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What Do I Need to Know About Owning a Website?

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What used to be a simple case of learning HTML in 1995 is now an exercise that requires HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, a database, and PHP. This code has to work in all browsers, all operating systems, and on all computer devices no matter what size the screen is.  If you want an ecommerce website, find the shopping cart that works with your website.  If you want to incorporate a custom software application, call a programmer.

If you want your web pages to appear in Google’s mobile device search engine, it has to pass their mobile test.  If you want to rank well in any search engine results, you need to hire someone with the skills needed to optimize your pages to compete.  If you want your pages to be added to search engines, you need someone who knows how to do that and also monitors search engine performance.  Planning on adding advertisements to your website?  There are rules and guidelines for that too.

If you want people to use your website, here is what is necessary for correct web design:

  • Usability standards compliance
  • User centered design
  • Persuasive design
  • Conversions design
  • Human factors/Neuroscience (human computer behavior)
  • Ecommerce design
  • Information architecture/taxonomies
  • User personas/mental models
  • Accessibility WCAG2.0 standards compliance
  • Accessibility Section 508 and PAS 78 compliance for .gov and .edu sites.
  • Responsive design
  • Forms user interface design
  • Software user interface design
  • Software application functional and error message testing

FACT

You will not get a website designer with those required skills for $5 an hour and you will not get a standards compliant website for under $2000.

Why do I want a website?

This is the most important question to start with.

I want a website because …

The reasons why people want a website are as varied as there are people.  Business owners may want a website presence that explains their business, products and services.  Hobbyists may want a website to sell their stuff or share stories with people who have the same interests.  Authors have a book to sell and fans to stay in touch with.  Every product or service under the sun can be sold online.

  • _______People will come to my website because …

Write down all the reasons why people may want to come to your website.  Is it because of who you are or what you offer?  Why would someone come to your website and not another one that offers the same product or service?  (This is important.)

  • _______Who are you? …

Are you a business or an individual?  Blogger, book author, teacher, shop owner?  Do you have a picture of you?  Will you be anonymous or use a pen name?  What makes you credible and authentic?

  • _______Am I qualified to make my own website? …

This is the time to be truly honest with yourself.  It may look easy but when you start putting together the pieces of a website without the experience to back up your decisions, you could face a situation that becomes out of control.  This is not the time to be stubborn or ignore the advice from experts.   Write down your qualifications and note your strengths and weaknesses.

  • _______Who is my website intended for? …

This is one of the most important questions to ask yourself.  Is your target audience local, national or global?  Men and women or just one gender?  Ages?  Beliefs?  Work experience? Job seekers?  People who can use your products and services?  Who are they and be specific.  Are there limits such as age or privacy?  Do you want people with special needs to use your website?  Persons with ADD, ADHD, Parkinson’s, MS, carpel tunnel pain, a broken arm?  Blind?  Slow memory?  (Your answers determine how the site will be designed.)

  • _______Will my site be used on smartphones? …

Be sure you understand the habits of your target users.  If you sell products online, you will want to answer “yes”.  If you host videos, you will need to know the limitations for viewing on mobile devices.  Research the behavior and usage data of your target market to get a clear picture of what devices are being used.

  • _______What sets my business apart from others like it? …

This is where you write your business proposition.  What makes your business, you or your services unique?  Do you have experienced staff?  Has your store been in business a long time?  Quality ingredients?  Dig in and find what sets you apart.  This will be important when you write content for the site.  Know your top 3 competitors.

  • _______What do I sell/offer/provide? …

List each one and define.  Your information architecture, keywords, navigation labels and calls to action will be based on this.

  • _______What do my customers/clients/readers/users need to know about me? …

Write your bio. Compile the information that will eventually go into an About page.  Gather testimonials.  Start asking for endorsements.  Gather up your awards, certifications, and memberships in organizations.  Record your volunteer activities.  Find pictures that help describe you.  Credibility and expertise are critical to your online success and may make the difference between being hired or not.

  • _______What is the leading task I want my website visitors to perform on my website? …

This may be filling out a sales lead form, signing up for a newsletter, downloading a document, order products, contacting you or using a software application on your site. Typically the leading task is directly tied to your main reason for being online.

  • _______What else do I want my website visitors to do on my website? …

Write down all the tasks here.  Include subscribing to your blog feed, following your social sites and submitting a testimonial.

  • _______What types of content will be on my website? …

Will you provide a blog, newsletter, articles, photos, videos, products?  If products, will you include product specs, descriptions, images and ratings?  If you have videos, how long are they?  Where are they hosted?  Will you sell third party products or signup for affiliate sales?  Do you need a setup for paid memberships?  Will you host a forum?  Do you need a secure server for online sales and payments?

  • _______Who will generate my content? …

Will you be the content writer?  Do you plan on hiring writers?  Who will make your videos?  Do you have a photographer?  Do your site users provide content?

  • _______What is my budget? …

Start listing your expenses for hosting, domain, advertising, site maintenance, usability and functional testing, SEO, software such as Photoshop, and other areas where you will need assistance.

  • _______What kind of ecommerce shopping cart will I use? …

Research and start getting ideas.  PayPal offers easy ways of accepting payment for services, and there are several popular ecommerce shopping cart suppliers that work with WordPress or other types of websites.  You will need to set up a payment gateway connected to a bank account.

  • _______Do I need to register my online business for state and federal tax purposes? …

If you run a business or are starting one in which you will billing clients or accepting payment for products, check the laws for your state.  You want to protect yourself, home and business from any liability.  You may need an employee identification number for invoice and tax purposes if you are a consultant.

  • _______Do I need any disclaimers and legal policies? …

Lawyers, financial sites and healthcare are just a few of the types of industries that require specific disclaimers and legal policies for conducting business online.  If you own a franchise, check their website policies.

  • _______Is my business a profit or non-profit? …

It is important to let your visitors know, especially if you ask for payment or donations.  Some people will not donate unless the recipient is a non-profit agency, for tax write-off purposes.  For profit sites should investigate how they accept payment, including wire transfers and credit cards.

  • _______Where is your business or site located? …

Small and local businesses, and especially home businesses are not always comfortable with putting their address on the website.  For local searches, an address is needed but for security, that presents a problem.  You may wish to get advice for your situation that works for both you and search engines that have local business programs.

  • _______Will my website be in search engines? …

If yes, you need to hire someone with search engine marketing skills that will optimize your pages and have it properly indexed.  Find someone skilled with Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, Bing Webmaster Tools and organic SEO.  If you plan on using videos, you will need someone who knows how to optimize for search engines and YouTube searches.

  • _______Who will maintain my website? …

You will need someone to monitor your site or learn how to do it.  Find support for events such as monthly security checks for hacking and backups.  In the event you wish to add something new to your site, you will need to know the risks beforehand.

  • _______Who will monitor my website’s performance? …

Typically the person who handles your online marketing and analytics has the best idea on your website’s performance.  If you do it, there are free and fee-based tools like heat maps, surveys, load testing, and much more.

  • _______What is my digital marketing plan? …

Digital marketing includes PPC landing pages, buying ads from Google and Bing, social media marketing, local ads, press releases and more.  All of the above must be tracked for results.

  • _______Where will I host my website? …

Choose a host that provides exceptional customer service, little to never downtime, affordable fees, easy to use control panel, and no extra fees for email, security and privacy.  Once your website is hosted, it is complicated to change servers if you have a database, which is common for sites built in WordPress.

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