Guiding principles that all entrepreneurs should consider when designing their website and digital presence

How important is the website for a business?

Imagine yourself getting a reference for a service or a product from a company that you have never heard before. What is the first thing you do? You go and search for the company’s website and also check their social media. Correct? At least this is what I do. In 2019 the digital presence or digital “foot-print” of companies is one their single most important assets. In simple terms you can simplify it and see it as a digital brochure a tool that informs your audience about who you are what you do and how you can help them with their problems.

When I interact with a lot of different startups, they always ask me about the importance of building up their website and whether they can start without one. MY answer is simple. You don’t need a website to establish a digital presence especially when you run on a frugal start-up budget. However, you cannot grow and scale-up without a site that projects your brand, your values and the solutions you offer to your client’s problems.

Defining the Internet in business terms?

Let’s start with the basics and try to define Internet in business terms. So, the Internet could be described as an electronic virtual environment that allows people to communicate, interact, exchange and find data, educate, inform and trade or simply conduct social & business transactions anytime and anywhere in the world.

The Internet has already surpassed more traditional media (i.e. print and TV), it represents the primary tool which allows you to reach people on a global level and enables you to trade and interact with them. Internet will continue to involve especially as our life becomes even more interconnected with wearable technology and the so-called Internet of Things. Just imagine how easy any browser-based information can be accessed wherever we are by our smartphones, our tablets, our laptops and by any device that runs an IP protocol.

The need for a good Design

Design plays a vital role in human psychology. Design reflects the perspective we have for things and our positive or negative feelings towards anything tangible.Remember the design of the website should reflect and communicate the core values of your brand. It is a mirror of your WHY, HOW and WHAT.

When talking about Web Design, you should consider that together with content this is one of the key factors which provides the overall User Experience or UX. The goal is to build loyalty and achieve repeated visits as many users as possible.

What drives the need for good web design?

  • The functionality of the front-end and the aesthetics of the theme that you project from a website.
  • The need to facilitate the purpose and goals of a website
  • The intense competition in any subject or field.
  • The need to exceed quality expectations for any project.

Where do I begin?

Well if we could identify the four basic phases to produce a website then we have:

  • Strategic Planning – Why are we developing it, who are we targeting, why should anyone visit our site, what is our USP, etc
  • Design and Functionality – Physical design (mood boards, themes, templates, etc.), storyboarding and navigation, back-end and front-end functionality,
  • Development – Technology Usage, Programming Languages, etc
  • Deliverance – Training of the administrator, visitor support, hosting services, connectivity with third parties (banks, data banks, etc), content management, updating and maintenance, etc

How do I bring people to my website?

In other, words how do you generate traffic? This is the practice of Internet or Digital Marketing. This discipline applies the principles of physical marketing to the virtual and electronic environment of the Web. The main difference is that the web empowers the user on what to see and how to react. So, internet marketing is both proactive and reactive when it comes to promotion and advertisement.

Content and Design attract users, navigation and functionality keep the user browsing through a website. So, Internet Marketing is vital when it comes to the designing process. Internet Marketing and Web Design goes together like a horse and carriage (to rephrase the infamous lyrics from Frank Sinatra).

A crucial element in generating traffic especially on the early level of a start-up is the utilisation of as many social media platforms as you can and the content you produce. Remember if you do not utilise the free social media platforms by delivering authentic content which can be amplified exponentially than you have minimal possibilities to scale-up and succeed.

I tend to have the odd questions about whether putting forward your knowledge or by sharing information is beneficial as you “give away” your IP and expertise. Believe me when I say that 99.9% of the people do nothing with the information and knowledge they get. On the contrary, you create a connection with potential clients and partners who having read your article or seen you on a video feel more comfortable to interact with you.

How to develop a website?

Well, there isn’t a specific step-by-step success guide for developing a website. Every project and every case has its own demands, it’s challenges and it’s tricks.

Despite that, we could outline some general guidelines for website design & development.

  • Collect as many information for the project as possible.
  • Analysis the reasons that you develop the website, the needs that you intend to facilitate and definitely check out what the competition does. Remember you don’t need to rediscover the wheel.
  • Plan for the budget of the project and put a strict schedule.
  • Set tangible marketing and sales targets by trying to quantify them.
  • Sketch your storyboard. Basically, the main navigation pages and the data that each page will hold. Make sure that your site sticks to the 3-click depth rule (A website shouldn’t have a depth more than three clicks deep. That means that in three clicks a visitor can reach the end child page of a section from your site).
  • Get the content together or at least try to have a clear structure of the content categories.
  • Define the colours, the styling of the photos, the logos and in general all the design elements that will define the mood board and the colours pallet of your website.
  • Design or choose an appropriate template (if you don’t want to create something unique or if your budget is limited you can buy a template from the thousands that are available online).
  • Carefully choose your CMS – Content Management System. This will determine the capabilities for content updates and content management of the website but will also determine the opportunities for future system updates expansions and add-ons. There are many different CMS platforms to use the most dominant one is Word Press.
  • Choose the appropriate template and the appropriate CMS and marry them both to create your website. There are thousands of free and paid themes that you can choose.
  • Any templates that you use should be multi-platform. People will access your site from smartphones, tablets, laptops and large screens. The template and the CMS should be ready to adapt to different formats, screen sizes and browsers.
  • Custom made applications – If the functionalities of your website demand the development of custom-made apps and extensive coding, consider the technologies you are going to relay on and take the time to do a comprehensive market search for everything that is available. When using a programmer or a development agency always ask for references and when the budget permits it, use a third-party for work validation (a consultant with extensive experience).
  • In your GAANT chart and your project create evaluation steps for progress and quality control. It is better to take time and inspect every development level than realising a mistake later on that will demand more time and money to overcome it.
  • Always consider the support of the system you are developing and the services you need to keep it up and running (issues like traffic, security, downtime, etc, should be taken into serious consideration).
  • Finally, when you have your system online always consider what will enhance the experience of your visitor/customer when he navigates your website.

By following the simple guidelines above, you will be able to minimise any kind of mistakes and drawbacks when developing a website.

Please feel free to add anything you think is essential to your comments below or email me.

by Ypatios Moysiadis