Tips - Before you start a New Website
Before Designing a New Website for a Web Business

Tips for Starting a new business or expanding a small business:
A good web site is an integral part of most businesses. Good planning and design of the site can help you refine your all-important business and marketing strategy. Before starting a new web site or web business, consider these important money-saving design tips to help your web designer do a better job and save you money long-term.

You can't afford to be redesigning and rebuilding your web site and changing all your promotion just when sales begin to increase. Proper start up of the site is like proper planning for your business and strategy. It is best done in advance, and you must have some basic knowledge to get started.

Information brought to you by BGdesign and WebSuccess, divisions of Buyers Group, est. 1985.

1) First and foremost is to determine your knowledge, unique selling proposition, the amount of skilled labor time available, the level of competition and your budget. All the other decisions flow from these main factors. These tips are about both designing for web success and about saving money by helping your web designer help you have less maintenance and other costs over time. If you really intend to grow, this is an important matter. See Designing for Growth.

2) As for any project, gathering knowledge, checklists, standards and examples, then planning and setting out goals and tasks and requirements is done first.

Don't make rash decisions and order art or graphics work, videos or photography or ANYTHING until you have done all your homework, especially on competitors and your marketing strategy. There is no bigger waste of money than expensive logos that don't match the eventual style and personality of the niche and prospect segments you want to reach and hook. If the color doesn't match, you have to start over. And you won't know what formats your web designer must have, and the types of work files they need to do any adjustments. That's just one example of how most people do a website---backwards in a hurry.

3) Next learn common design mistakes such as failing to emphasize Proven Advertising and Direct Markting Techniques, using a Content Management System, a hosted Shopping Cart (as the content) or WYSIWYG page generator (as appears) builder (like FrontPage, Dreamweaver) which can eventually create garbage code in pages which impedes future maintainability (changes and fixes or major revisions). (See our page on Site Generators/Content Managers). If you never worked on computer projects, which a website is, then make your goals moderate to begin. There are risks and issues you know nothing about.

4) Understand that "animation" and "flash" often is expensive to create, difficult to change or maintain (or impossible if you do not have the project files), can be very slow to load (hurts ranking), and highly detracts from the main text of a website.

Avoid sophisticated mysterious large images or flash for the home page. That slows the site down and does not quickly tell what the site is about, state the target audience and benefits, nor show the product in use, usually. Cutesy or mysterious doesn't sell !

5) Understand that you have about 2 to 5 seconds to interest your visitor. Attraction and Appeal must be immediate, including HEADLINES that Grab, Tease, Name the Target, State a Benefit and SELL! And it must be SIMPLE, subheads, bullets, etc. It must accomodate your main different "Segments", with Headline appeals or buttons for each and sections for each type of buyer.

Too many designs fail to recognize that the audience / viewer is not sophisticated and does not (at first) care about your beautiful design or complex theories, but merely wants the basics of who, what, when, where, why and how--- and want it quickly-clearly; that is, are you relevant to their needs, what you do, why you are better, and why they should trust you over others---all within 20 seconds on the first page or two they see. If you don't make that cut (IF you are lucky to be seen at all)---you might as well not try.

6) Understand the basics of marketing and advertising:

  • that simple, "not cutesy" and
  • not too "sophisticated" or cryptic is best;
  • that you have 2 to 5 seconds to interest your viewer with their self-interest-talk THEIR language-needs.
  • that Headlines and appeals must be tested for EACH main Target Segment of Buyers.
  • that you name targets, state their problems, your solution, show your solution at the TOP in HEADLINES-Bullets.

This can be especially difficult for companies who sell a sophisticated comprehensive approach or type of service. Buyers (except engineer and technical types) care much less about HOW you do it than WHAT you do and IF you can do it consistently reliably, quickly, smoothly and inexpensively.

7) APPLY the Basic Advertising & Marketing Principles: Knowing is not enough. All that won't work if you do not apply basic marketing and advertising principles which revolve around finding niches, knowing and naming your target audience, using headlines that name your target and the main benefit and using sub-headlines and bullets so your prospect can drill down to their interest. You can't do any of that without studying basics of marketing and your competition before you begin.

8) Do you look credible?? Credibility and Comfort to visitors-buyers is the hardest to create & determine. Start with stating that you KNOW the visitors' problem-need, that you know about their life. And test your early concepts and appeals to KNOW, not guess. Be sure the section of the site talks ONLY about them, not various other types. Give them their own area. Be sure to look credible- Substantial, not home-made, that some investment has been put into the site, as it reflects the business and its commitment. And be sure you look local and an expert in their problem. Let them know WHO you are, your special skills, WHERE you are, that they can reach you. Talk about case histories and problems and show testimonials.

9) Talk to Potential Customers & Do Surveys, Focus Group Questions as well as Study How they look for solutions to their problems. Remember, you are always solving a problem the prospect has, but must know how they search for solutions. Speaking the same language in the same places begins to tune your ear to how prospects think and express their needs, and associated "feelings" that move them to actually purchase.

10) Unusual innovative layouts and navigation confuse average visitors; It does not impress them.

11) Did you know it is your experience, references, skills, products, features, examples or case histories, testimonials and samples which mean more to buyers than any glitzy creativity,for selling rather than "just looking"? (Our telling you this truth costs us money short term, but we would rather your company survive to be our highly successful client long-term).

12) Trying to be "very creative" and sophisticated visually often confuses web surfers accustomed to common standards, layouts and methods of informing and navigation, and distracts from the key simple text words which differentiate and sell the service/product (even unusual colors turn some people off).

  • Avoid any confusing non-solid backgrounds or textures behind words.
  • Simple big clear readability is most important.
  • bulletized points and sub-headlines in bookmarked sections are important to have;
  • Avoid black backgrounds for most sites except entertainment gateways which not much text.

13) Understand that websites are both for rapid communication and education, as well as a creative, graphics art and printing-type, advertising, PR campaign and technical computer project rolled into one, which requires much patience, creativity and sometimes major costs and revisions and much time to complete. You must have the time and patience and ability to do this right, and time away from regular work can be a major cost to your business. Don't start what you can't properly finish, or if you are not willing to invest a full (not part time) year or two to finally get smooth performance, high traffic and profitable results.

14) Understand that "functionality", "database", "interactivity" or "content" management and even security can be difficult, expensive and time-consuming, by several times regular simple HTML sites.

15) Understand that you can buy web design work which costs less (less time required) which may look OK but is not maintainable, transportable nor properly readable on all browsers nor hosting companies, and to fix it when you want changes or to move it will cost you two or three times than to just do it right the first time. You probably don't even know anything about multi-browser issues and code standards with which most sites don't comply. These issues are what good web developers handle for you behind the scenes in your best interests without bothering you or surprising you about it later.

16) Understand that traffic building can take long testing of promotions and many revisions of headings and content which is the "copy" of advertising which the search engine spiders use to index your page and may take months to "propagate" for a full test? (ie: great "organic traffic" is years in the building, similar to and dependent upon a final business strategy.

17) It is critical to fully define the scope, nature, logos and colors of each web project and your design preferences before and early in the process, in writing and with sketches and proofs of rough layouts.

18) If your web designer has successfully satisfied many clients and has many years of experience, weigh their suggestions heavily and allow this professional do their job in good faith with your periodic review and proofing of the project. Like everything, ask strangers what they think. Don't go with solely your own tastes and preconceptions. You aren't the average site visitor and you can never tell others' tastes except by asking a lot of people.

19) Get design BASICS Right!

  • Unique Selling proposition & Competitive Advantage at the Top.
  • WHO are You? Why are you? What do you do? Where are you? AT TOP !!
  • Image conveying Product IN ACTION or RESULT! At Top!
  • Name the Audience!
  • Fast Easy Navigation!
  • Bullets, Headings,
  • small paragraphs, good content,
  • Not too Busy!
  • Fast Loading!
  • Logical Layout,
  • Landing pages & paths for each Target segment/ Feature
  • Design around Target Motives-Needs, matching features
Your choices of type fonts is highly restricted by Browser standards availability. (Avoid getting creative special fonts and layouts requiring conversion to pictures, which then prevents search engine spiders from reading the words, and restricts ability to change text).

20) Pay special attention to graphics and images as to colors, sizes, densities, work files and graphic layers which are all critical to web design and must be in such formats and forms complete and available to your web designer. Tell your graphics and Flash people up front to plan for web publishing and to contact your web developer and that such sizes, formats and complete work files are required.

21) If you have not won awards or been paid for creative art work or graphics and yet you plan to manage and choose the art for the site, tell your web developer so they can plan accordingly (to urge you to listen to experts or not work for you.)

22) If you have not had great success with internet designs in the past, explain that to your web designer and discuss why that happened and what was most difficult or disappointing. Compare your successes to that of your web developer.

23) Become familiar with webmaster functions and requirements for dealing with server problems, upgrades, compatibility and security and traffic stats issues, utilities, email setups, databases and maintenance.

24) Study Google's Webmaster Guidelines carefully. For crucial Google ranking and promotion success, Google stresses quality and focus of content, coherence and relevance of wording, content value to visitors, and such factors as speed of website pages loading. Don't ignore any of that. A top web developer knows these factors and can help. These Web-Success articles remind you of these as you go forward.

25) Be very careful to check that the web designer does not farm out the work to subcontractors in other countries. Better results come from web designers in your own country who have long experience and work directly, not merely middlemen as is all too common. Good designers in your country know the culture and idioms and work "in good faith" usually by the hour, and should not have to relay communications to India (They may have a specialist logo maker in Europe, however). In real life, sometimes difficult problems arise on functionality or scripts or server problems and this may not be fixed as quickly as everyone would like, but regardless, expect to promptly pay for all the time that web experts work toward your work request. That risk and cost comes with being an owner of complex programmed computer systems on risk-prone constantly upgraded servers. If you aren't ready for that, don't request complex functionality or customized scripts. Luck and programming skills vary by the part of a project in which even an excellent programmer may have difficulty finding a bug. You are paying for their best efforts and you must stop the work if it appears it will exceed your funds. You may have to live with it for a while. Think of it like a big old house with contractors trying to fix bad plumbing leaks under a crumbling basement... you pay them for every hour they look for the leak, digging up concrete, etc., regardless whether they can fix it. Don't choose something with great uncertainties and a poor foundation (if they took over someone's poor design) if you can't afford it. Start simple. Learn. Focus on building your business with great strategy, products and the site's ad copy and content---not by sophisticated custom scripts, unless such are the heart of a web business and you have a decent budget of at least a three to five thousand dollars for that.


Note: If you would like more helpful information about starting a web business, then browse our other information guides and tips on our menu above: 11 Web Business Success Tips, Starting a Web Business Checklist, How to Choose a Domain Name, How to Choose a Domain Registration Company, How to Choose a Hosting Company, Tips for Designing, How to Get My site Working, How to Promote, and 10 Improvement Tips, etc.

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