Few start up businesses today can be successful without having a great website. Whether doing it yourself or hiring someone to do it for you, building a great website takes alot of effort!
At Shear Madness we have spent hours, days, and weeks on our website efforts! We have made mistakes and feel we finally have a grasp on how to do it mostly right. While not experts yet we thought we share the wisdom of what we have learned in this process.
Luckily, those of you in a franchise system this is something that the franchisor probably does for you - that you should be thankful for. Those thinking of joining a franchise system should make sure this is something that a franchisor does for you and also ask questions about the development, optimization, ongoing maintenance, and your access to this system for your business. So ... Here Goes ...
- Do your SEO research First! Search Engine Optimization will help your site get found by those who don't know you exist. There are methods to use the Google Keyword tools to determine possible keywords to use. This will take you hours and hours but is SO worth it. Our site was designed completely differently than we had thought based on this research. You are looking for keywords that do NOT have a lot of competition and that relate very well to your business!
- Draw out a flow chart of your site with a pen and paper! This is an awesome tool that should outline what subjects you want the reader to discover on your first page, how that relates to your second page, and so forth. A flow chart also maps out how your visitors will be able to navigate through your site. Doing this will help you determine how many pages your website will need to contain. Remember that each page can contain subpages, so that not everything needs to be listed in the navigation bar.
- Now you are ready to figure out the look of your site. If you have a designer who "gets" your concept they are the ones that should help you design the "look" of your site. Your brand is important and that brand should match online as well as offline. Most graphic designers do not know - as you probably don't either - what can and cannot be done on the web. But if you have a basic look than when you take the plan and look to a developer they can take that and make it work for the web. They may have to change some of your "dreams" that you have for functionality to reality and that is something you will have to accept. At Shear Madness we are a VERY creative group and we had so many ideas of what would be COOL on our site, but we found that many of those cool things were impossible at this time on the web.
- The developer should take over at this point, they determine what platform would be best for the type of site that you are dreaming of. There are many platforms out there and sorry - I cannot tell you the pros and cons of each - that is out of my realm!
- When the developer is working on the site make sure that you are working along side them to check progress and OK things as they progress. There is nothing worse than having a site completed and you not liking something that was the basis of the site.
- Once it is developed and turned over to you to run - make SURE that you have included training in your agreement. Developers work with these sites everyday and think it is easy - but to those of us untrained, training IS neccessary! Make sure you learn where ALL of your site is housed.
As a side note - we learned the hard way where everything is located on our site. As the owner of a site you NEED to know where it all is and have a good idea of how to use each part.
- Front End - this is easy as it is what the public sees and cannot be changed by anyone who does not have permission. The exception to this would be a blog site where users are allowed to post comments. Make sure you learn about comment settings as you probably will want to approve comments before they are posted. There are plugins that you can put on your site for blocking spam (believe us - there is LOTS of spam out there!)
- Back End - this the area that you can write go to write the content, add pictures, pages, etc. This will be where you will spend most of your maintenance time so make sure you get good training on using this.
- FTP - this is the place that you find the files for your site. You can do bulk loading of pictures and other items here. This is located wherever you are hosting your site - make sure YOU have access and CONTROL of this!