Developing your own website can be an intimidating project.
We’ve all been on websites that look (and probably were) painstakingly crafted by top-rated graphic designers and developers, as well as those that are clunky, garish, and just plain embarrassing for the company they represent.
Top tips when building a website
1. All-in-one vs. DIY
When building your first website, you can go with an all-in-one solution, where you receive the domain name, hosting, CMS, and builder all from one source.
However, a couple websites later, you probably will want to be a little more serious with the next one you build. Which means building it from scratch.
Some time intensive coding workshops, a few hundred dollars, and countless YouTube videos later, you can have your very own built-from-the-ground-up site.
Hiring a professional Web Designer can be more cost intensive, but customizable, simple and built with high quality.
2. Prioritize design
We’d all like to think we don’t judge a book by its cover, but the truth is we make judgments on our first impressions constantly to gather information and make decisions in our day-to-day lives.
And with websites, it’s not just because we don’t like how it looks. It’s also because internet security is such a major concern; consumers don’t want to risk giving their payment information to a website that looks like its designer didn’t know what they were doing.
Furthermore, experienced designers have learned the best ways to set up a website to make it as user-friendly as possible. As customers navigate your pages, they’ll quickly get an idea of how well things are organized. If done poorly and they can’t easily find what they’re looking for, they may not last very long on your site.
If you’ve decided to go the DIY route, there are many web developers and designers that have created themes that can be purchased and plugged into your WordPress account. The one benefit of this path is that it means your website is 100% customizable. However, that customization can require A LOT of technical knowledge. A tiny mistake can completely throw off your entire website, and it can sometimes be hard to figure out where you went wrong. Additionally, purchasing a design theme is just one more cost on top of everything else your website is already costing you.
In other words, the ability to customize (if you can figure it out) may not be worth it.
3. Over-communicate, but do it clearly (and accurately) with all the right pages
There are a few elements that every website needs. Make sure you include the following:
This is the first thing customers see when they land on your site. Other than perhaps a mission statement or simple 1-2 sentence explanation of who you are and what makes you different, this page likely will not have much written information on it. However, this page is the ever-important first impression you will be making, and the visuals, general aesthetic, and carefully selected phrases will determine how potential clients see you, and if they want to buy into the image that you’re selling.
There are two types of product pages, both of which you’ll likely need. First, there are the more catalogue-style pages that showcase all of your products, then, there are the individual product pages that show more specific information after someone has clicked on a product.
Depending on what you are offering, there will be different ways to list your products.
Finally, it can add personality and make way for an emotional connection if you include a short sentence or two on what inspired you to make the specific item, the purpose you made it for, a bonus use for the item that customers may not have considered, care information (e.g., if it’s dry clean only) or pertinent information about how it was made (e.g., if it’s handmade, made locally, cruelty-free, or fair trade).
Shipping and returns
One of the most important pages to include on your website is the shipping and return information. If you offer international shipping, often a chart is the best way of representing the different pricing and shipping options to each country and/or region.
If you’re currently offering click-and-collect options, be sure to include instructions for that on this page as well.
And finally, here is where you’ll include your return policy. Make sure to think through all contingencies for this, just to ensure there’s no confusion for your customers
Think about the questions customers asked when you were in your brick-and-mortar shop. What were customers curious about? What were they confused about?
Additionally, what did you wish they knew? Are there important selling features behind the entire ethos of your store?
This is another place where you can add information as you go. You’ll learn as soon as you open up your online shop where people have confusion because they’ll (hopefully) send you a message asking for clarification. However, it’s always best (and more likely to lead to a sale) to anticipate customers’ questions and answer them while they’re at the peak of their interest in your product.
This is a particularly important page, and can be one that gets forgotten or neglected. Be sure to include an email address, phone number, and physical address(es) for any brick-and-mortar locations. As mentioned above, people will inevitably have questions and special requests that you never considered, and if you don’t give people the avenue to communicate them quickly and easily, you’ll lose their sale.
While this may not be the first priority for a new website owner, starting a blog is a great idea once you feel like you have the rest of your website under control. A blog allows you to build a deeper relationship and increased loyalty with customers; gives you the space to present new products in a featured space.
4. Make sure your customers can seamlessly shop securely
As mentioned above, one of the biggest hangups in online shopping is the risk of a security breach. If you can’t guarantee that your customers are safe from the prying eyes of fraudsters, you could find yourself in trouble.
Fortunately, there are tools out there that are intended specifically to keep all parties and their information safe online.
Whichever way you go about it, if you are going to accept money online, you need to be able to perform those transactions with the assurance that you’re not putting yourself or your customers at risk.