Websites are really important, but not every business has $100,000 to throw at all the latest and greatest features. Last week we talked about how to figure out which features to include. Here are some ways to keep costs down without sacrificing your visitor experience.
1. Choose Classic Features.
Flash sites were really cool when they first came out. They were also really expensive, took forever to load, weren't SEO-friendly, and are no longer widely used. Before you copy something a competitor is doing, ask yourself these questions:
- Will this make my site more complicated to use?
- Will this cause my site to load more slowly?
- Will this affect a visitor's ability to use the site on a mobile device?
- Will this require a visitor to download a plugin or other software?
- Do I just want to add this because it's cool and new and everyone else is doing it?
If you answered Yes to any of these questions, skip adding the feature. Unless, of course, you have the dough to design a mobile-specific site. Even then, it's much more of a headache than a design that looks good on all browsers and devices.
2. Incorporate Pre-Existing Software.
Why build something from scratch when a number of companies offer thoroughly-tested programs with 24/7 support? There are so many wonderful options for storefront software, payment systems, and email software that are reasonably-priced. These things should almost never be hand-built unless you have extreme needs. Just be sure to choose an option that has the features you need in the near future so it will allow you to grow.
3. Make Your Own Edits.
You don't have to know how to code in order to edit your site. Most websites can be built using a content management system like WordPress. The design can be completely customized so it no longer looks like a blog, but you retain the functionality. You can add and edit pages, write blog posts, and upload images without contacting a designer. Just don't be afraid to shell out a couple extra dollars to make sure big changes like updating your logo and editing navigation are done according to the latest design standards.
Let us know if you have any more money-saving tips. Happy designing!
Before you approach website designers for estimates, you should already have an idea of what you want. Most designers will not be able to give you an estimate until they understand all the functionality you need. Once they know all the features you would like to include, they will be better able to provide you with a price.
It will likely cost you extra to make changes in the middle of the project, so it's best to have everything written down up front. Below are some key things you should know before you reach out to your design contacts.
1. The structure of your website.
Will you need to be able to create and edit pages? Will you upload your own photos? Will you need to change the navigation regularly? If you don't plan to do these things, you will need to pay a designer to make each edit, so budget accordingly.
Is there any special functionality you will need to build into the site? For example, will you need a slideshow on the home page, a contact us form, or a secure client login? Will you need to be able to sell merchandise? Will you need to process credit cards?
2. The look and feel of your website.
What are some websites you like, and what do you like about them? What are your competitors doing that you like or dislike? This can include colors, images, features, etc. Put together a list of at least five websites, along with your reason for listing each one.
Keep in mind you don't have to follow all the latest design trends. Some of them are expensive and will quickly fade, making them a waste of money. Stick to features that make your site easier or more engaging for your visitors without making things load more slowly or more complicated to use.
Is this site part of a larger brand redesign? If so, you should have all the new brand guidelines nailed down before your designer starts working on initial mockups. Otherwise they will have to make additional edits to the designs, and this will eat up project hours.
3. Your website design budget.
There is a saying among designers: "Great, fast, or cheap. Pick two." If you want a complicated website done quickly, be prepared to shell out some money. If you have a relatively simple design, it will be much quicker to implement and should cost you less in the long run.
If you're unsure how much to budget, talk to a colleague. Depending on the functionality you need, a website can cost you anywhere from $1,000 to $100,000.
Don't take this time to skimp on quality. If a highly-recommended designer with a nice portfolio is coming in higher than your estimate, consider scaling back the project or doing it in phases so you can afford working together. Remember, this website is often the first impression for a potential customer.
4. Your timeline.
You should have a date you would like the site up and running. This will help keep everyone on track. If you need it live before a big event, be sure to give yourself two to four weeks extra time. You never know when someone will get sick or a major storm will wipe out power for a few days.
5. Your website maintenance plan.
Your website isn't finished once the new version is live. As we've discussed in other blog posts, your search engine ranking depends on how often your site gets updated. In addition to obvious edits like updating employee bios and adding product information, you should consider blogging at least once a week. Knowing how many people will need to edit, or whether you will need a web designer to make edits, will allow them to estimate more accurately.
Hopefully you have all this information ready when you start to ask designers for estimates. If you have any questions, or you're worried an estimate is unreasonable, don't hesitate to call or email us. We're happy to help.
The gift-giving season is almost upon us and you know what that means-- it’s make or break time for a lot of businesses. If you don’t believe us, check out some statistics about holiday shopping from last year. Did you know that almost 20% of retail sales for the entire year happened during the holiday season? With a growing emphasis on online shopping, your business's digital presence is more important than ever. Are you prepared to come out of the holiday season a winner? Here are some tips to help you get there!
Create an Inclusive Calendar
With a slew of events, parties and holidays on the horizon, it’s a good idea to step back and get organized with a detailed holiday calendar. We’ve created a table with some important events here. It’s never a bad idea to include local events or holidays that are important to your community. When you’re trying to reach a broad audience, don’t forget the importance of being as inclusive as possible!
A holiday calendar can help you work backwards as you roll out special deals, gift guides, special in-store events, and more! Remember, it’s a highly competitive time of the year, so it pays to get an early start. Every business is vying for the attention of shoppers, so make sure you create periodic messaging that leads up to important shopping days like Black Friday.
Get Your Online Store Ready for Traffic
Are you as prepared online as you are at your physical location? Setting up your online store with updated pictures, offers and information about shipping during the holidays can help set you up for success. Online shoppers have the ability to easily compare competing businesses, so make sure that you highlight special deals wherever you can. Emphasize information that will make customers want to choose you every time.
Don’t forget to leverage the power of social media either. Use platforms like Facebook and Twitter to direct your followers to your online store. Use social media to feature gift baskets, customer reviews and other special items that will encourage customers to browse through your other online offerings. Before you start encouraging traffic, make sure all your links are updated, so that users can easily navigate your store.
Man the (Social) Deck
With increased traffic at your stores and online, there are bound to be more customers reaching out to you. Don’t be surprised when users use Facebook and Twitter to contact you with questions, complaints, rants, raves or friendly holiday greetings! Instead, make sure you have a good monitoring plan in place, with a smart dedicated user keeping an eye out for red flags. The more quickly you handle that disgruntled customer who just tweeted about you, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to salvage the situation before it spirals out of control.
Are you altering your social strategy for the holidays? With many Americans getting ready to do a big portion of their holiday shopping before Halloween, there’s no time like the present to get started!
For years we have been working with small businesses to craft beautiful, usable websites optimized for natural search. But a website and high search engine rankings are only part of an online media strategy. Consumers aren't just using Google to find things anymore. Increasingly, their first stop is an online review site like Yelp or social media site like Facebook or Twitter.
We like to save small business owners time. We have always set up websites to be editable without paying a designer to update the code. While most of our clients could find the time to update content, and even write the occasional blog post or email newsletter, it seemed there was never enough time to monitor all the social media and online review sites. Yelp and Facebook pages stood empty, and blog posts, which are a great tool for ranking higher in search results, fell by the wayside.
Most small business owners don't have the resources to hire someone full time, so we developed a suite of services to maintain the pillars of a good online reputation:
- Responding quickly to Yelp reviews, Facebook posts, and Twitter tweets.
- Actively tweeting on Twitter and promoting your business on Facebook with relevant conversations about your business and promotions you're running.
- Regular blogging and email newsletters featuring information relevant to the happenings of your business.
- Incorporating your website into your social media strategy by encouraging reviews on key sites and displaying social commentary about your business on your site.
- Helping businesses identify key social influencers and encourage interaction with them.
We're always open to new ideas and suggestions from clients and new friends. Hope to hear from you soon!
The Social Sonar Team