your overall business goals and be crystal clear on how your website fits into that overall business strategy. What could it do for you? Here are some questions you might want to ask yourself (and answer honestly!):

  • Do you have a product or service offering to communicate to a specific audience?
  • Do you have either virtual or physical inventory to sell, either business-to-business or direct-to-consumer?
  • Do you have any weighty business processes that could be made more efficient if they were put online?
  • Do you work with partners or suppliers and need to share information securely, or keep one another's information updated?
  • Do you have a brand you need to communicate, or a re-brand to communicate?
  • Do you need potential clients to be able to reach out to you to talk further, or to schedule your time?
  • Do you need potential clients to be able to book or schedule a resource themselves?
  • Do you need adequate reporting on the performance of your website? (clue: the answer to this one should always be YES!)

The risks you face if your requirements aren't clear is that your website isn't going to do what it needs to and you'll be burning your money

What if your requirements aren't clear? Can't I wing it and just see what it looks like?

Stop sign road marking

Ideally before you approach any web agencies to ask whether they could build you your dream website - you'd do well to have all of this information clear first. The risks you face if your requirements aren't clear is that your website isn't going to do what it needs to and you'll be burning your money. Many people can get dazzled and even totally waylaid by design, and putting the emphasis on things being visually appealing. We're not saying this isn't important - but the key things to focus on at this first stage is your website strategy and how it will uphold (or even better, grow!) your business. If you're already starting to think about 'this thing here, and move that thing there'... yep, I can smell that money burning.

As you can see above, by requirements we don't mean what colour and font size your text should be, but exactly what your website's 'raison d'etre' is - don't allow yourself to get sucked into the 'solution' space before you've really addressed the 'problem' space. We need to stay firmly in that space at this stage. If you define the solution before you've defined the problem - guess what? That's right - more money gets burnt trying to figure out why your website isn't converting, while you've totally overlooked the main thing your site should be doing, and your investment becomes a fire-pit. Or worse still gets abandoned.

A bit overwhelming?

Maybe. That's because a good website is anything but trivial in the planning stage, and so often it's tempting to overlook this part ("well, I don't really know what I need yet") and go straight onto defining a solution ("just show me a few designs!"). Does this sound like you? Then lets get that bonfire ready to throw on the money... No? Don't want to burn it after all? Ok... Don't panic - any web agency worth their salt should offer you a free no-obligation initial consultation to explain to you how their process works (and Real Life Digital are no exception!). But keep in mind... the process should NOT start with page designs!

So along with great, crystal clear business requirements and a clearly defined web strategy - you now realise you need a great team to advise you, guide you, and build you the perfect site which will print, not burn, your money. And this segues beautifully into next week’s topic... how do I find the right team to make the magic happen? Join us next week for the next installment!