This is an excerpt (translated from Dutch) from an upcoming ebook I’m writing about building effective websites. The ebook is targeted mainly at small business owners with little to no experience with websites.
You want a website because everybody has a website. But having a website is not a goal in itself. A website is a tool, an instrument to reach a goal. First you have to ask yourself, what do I want to accomplish with my website?
Goal and Audience There are many possible goals for a website. If you have a brick-and-mortar business a website can be used to get more people into your store. If you don’t have a store but you do sell something, a website can be your primary sales channel. If you’re a service provider your website can be a lead-generating tool. Or maybe you don’t have any commercial goal and your website is just a means of providing information.
Whatever the goal, it’s important to think it through thoroughly. The goal of your site helps determine the concept, content, and functionality of your website.
Note that you can’t separate the goal from your target audience. Know who you are building your website for. Understand the needs of your audience and ensure your website caters to them. If your website confuses your customers or gives them information they don’t need, it won’t be an effective website.
Business Processes A website is not a separate entity. if you have a business, your website means more than having a 24/7 online ad. Your website can have an impact on nearly all of your business processes. It changes the way you interact with your customers and is a factor in nearly all interactions with your customers, suppliers and even your employees.
So give some good thought about how you want to use your website in your overall business strategy. Think about how the website can have an impact on your marketing and your sales. How can your website help with post-sales support? Try writing down all the aspects of your business that will be impacted by your website.
It’s OK if you don’t have all the answers – it’s enough at this stage to be aware of the many ways a website can influence the way you run your business.
Budget When you’ve given this sufficient thought and have written down the various ways in which your website can help your business, it’s time to make an estimate of how much you are willing to spend on it. When you understand what a website can contribute to your business, you’ll have an idea of what a reasonable expense is. Nothing in the world is free, and a good website isn’t something that comes without some measure of cost attached to it.
A website isn’t a static thing either, it requires constant maintenance, analysis, and updates. This must be a factor in your budget. Don’t budget too little for your website, but don’t overbudget either. Contrary to what some web development firms want you to believe, you don’t need to spend tens of thousands of dollars on an effective website. The budget you set for your site should be in balance with the scope of your site.
Don’t worry about every little detail in the budget. Right now all you need to do is come up with a rough figure based on the benefits that you think you can achieve. Be conservative – a lot of things can be done cheaper than you’d think. But at the same time don’t be overconfident. Running an effective website will cost you money one way or another.
Determine the goal and target audience of your website.
Be aware of the impact a website will have on your day to day business activities.
Set a budget for your website, both initially and as a running expense.