Imagine going to a shop to buy something you need, or for a mooch round with a view to buying later.

The first thing you see is unclear, uninteresting signage. The shop window is piled up with an assortment of products. You walk into the shop to find a mess, products everywhere in no logical sections. You go to a store information sign which points you to the wrong floor. You try to use the escalator and it doesn’t work. You go to customer services and no one can give you any information.

In other words, the shopping experience from hell.

So why is this precisely the experience on so many websites when no one would dream of operating a real life store, office or business in such a way? Fonts that are hard to read; links not working; pages overly cluttered with different messages; unattractive design; near impossible to find contact details and essential information such as delivery terms and pricing; poorly written, unengaging content; pages and tabs illogically structured; out of date information and absence of any new and exciting content to pique the visitor’s interest.

All classic errors. All frustrating for your potential customer. All likely to lose you business.

All avoidable.

On a number of occasions, I have been asked by a client to step in and help ‘sort out their website’. Not just to rewrite all the copy, but to review the images, audit the functionality, assess the logic of the layout and structure of the site and advise on how to improve rankings on search engines.
The vast majority of these requests come from start up or small businesses. The vast majority of these requests are as a result, I believe, of the following;

1. Lack of budget
2. Lack of knowledge
3. Lack of time

All of these factors can lead to the commissioning and building of websites that are just not good enough. Leaving you -the busy business owner – with the stress, time and additional cost of resolving the issues down the line.
But they don’t have to.

Please, consider the following, before you commission your website;

1. Put the time into finding a good, reputable, experienced web design company which not only has the technical competence to build a website, but demonstrates skills in design and a good understanding of marketing. Much like any supplier you choose, seek a number of quotes and look at previous work and testimonials. Don’t be tempted by exceptionally low costs – as it is likely to lead to add-ons, amendments or scrapping the site altogether and having to start again. Equally, don’t assume that expensive means quality – the web design market is densely populated with truly experienced exceptional designers to those who have learned how to build a website in a weekend from a book (and everything in between).

2. Think very carefully about the brief you put into the web designer. The end product will only be as good as the information you feed in. Your audience is not an international audience aged 10 – 100. So narrow it down. It is highly likely that you will have competitors. So what makes you different/better? Copywriters and web designers need this information so that the central messages, tone and look of the website will be effective in engaging and attracting your audience.

3. Give thorough consideration to the purpose of the website and the role it plays in the sales process. Your website is not a cure-all that by itself (however well designed) can deliver clients or customers. It is part of a lead generation and awareness raising process. First of all, customers need to be driven to the website which takes investment in traffic driving and advertising (top rankings on Google cannot miraculously be delivered I’m afraid without investment). And then customers need to be given the right information, firm reasons to do business with you and a strong call to action when they get there.

4. Consider engaging a marketing professional to procure and project manage the web design process for you. As a copywriter I have to fully understand my clients’ business. I have to develop their business into a core proposition. I have to put the proposition into words. I have a full understanding and appreciation of the marketing process in which for most organisations the website is a key component. And I have relationships in place with professional web designers who can take these messages and create a fully functioning, user friendly, customer driven website. And it can be done for a very reasonable cost.

So take the pain out of building your website. Avoid the need for emergency fixes down the line. Put the investment of time in at the beginning of the process and work with professionals that will create the ‘shop window’ for your business that it deserves.

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