Commentary by Nick Rakhshani
You may think website design and development for your startup is a piece of cake compared to all the hard work you put in to run your business. And in a way that’s true. Running a business is much harder. But that often leads to businesses not putting enough thought into their website design. Hiring an agency, shooting some video, writing some content, and creating some call-to-action is not all that it takes to create a high performing website. Here are 7 surprising strategies you need to think about.
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One of the biggest indicators of entrepreneurial validity these days is the launch of a website; your business isn’t considered truly established until it has one. Accordingly, a website is an important milestone for charting your startup plan, and one of the most rewarding achievements in that process as a whole.
It’s also a fun, if challenging, one. While development technology has advanced to the point that almost anyone can create website (especially through a template solution like WordPress), there are still some major hurdles you’ll have to face.
1. Finding the minimum viable product
Naturally, when you design and develop a website for your brand, you’ll want everything to be perfect. You have a bold vision for the future of your brand that you’re passionate and excited about, and you want your website to reflect that vision.
As you develop your site, you’ll be tempted to add in new features and sections, and to go over old sections with new content, new material and additional functionality. However, it’s in your best interest to opt for a minimum viable product: the minimal amount of features necessary to make your site suitably operational. You can always expand later.
2. Design and layout choices
Your design and layout choices will be important factors for your website’s success; they’ll help your visitors form their first impressions, motivate them to take action and possibly determine whether or not they’ll ever come back for more. Accordingly, there’s a lot of pressure here.
If you’re working with a template site and trying to build cheaply, your options are going to be limited. However, I recommend seeking professional design talent to assist you here, as finding a design that stands out and suits your brand is essential, if you want people to eventually convert.
3. On-site copy
Your on-site copy presents a handful of different hurdles. You’ll have to choose the right titles for your pages, whether you follow basic conventions like “Contact” and “About” pages, or opt for something more creative. You’ll also be writing all the material on your website, from the taglines on your home page to the paragraphs on your other internal pages.
You’ll want to write copy that’s firmly within your brand voice, unique to you and representative of your identity, but you’ll also want to write copy that’s informative and compelling enough to drive action.
4. Search engine optimization
Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most important online marketing strategies of the modern era. It’s relatively inexpensive, and results in permanent increases in your online brand equity, and your website’s visibility and ability to be found online. SEO requires ongoing on-site content marketing and off-site content and link building. But before you launch, you’ll need to ensure your website is sound, from a technical SEO perspective.
The calls-to-action throughout your site will be responsible for converting your incoming visitors into full-fledged customers. These can take the form of short, word-based callouts at the end of your blog posts, buttons driving people to purchase individual items or a form field on a contact page that your users need to fill out.
There are many different paths to conversion, but no matter what types you choose, you’ll need to make sure they’re plentiful, visible and paired with a solid offer. There are plenty of best practices for CTAs to follow, but it’s still hard to put all the pieces together. For help, see The Definitive Guide to Crafting Winning Calls to Action in Your Content.
Though it may not seem like a major decision at the time, your choice in hosting provider can have a massive impact on the eventual functionality of your site. For starters, your choice can affect the cost and functional limitations of your site; beyond that, a good hosting provider can guarantee higher up-times and better support if something goes wrong.
7. Attracting initial momentum
Finally, remember that launching is the end of one process, but the beginning of a new one. Once you’ve launched, you’ll need to build initial momentum, in the form of traffic to your site. This, by necessity, likely includes content marketing and other online marketing or advertising strategies. For help, see The All-in-One Guide to Planning and Launching a Content Marketing Strategy.
If you’re able to proactively identify these potential hurdles when you launch a website, you’ll be able psychologically to prepare for them and to establish an action plan. There’s no way to objectively make these steps easier, but you can improve your chances of success simply by preparing and doing more research.
Launching is stressful, but remember: You’ll always have the ability to make adjustments after going live. Make the best product you can, but don’t compromise your launch by being too much of a perfectionist..
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