The generally accepted philosophy is that every business should have a website – certainly that will be the mantra from all those website template supplier cold callers you get. And by and large, I go along with that. However, a critical question to ask yourself is “What is my website for?”
Why - what will be the purpose of the website? At this point, you will often be advised that you need to work out the type of website you want – brochure, e-commerce etc. But before you consider the type, you have to work out the primary audience you are aiming (“targeting”) the website at.
To illustrate the point, I’d like to use this website, mentoringsales.com. In About, I explain the remit for the website. It is aimed at two distinct audiences: Firstly, my old business contacts who have appreciated my sales and marketing guidance and I wanted to provide them with an accessible reference point for all the material. Secondly, for new prospective clients, a succinct presentation of my value proposition, delivered by a video on the Home page, backed up by a summary page of the advice available and simple contact point.
Once I knew who I was aiming the website at, I could then work out the best type of website to use. Let me give you some insight into the thinking behind this website, to help you with your own considerations.
My IT knowledge meant I was happy to contemplate using one of the main Open Source (i.e. free) Content Management System (CMS) frameworks; WordPress, Joomla! or Drupal. I did also look at some upmarket template products, such as Moonfruit. However, these were Flash based and I had concerns about performance (page loading times can be slow, at least then) and more limited device support (not supported by Apple devices by default). The CMS frameworks produce raw HTML/CSS code and that could deliver the website performance I needed.
Initially, I went with Joomla!, mainly because I liked the administration backend environment and a number of clients had recently been delivered websites based on Joomla! and given it the thumbs up. However, there are many advocates of WordPress and Drupal and I freely admit I didn’t spend a lot of time making comparisons – just like you, my time was limited! All 3 CMS frameworks are typically offered as an integral part of the website hosting service by internet providers. More recently, I have developed a WordPress version, which I found offers better "out-of-the-box" article (or posting) navigation management.
The big advantage of having a website developed with a CMS is that you can easily change or add to its content without any knowledge of HTML or CSS or the like. I have often met clients that have complained about the need to go back to their website developer whenever they needed changes to content. I knew I would be adding and editing content on a regular basis on my website so a CMS was vital.
So, whether you are looking at your first website or a replacement site, I would recommend going with a supplier that uses a CMS approach to develop and also provides you with the training to maintain the website yourself by using the CMS. If you can run Office-like applications on a PC or Mac, you ought to be able to use the CMS.
One final point – you will hear a lot about Search Engine Optimisation or SEO. This is all about getting your website to appear on the initial pages of generic website lists (“organic lists”) provided by Google and the like. Also known as your website ranking. My advice to smaller businesses owners is not to get too hung up on SEO, since the search engines frequently change their algorithms for organic SEO listing, meaning that you have to keep spending time (or more money with your website developer) at keeping your SEO up-to-date. A better investment is to periodically spend money on targeted search engine promotion i.e. Pay Per Click or PPC, such as Google AdWords. Mind you, that is no excuse not to implement your website using the best SEO methods at the outset, an area where your website developer ought to pay dividends.