Setting Up a Business Web Site That Works

Many businesses, both large and small, are disappointed with the results from their web site.

The reason is often a failure to:

•  Understand what they should be trying to do, and
•  Invest the time and the effort needed to make the site successful.

Yet it doesn't have to be complicated and black magic is not required - just the basic business sense that most successful owners and managers already have in abundance.

So what are the key things you need to do?

Step 1: Before You Start

You need to decide why you want a web site and what you really want to achieve.

Your business objectives might well include:

•  To attract enquiries or sales from new and existing customers
•  To provide a better service to customers
•  To reduce sales costs and improve internal efficiency
•  To provide more information about your business and products to potential suppliers, creditors, press and customers

Tip: Try putting target figures on your objectives—it helps you be much more focused and more likely to achieve what you want.

Step 2: Plan Your Approach

For each of your objectives, you need to decide:

•  Who your target audience is
•  What you are trying to get them to do
•  What your site needs to attract and sell to them initially and to get them to come back again.

Tip: Content really is King here - and can take longer to develop than the rest of the site!

•  What service you need on or off-line to back up your 'promise' to your visitors
•  How you are going to promote your site and contents

The answers will depend on your product, type of business, target audience etc. They may well affect your site content so you need to pin them down before you develop the site, not after.

Step 3: Creating Your Web Site

You can:

•  Do your own web site design

This keeps the cost down. The bad news is that, unless you are very good and prepared to put a lot of effort into it, you won't produce a site that will do you and your business justice - nor achieve your business objectives.

•  Use a standard template web design

You can obtain a professional looking site inexpensively by using standard template page designs. This may work well enough for you in the short term but don't expect it to stand out much from the increasing competition or to grow with you as your ideas change and you want to be more ambitious.

•  Have professional web development

You should expect to get bespoke website development reflecting your individual needs and unique business 'character'. Your site should be able to grow and change as your experience and ambitions develop. For a small amount extra you can probably get a content management system so you can change and keep the site content up to date yourselves

•  Optimise your site for the search engines.

If you need the engines to work for you and you don't know much about them, choose a designer who does—or use an specialist search engine marketer to work with your designer—it will probably save you time and money in the long run.

TIP: It is better to prioritise your time and money over the key areas of content, design and marketing rather than blowing everything on design. A small site that really works for you is better than a large, expensive looking site that doesn't.

Step 4: After Your Site Is Developed

You need to:

•  Have it hosted reliably to provide 24 x 7 day service
•  Integrate the site into your service and back office operation. This will improve your customer service and cost efficiency too.
•  Keep the site fresh for your visitors so they find it worthwhile coming back.
•  Promote it as a standard part of your business to ensure people actually visit it.

Tip: Many businesses think publishing their web site is the end of the process and they can move onto other 'more important' tasks. Successful site managers know publishing is just the beginning…

Good Luck!

Dave Abernethy is Managing Director of Net Commerce Solutions Limited, a UK web design and internet marketing company serving UK and international businesses. He has over 25 years experience in business management, consultancy and marketing. A fuller version of this article can be read at

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