Find Web Developers
Find Web Developers

Top Ten Things to Do Before Hiring a Web Developer

August 27th, 2018

Before approaching web developers for estimates on building your new business’s site, there are a few things you should think through first so you are fully prepared for the questions you will be asked. Here’s a list of ten things to be clear on before making that important next step:

  1. Be clear on your business plan. This may sound obvious, but it has happened where I’ve been asked to build a website when the potential client only had an idea of what they wanted and no business foundation planned out at all. Are you sure you have a viable business idea that will provide you with a reasonable ROI or is this more of a hobby that you just want to dabble in? It is important to be clear on your intensions of what you want to accomplish first.
  2. Be clear on your business name.  Make sure you have a registered business name before creating any of your marketing materials. It could be a costly mistake to have to go back and change everything if you find out your business name has been rejected.
  3. Be clear on the product you sell or service you provide. Ensure you are clear on the product or service you offer so your developer knows what site features and design will work best to enhance them. Ask yourself if they are digital products or systems or a service for hire? How many products and how are they sold?
  4. Be clear on your brand. This does not mean you have to have your logo already designed (some web development companies can also design your logo and other stationery/marketing materials for you as well), but it does mean you need to be clear on the message you want to give others about you and your business. This is actually not an easy or quick process but makes a significant difference if you are clear on this before moving on to anything else. Often the designer/marketer that you hire to create the visual brand for you can help with this process or I recommend checking out BrandU where they help you through your brand definition process step-by-step. Once done, you will be very clear on not only the essence of our brand, but also the “look” of your brand so you can simply hand over your results to your designer to create it for you.
  5. Be clear on what you want your website to accomplish.  A site that does not have a clear call to action is not going to be effective in fulfilling its purpose. When visitors come to your site, what do you want them to do once there? What is your primary call to action?
  6. Be clear on how you are going to get site visitors into your database. The odds are slim that someone is going to purchase from you on their first visit to your site, so you need to plan out a way to capture their name and email address so you can keep in touch with them on a regular basis and develop a relationship with them.
  7. Be clear on what features you want on your site. Will it be a static “brochureware” site with standard 4-5 pages or do you want something more dynamic with features such as a blog, calendar, search function, photo gallery, shopping cart system, newsletter system, membership signup etc.?
  8. Be clear on your budget. Your developer needs to know a price range that you’re looking at so they can recommend a site build that will fit within your means. Keep in mind that your website is your primary marketing piece due to it being accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You don’t want to skimp with such an important and prominent showcase of your business! Don’t be fooled by the cheaper template options or “do it yourself” applications out there where, unless you have studied the intricate nuances of how the Internet works, search engine optimization and effective layout design, you run the  risk of scaring off your perfect customers instead of attracting them!
  9. Be clear on website maintenance.  Once your site is built, who is going to maintain it? The reason why this is important to determine before your site is built is due to the different ways it can be built. If you want to be able to update the site yourself, then you need your site built in a CMS (Content Management System) platform. This will put your site design into a template where you log in to make updates. Now before you get excited about the thought of saving all that money on doing this yourself, consider these points:
    1. Do you know enough about content layout and copywriting to make an effective marketing piece that looks professional to your perfect client?
    2. Do you know how to optimize images so they don’t slow down your site’s performance?
    3. Do you have enough time to do updates to your site?
    4. Are you aware you can’t write off your time that you spend on doing things yourself where you can if you have a professional take care of the updates for you? As you can tell, I am biased on this point… the reason is from working with over a  hundred clients over the years, these points always come up and they soon find out that even though it seemed they could “easily” update their site themselves, it rarely turned out that way. I heard from many that were extremely frustrated because they were working in an environment and medium totally foreign to them. Meanwhile they were wasting valuable time trying to learn to be a web developer instead of spending it on getting clients! Mind you, some people are more computer literate and can pick up on the more technical aspects required and they manage fine; however, it is still important to learn good copywriting skills and understand what makes an effective website before going the DIY route.
  10. Be sure you do your research on who to approach. You want to find someone with experience and skill who will partner with you to help you build your business. You want to avoid programmers who only do exactly what you tell them as opposed to others who can offer ideas, suggestions and be a part of your  team to be there as a valuable resource when needed. Always ask to talk to their clients to see what their experience was working with the developer. Be aware of those that claim to be developers when in reality, all they learned was how to use a “do it yourself” software like Microsoft Front Page. The quality of your site – both in design and in how it is coded – is very important on many levels so ensure the person you hire understands how to design and build a quality product for you.

3 Common Website Design and Web Development Mistakes That Can Cost You Business and Profits

August 26th, 2018

If your website could produce thousands of dollars in sales for you every month, what would it be worth to you? We all know about the explosive growth of the Internet, how it is responsible for billions of dollars in revenue and how it has changed the way that people do business. Even senior citizens are getting online to search for information as well as products and services. But most businesses are not getting on board in an effective way.

I’ve been in the web development and marketing business for about ten years and in that time, I’ve witnessed enormous changes – things like pay-per-click advertising, relevant search marketing, online banking, elearning systems, directories, eCommerce and multimedia, to name a few. It is now possible to do business all over the world right from your home because of the Internet. There are days when I sit in my nightgown and have an online meeting with someone in India or Russia. Each of us shares relevant files in our computer that allow us to do business together. I believe we have just begun to experience the Internet’s powerful growth.

What I have noticed is that most people don’t know how to make money with their websites. Even business people who can benefit the most from their website, may trust a high school or college kid with no knowledge of web design or Internet marketing, to build their most important and powerful marketing tool. Even if they choose a web development company and pay big bucks, it is no guarantee that their site will get results. The only way to assure that a website produces a significant return on investment is to treat it as the core marketing product – the central part of a marketing system that can automate and leverage sales.

I would like to share with you 3 of the biggest mistakes that businesses make with their websites and other marketing products: 1. Mistake #1: Ineffective copy

A website should have a clear message that gets and keeps the visitors attention. It has to readily answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” A common mistake is to put massive amounts of copy on a page without any headlines, sub-headlines or clear organization in the message. The copy goes on and on, making it hard to figure out what the site is about, let alone what the visitor should do with the information. How long do you think that visitor will stick around? Not long I can assure you. They’re gone pronto, never to return again. The copy should compel the visitor to want to learn more. The visitor should instantly feel that the subject relates to them, clearly defines their problem and offers the best solution. The copy should share something about the company. People want to know and trust who they are doing business with. They don’t care what you say until they know who you are. The copy should include an emotional component – people make decisions because of their emotions. The copy should include stories or examples as well as facts. What will be remembered are the stories with an emotional charge. Testimonials are one of the most effective methods of sharing a story with an emotional component. John Smith testimonial for instance, might talk about how his life was in the toilet before he discovered product X. He started using this amazing product and within 3 months, he was on top of the world – it was the answer to all of his prayers and so on. That’s what will get people hooked on your copy. Your copy should set you apart from your competition. You don’t want to blast the reputation of others but use this opportunity to visually show how you are different. One of the best ways to do this is to display a chart with 3 columns. On the left is a list of all your services. Across the top is a column for ‘other companies’ [your competition], and next to that column is your company. You would show a check mark in your column for each item listed on the left that you offer. (All the items should be checked or you shouldn’t include them in the list). Your competitor’s column would show some checks but also some areas unchecked and some with question marks. This visually allows the visitor to see that you are their best choice.

Use keywords in your copy that will allow your target market to find you through search engines, blogs, article submissions and e-zine publications. Use software that will help you to choose keywords that are being searched in significant numbers. Google and Yahoo also have free tools for keyword selection.

2. Mistake #2: Failure to Include an Opt-In Email Subscription Form. If you’re not using your website for lead generation via an opt-in email form, you’re losing a huge opportunity. These are some important points that relate to building your mailing list:

  • Building a list of people who have come to you site allows you to stay in touch with those people, build a relationship, establish yourself as an expert and solve their problems. This is critical to the success of your business – something that most people miss.
  • Put your form as close to the top right as possible. This has been shown through research to be the best location.
  • Never use a weak message like ‘join my newsletter’. Why would I do that? Give me a reason to subscribe and give me a bonus for doing it – a free gift that I can get instantly as soon as I join. The bonus could be a free report, audio of your teleclass or a coupon discount for a product you wish to sell.

3. Mistake #3: Unprofessional Website Design Does your website look like it was created by a professional or does it look like you did it yourself. An unprofessional design can give a message to your audience that says, “your website isn’t professional and that probably is a sign that your services aren’t professional either.” Here are some tips that will help you to have an effective website design:

  • The content should be formatted so that it is easy to read and organized into important sections. Remember those headlines and sub-headlines.
  • The navigation should clearly specify the content areas and should be consistent on every page. You should not have to hit the back button to find a page or move around. There is nothing more frustrating than getting lost on a website because of the navigation.
  • Make sure the links all work.
  • Make a template from your design that is applied to all the pages. Use your template and include files to make changes to one file that automatically modifies all the appropriate pages.
  • Use colors that appeal to your target market. This is a subject for another article. I will just mention here that some colors are offensive to certain cultures. Colors like blue have universal appeal, especially for sites directed to a corporate market.
  • Use font sizes and styles that are easy to read and pleasing to the eye. Avoid scripted fonts except in graphics where they are used minimally. Use universal fonts that everyone has loaded on their computer. If you don’t, the font you choose will be substituted on a computer that doesn’t have that font. I personally like Verdana and Arial the best for the web because they are clean and easy to read.
  • Use plenty of cell padding around text and images. Avoid cramming things together and putting them close to the margins.
  • Make sure that the design takes your eye to important areas of the website. Can you easily identify important content or is your eye going all over the place?
  • Whether your web site design is a fixed size or a percentage of the screen, be aware that more people now have bigger monitors with higher screen resolutions. The design that looks great on your monitor make look like an eyesore on other monitors. Designs should be tested across browsers and in different screen resolutions.
  • Test everything on your website. Check every page and every link. Look for any design issues. Correct all spelling and grammatical errors. Complete contact and email subscription forms to make sure they work. Don’t assume your webmaster has done this. It is also a good idea to check that forms work periodically as problems can mysteriously arise, particularly if there are changes on the server. If you are getting a steady stream of inquiries and sign-ups, you will know that things are working just great.

These important tips will help you to design a more effective website – one that is the core piece of your marketing system. I want to caution you that the old expression, “You get what you pay for,” is not always true when it comes to website development. You may pay a high price only to find yourself with a weak and ineffective website that has to be redesigned. Make sure the professionals you choose have an in depth knowledge of Internet marketing and exceptional copy writing, website design and development skills. Make certain that they know how to use the web effectively for creating a marketing system. This system is what will give you the opportunity to profit enormously. It will change your business and most likely change your life.

Web Development – Make it Yours From the Beginning

August 26th, 2018

One of the cardinal sins of web development is, “Though shalt not steal.”

A significant site in 2004 was caught lifting entire web pages from other sites and placing their logos and information on those pages.

In essence the company found a site they liked and wanted one built that looked just like it. This falls under the rule of intellectual property. You see, unless it is a template design that allows you to develop a page that looks very similar to another then the lifting of elements from another website is using the creative talent of others to achieve a personal and financial goal. If you have not reached an agreement with the web designer or company who created the work then you should not use the element.

You can develop something with a similar feel to it perhaps, but in some cases companies have simply mirrored existing work and claimed it as their own.

If you do this you will likely receive a cease and desist order and perhaps find yourself in court over the matter.

The use of templates in web design can help you avoid this problem simply because the work was designed to be used by the masses. Perhaps the most compelling feature of template web development is that even within a template there is significant room for customization.

You can alter pictures, colors and general layout. You will be given ample opportunity to create the page to meet your own expectations. Perhaps the best part is you will not be placing yourself in jeopardy of litigation.

Web development should be about personal creativity and expression. It can be easy to look at another website and conclude that it is so well done it makes sense to use it, but chances are if it’s really good the owner of the site spent significant sums of money on the development of the idea. They will not view your use of their material as flattery. Imitating their work constitutes stealing.

With template rich web builder technology you will have an extremely large number of templates to choose from and adapt to suite your needs. Perhaps the best part of using this is both the freedom to use the template in any way that seems fit and the incredible cost savings available to those who use this technology.

I know of a man who spent thousands of dollars developing a site that used flash technology and had daily updated information and features. Someone liked the site so much they created an exact mirror site with their own domain name. Visitors were led to believe the site owner provided a wealth of information when all that was accomplished was the complete theft of thousands of dollars worth of work. The mirror site was forced to close shop. My friend did not press charges, but has become careful about making sure visitors understand the work is copyrighted material and cannot be used for purposes other than the singular enjoyment of visiting his site.

By all means find elements you think would be useful to your design, but make sure those elements are not duplicates of something that already exists. You want your web site to be around for a long time. Make it all yours from the beginning.