How to I create a professional business website?

Overview

I had become extremely frustrated by not being able to find a web developer that I felt comfortable with, then finally I got a great referral.

When I first met with my web developer Warran Bolton, OwlTree Web Solutions, I really appreciated him starting by asking me a series of questions, to which I was able to answer very precisely.

He went on to say that I was only the second client that had done all the research correctly. However, when he asked about functionality and content I was able to show him what I needed subject to his expert opinion. If fact I had created a wireframe using the' tables function' of MS Word.

At the second meeting, Warran and his graphics designer David presented their design ideas which matched exactly my requirements. He said that my scope of work only required minor adjustments and the fact that I had done the research and produce my own wireframe on one file, he also said it would save me a whole bunch of money.

Remember you alone never have the copyright or patent to a good idea. I asked several people I know who are commercially astute to critique my content before publication. They came up with a few ideas that were better than mine

Team Owltree then created the design mock ups which I could view on-line which only required minor adjustments, then they continued to build my new website, which I tested before going live. 

In short Warran's process was:

1. Needs analysis meeting.
2. Create a proposal.
3. Planning and design meeting.
4. Design mockups for approval.
5. Build.
6. Test.
7. Launch.

Many clients and indeed Warran Bolton have both asked me to write an article on how I produced the detailed scope of work for my new website, so here it is.

Websites Points to Note

I have spoken with many of my clients and other business acquaintances. All have said that generating content for their websites was difficult. A frighteningly high percentage said that they delegate this to their web developer, I have a challenge with this mindset because the person who should best understand a business should be the owner(s) or director(s) and it should be them that make the first attempt to generate text content. Knowing that the first attempt to write any document is the hardest, the person who starts MUST NOT get offended if someone else makes suggestions for changes. 

Websites Overview

I will attempt to keep this article as non-technical as possible and use plain English without jargon or acronyms.

Getting a website right is NOT easy but there is a simple step by step process, however, what I do know is that if you miss any steps out, your chances of failure will significantly increase. 

In my view, there is no such thing as getting a professional website done cheaply (less than £1,000 even for a small website).  Do not be programmed by others, cheap websites almost always look like it was created by Joe Blow the ragman, who did in his garden shed. Also, it is impossible to set a budget without gaining an overview of the pricing structures that different web developers use and compare the results. 

Website The Starting Point

I asked myself 'what are the motivations for wanting a website'  My list included the following:

  • Use as a marketing platform, which is central to all my marketing activity.
  • Include a library for publishing business development related articles and new updates about achievements. 
  • Get the phones ringing with new client enquiries (as a priority over emails).
  • Generate emails from potential clients to contact them.
  • Use my website as a sales tool by being able to use Skype screen share, with potential clients to ask them qualifying questions, at the first point of contact.
  • Specific pages featuring each service or business offering with short and focused page-specific content with links to additional pages to minimise scroll down.
  • Being able to embed videos. (will be done in the future).
  • Enhance my brand and credibility.
  • Create landing pages with specific URLs to be used in off-line marketing.
  • Showcase Unique Selling Points to deliver a commercial advantage over competitors.

Website Must Have 

  • Responsive design so that it can be viewed on a mobile phone or tablet.
  • A secure certificate (https). 
  • Ability to make changes or add new pages or fine-tune SEO, myself without learning rocket science. 
  • High end and professional brand identity.
  • Rapid loading. 
  • Must feature, content related high-resolution graphics on each page.
  • Home page must explain what the business does, in less than 20 seconds.
  • Must be very easy to use/navigate by individuals who are not web-savvy. 
  • If possible zero software licenses. This point may create challenges for others, I will explain in Researching Website Software Applications below. 
  • Must be able to enter my business name (not my domain name) into Google or any search engine and my website must come up instantly as the first entry on page one.
  • When inserting a link to take the user to an external website, it must open a new tab. We also use this feature when inserting links that take the viewer to another age on our website to eliminate the user having to hit the back button whilst reading a specific page. I think this delivers a better user experience, a point endorsed by our clients.

Choosing the right domain name

This was tricky, I couldn't come up with the right domain name and certainly one that was available. So I asked for help from a good friend who was commercially astute, and he came up with the right one within minutes. I was clearly too close to the challenge.

My domain name isn't perfect I would have preferred a derivative of HBP (some else has the .co.uk domain). A point of advice with is to make sure your domain name is as short as possible and easy to explain verbally so that others can enter your domain name into a search engine whilst speaking with them on the telephone. 

If you already have a domain name that is delivering acceptable results keep it, even if does not satisfy the above. You may negatively affect your search engine rankings. 

Website Content Planning

  • I started by researching my competitors in terms of their content and visual appeal.
  • Using the 'tables function' in MS Word, I created a file known as a Wire Frame. MS Word is brilliant to use as the platform for this exercise.  I decided to write my text content then adjust the wording later to enhance the SEO process. The reason why I did it this way was I write as I speak, after creating text content with SEO in mind first, I was unhappy with the result, anyway who is to say Google is correct in terms of how keywords are ranked.
  • I used one page in the table for each page of my intended website.
  • I insert lines in the table to show headings tags and inserted additional lines for the content and how I could position a graphic(s).
  • On the intended home page, I split a row in the table to show Navigation buttons and hyperlinked each page. This needed to be reviewed for use of use in the section below.
  • Some pages need links to additional pages. I initially planned to use the traditional 'drop-down boxes' but my web developer came up with a better idea. (click here to view).
  • Content MUST be short, precise and 100% relative to the page title. 
  • To ensure I got my keywords correct I used Ubersuggest by Neil Patel. It is free to use and delivers outstanding results. 
  • Must have zero spelling and grammar mistakes. (I used the premium version of Grammarly). 

Website Functionality

My requirements where simple:

  • Easy to navigate by the user.
  • One-click to access specific pages or content. 
  • Rapid page loading despite high graphical content.
  • Make the Top Navigation bar easy to access wherever the user is on any page. (Know as sticky Top Nav Bar). 

The above appears to be only a shortlist, putting this into action can only be done by experts such as Owltree Web Solutions

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) & Key Words Planning

There is absolutely no point having a website if it can't be found. SEO is a process like any other in that it must be best practice driven. My definition or best practice: a structured process to make sure things happen the right way, on each and every occasion. 

What I have found out that there are more people that talk nonsense about SEO than know what they are talking about and most charge a king's ransom and deliver nothing. That said there are some SEO experts who like all experts charge accordingly for their services. An example is Neil Patel. He and his team are clearly very talented, but I find his videos difficult to follow. 

 Researching keywords is hard work and takes a lot of time. If you don't do this yourself you only have the option to PAY SOMEONE ELSE to do it for you. We did it ourselves. 

There are many online tools to help you, it drove us nuts trying to find one that we really liked WITHOUT SPENDING A FORTUNE. One thing we can say is unless you have a mega corporate website don't spend a lot of money on keyword research tools, try https://neilpatel.com/ubersuggest/ it's not perfect but its works and it's free. Another great free resource is https://keywordseverywhere.com.

We also learnt this:

  • Understand that Google is just a machine. (find out why)
  • Use one page one keyword or phrase (longtail keywords. (find out more)
  • Nothing beats great content, with H1 tags that ask a question relating to the keyword. (find out more).

Researching Website Software Applications

Beware of others advising you to use Wordpress based platforms. I spent a significant amount of time speaking with other web developers and I found out that everybody has their own preference. When I research these different preferences almost all required addition plugins, some were free and some weren't. I already knew from previous experience that these plug-ins have to be updated regularly and I also knew that some updates suddenly conflicted with other plugins and cause a website to crash. I have experienced such events and never want this to happen again. 

In my view, Open Source Software is the best way forward because if you choose the right Open Source Software platform, they do not require plugs and you have the ability or know someone who has the ability you can insert your own code to enable customised functions or applications without the use of plugins. (we now use ProcessWire).

Choosing the best web developer

When meeting with web developers I never divulged information unless they asked the right questions. Almost all had a flawed client qualification process because they started to sell me stuff without first fully understand my operational and financial constraints. All they ended up doing is confirming to me that they were not the right company to use. 

This exercise was also useful to gain knowledge to plan the budget. (pricing varied dramatically (£1,200 £10,000 both plus VAT). 

I did background research with all the developers (without them knowing)  I met with before any meeting. 

I had already decided that if they did not ask all the relevant questions to 100% qualify my operational and financial constraints, I would NOT do business

Why did Warran Bolton stand out head and shoulders above the rest? 

  • He started to ask me for all of my operational constraints and to ensure he got the right answers he prompted me with his questioning techniques. I did not offer any information unless he asked me a specific question. I even tried to put him off track, but every time he skillfully brought me back to follow his process and not mine. I thought this was outstanding. 
  • He covered my branding issues in great detail and also present at this first meeting was his branding and graphics expert David Evans. Davids qualifying questions were just as detailed. (the first draft of his proofs literally blew me away) His logo design and colour combinations were outstanding. I was delighted with his graphics work. He got it right the first time. This would not have been possible unles he had asked all the right questions. 
  • When Warran and David had finished their client qualification process I showed them my detailed scope of work. Every one of my questions had been answered and they even made suggestions to minor changes, which I agreed to immediately. I must point out that Warran instantly overcame my objections about Wordpress and sold me on Open Source Software. (Processwire). 
  • After they had qualified me, Warran and David presented relevant examples or previous work. 
  • When it came down to discussing money, I have to admit I was as slippery as a bucket of eels. Nevertheless, both Warran and David knew that I was serious because I had shown them my wireframe and I did not need them to create any text content and I gave them ideas to help them choose the appropriate graphics, With less than 10 minutes we had agreed on a price and shook hands.
  • To sum up, because both Warran and David had asked me all the appropriate questions, I understood that they both fully understood the depth and breadth of my needs so I had the total confidence ... at the first meeting ... that team Owltree would get it right, on time and on budget. In fact, because I had done all the proof and content work it all worked out less than I thought.

Website Developers - Making the Decision

Before I attend any meeting I always set myself realistic targets of what I want to accomplish from the meeting. In this case,

Prior to the meeting with OwlTree,  I had already decided that if all of my operational and financial constraints were met, I would agree to proceed and close the deal.

My requirements were.

  • Do I trust the people involved, so that I can develop a long term relationship?
  • Will they satisfy all of my operational constraints?
  • Will they satisfy my financial constraints? 
  • Will they satisfy my scope of work?
  • Can they deliver in an acceptable time frame? (if they could start immediately I would not do business).  
  • Are their payment terms acceptable?

Website Construction

Having helped many of my clients construct their websites, I knew that unless I gave my web developer hard copy of my suggestions, they would have to gain a profound understanding of my business in order to generate content.  This is where many companies go wrong because somebody has to write the content, I the principals of the business or company don't do it, they will have to pay someone to do it for them.

There are no short cuts and one must be reminded that the person who drafts the content first has the hardest job and they should not be discouraged by a savage critique by others. 

I gave my web developer a 'Wireframe' which I created using the tables function in Microsoft Word. My web developer could see my suggestion for 

  • Layout
  • Functionality.
  • Design ideas with suggested graphics.
  • Heading Tags that were correctly loaded with Keywords (if the Keywords are no appropriate search engines will score or rank the website down).
  • Text content loaded with Keywords. 
  • A Meta Description for each page loaded with Keywords (this is what you see in after searching for appropriate websites).  

Website Hosting

Our website is central to all our marketing activities and must, therefore, it must be available at any time any day. We know that many of our clients have had endless problems with their website hosting provider so we started by asking for referrals from companies that we knew had high-end corporate websites. 

Zen Internet where miles above their competition. To find out why click here

Going Live

Experience had taught us that planning your website takes a long time and it shouldn't be rushed. We also knew that we must create a visual proof of concept rather than just talking about what we wanted or just providing text content. One thing is for sure, any visual you create will always look different when viewed on-screen as a website. 

Warran really excelled because we were able to view drafts before going live and we had to make adjustments. 

Content Management System (CMS)

In our view, this is one of the most important factors to consider when building a professional, company website. OwlTree Web Solutions did an outstanding job with this and we only needed 10 minutes of training in order to get to grips with it. We can make changes very easily and in seconds. We can even create our own pages, with graphics in next to no time. 

A robust CMS is mission critical and WILL save you a fortune because if you expect someone else to create the content for you and get a business website done for less than £1,000 THINK AGAIN, it is just not possible for that price. If you have a well engineered CMS you can create content, make adjustments yourself. We make our own changes to our website almost every day.  

Ongoing Development

This depends on what you want. How many times have we heard people say that their website is outdated ... all the time we have this said to us. Our Library has new content uploaded all the time. We can even change the 'look' if needed. We started with 15 pages, we know have over 50. 

Sometimes we discover new functionality requirements. Because Warran totally understands our business model he has made updates fast and he is not expensive. The trick is to communicate clearly. He then points and clicks, he does the trick real quick. 

Summary

Don't expect a professional website being done for little money. If you put the effort in yourself, you will save a lot of money.


If you find yourself needing to speak with someone who is totally independent,
about your next web project,
you are more than welcome to call me anytime.

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