Aug 3, 2015
How To Get a Website Started
Choosing a web development company to build your website can be a daunting task. There are so many agencies out there that it’s hard to know where to start. The short answer is, there’s no easy way out of it – you need to do your research. Whether it’s a low-cost lead-generation site or a luxury brand car manufacturer, all sites need the same thing – a brief.
Start with your goals. These are not factors like “The site needs refreshing” or even “Everyone else is online”. These should be business goals, as applied to your website. For example, your goal may be to get customers in store; to sell gift vouchers to your restaurant or to get leads to phone you.
If it’s going to be really important to your business, you’re going to need to spend money. You want security, ease of use, uptime, and support. And because you’ll be updating it a lot, you probably want to be able to manage it yourself, so you’ll need a content management system.
If it’s not that important to your business, by all means, use a DIY project like Wik or Wordpress. These are fine for small marketing-only type sites or blogs.
Secondly, you need to figure out how you want your site to be built. Word of mouth is always a great way to do business, but keep in mind that building websites can be complex. So while your friend had a great experience with Company X on their bells-and-whistles fashion catalogue site, the company may not be best suited to helping you with a nuts-and-bolts nuts and bolts ecommerce store.
When researching, look for web development businesses that have worked on websites that work similarly to how yours will work, or businesses that have worked within the same vertical as you. This can show that they have an understanding of the issues inherent to your industry, and are familiar with your needs and goals.
Once you’ve identified some agencies or web development businesses that you think are best suited to your work, put together a website brief and send it out for a quote.
Information that should be included on a preliminary brief for quote:
- Current website (if applicable)
- Business goals (1-2)
- Time frame (i.e. when you want the website to ‘go live’)
- If it needs to be responsive (mobile friendly - we’d suggest it does)
- Two-three competitor sites that you believe work well
- Any elements that you think might require extra development, like integration with a third-party system (e.g. a hotel booking system; registration (for logins, etc); a customized video player)
* Many customers don’t want to disclose their budget, in the fear that it may cause a web business to inflate their prices to match what’s available. This is not the case – instead, it helps the business decide whether you’re a good fit (that is, if the budget’s too low, the project may be viewed as inherently risky; if the budget’s very high, the client’s expectations may be equally high, and they should perhaps be looking for a bigger company).
The business who you’ve engaged for a quote may contact you for more information. This is generally indicative of a thorough approach to quoting and procedure, and bodes well for your future relationship - if they’re looking to be ‘complete’ about the quoting, that’s likely to extend throughout the life of your project. They should be trying to find out as much as they can about your business, its goals, its competitors, target market, the industry as a whole, and what your current site does well (and not so well).
When you receive your quotes, see if there are any huge variations in the prices. If a quote has come through that exceeds your budget, you may need to exclude that one. If more than one of the quotes exceed your budget, you may need to look at how much you’ve allocated towards the website – perhaps your expectations were unreasonable, and these businesses are letting you know that with your requirements, you’ll need to go over the figures.
Once you’ve decided on your development agency, send them through an email and arrange a meeting to talk through the process. A preliminary meeting, preferably face to face, will enable you to ask any questions and find out more about the business. At a minimum, you should be looking to discover how they will progress through the site build stages; who you’ll be dealing with; and what support and services (like reports on your website’s performance) they offer post-build. If you’re comfortable with that conversation and feel that they answered your questions and concerns with assuredness and trustworthiness, then you can sign a contract, and you’re in their hands.