New website? Ten questions to ask your writer, your developer and yourself

Is your website working as hard as it could? Perhaps it’s in need of updating, or even a total revamp. But before you shell out for a new one, here are a few questions to ask.

1. Will people want to read it?

I have a saying tacked to the shelf above my desk: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”.

It’s there to remind me that people don’t hang around on websites unless you tell them what they need to know. Quickly.

Your website is not the place to show off how clever you are and how many long words you know – so keep it simple, keep it relevant, and talk to people in a language they’ll easily understand.

A good copywriter will always remove ‘corporate’ words like ‘leverage’ and ‘synergies’ which many businesses like to use when talking to themselves.

2. Will my website feature on Google?

For a website to work, it should appeal to both humans AND search engines (via SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation).

How your site is written, designed and programmed affects how Google recognises it, and how high up it appears in the results Google delivers to people searching online.

For example, say you’re an accountant in Derbyshire. Think about what potential clients may be typing in the Google search bar if they’re looking for a business like yours.

It won’t be ‘<Your company name>’. It will be something like ‘Derbyshire accountants’, ‘Peak District accountants’, ‘small business accountants’ or ‘manufacturing accountants’, for example.

Effective SEO will ensure the most relevant words are planned into your site’s SEO title (what shows on the tab when the page is open) and meta-description (the ‘snippet’ or short paragraph that appears under the title in the Google page results).

Not just on the home page, but on every page; so that someone searching for specific terms such as ‘small business tax planning’ will be directed not just to your website, but to the appropriate page.

The content on each page – how much there is, how readable it is, how relevant it, is how much it engages the reader, and what the reader does after landing on your page – is even more important. You don’t want them to bounce off the site after one page – you want them to read on to other pages.

3. Is my website mobile friendly?

Over half of all people (nearly 60%, according to Google) now search the internet on their smartphone or tablet.

So making sure your site is just as easy to use on a phone as on a computer is vital.

A responsive website is designed to recognise what device it is being viewed on and adapt accordingly, by re-sizing, shrinking, enlarging, moving or hiding content to match the screen size and format.  So the site looks different on a mobile phone, although the content is exactly the same, the links work the same and the downloadable content can still be accessed.

4. Is the content up to date and relevant?

Regularly refreshing your website by adding content – rewriting pages to reflect new legislation, having a blog that is regularly updated with timely, interesting opinion and advice, having a news page, linking to other sites – keeps your site up to date and interesting.

It also improves your Google rankings: if Google can see that you refresh the content on a regular basis, you will be rated more highly than a site which has not.

5. Is it secure – and does it look secure?

Data security is vitally important to website users, especially if you’re selling online or asking people to enter their email address to join a mailing list or download content, for example.

You can check if a website is secure by looking at the address in the search bar at the top of the page.

If the web address starts ‘https://‘, the site is secure. As an additional sign, there’s normally a padlock icon and the word ‘secure’ before the address.

If the address begins ‘http://‘, then the site is potentially not secure (there’s normally an ‘i’ icon which, when clicked, will tell you your connection is not secure.)

That’s the last thing any reputable business needs. Google already prioritises secure sites in search and there’s talk of them blocking http sites in the future.

6. Can my customers log in?

If you hold data or information that your clients can access online – for example their investment accounts or tax records, bills and records of their purchase, proofs of their wedding photographs, latest versions of their artwork, progress on the sale of their house – you can use your website to let them see it.

As long as appropriate data protection regulations are followed, a password-protected client login page can link through to the relevant service, providing a seamless user experience, even if the data or records are held on third party platforms.  This means that clients won’t need to visit several sites to view their information.

7. Can I update the website myself?

Once your site is up and running, adding information – such as uploading a pdf of your newsletter, updating a staff profile or announcing an event on your news page – could all be done via an accessible and easy to use Content Management System. A CMS enables you to edit all or parts of your website yourself, so make sure your web developer gives you this option, along with training to use it.

8. Is it more than just words?

Websites are a visual medium and the use of images, video and other graphics add life and freshness to the screen, help break up the text and make the pages more readable.

Google especially likes video content: it helps make your site more memorable and is easily shared on social media.

Infographics and motion graphics are a great way of explaining complex concepts in a simple, visual way, making them easier to understand. And good photography, whether it’s original or high quality stock photography, can work with written content to give a page more impact and visual appeal.

9. Does it get people where I want them to go?

Your home page is generally where people land when they’re looking for a business like yours. But having specific landing pages for different services, promotions or or groups of clients (i.e. affinity partners) means that you can direct certain visitors to the information they’re looking for – and, equally importantly, you can track their engagement and measure the success of a specific campaign.

You can also ensure they get straight to the point of action you want them to take: call the number or fill in the form, for example.

10. Does it connect with your social media?

An no-brainer, this one. Of course your website should have links to your organisation’s social media profiles – Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ and whatever else you may have – prominently featured in a static part of the site (for example above the navigation bar) so they’re visible whatever page you’re on.

While you’re at it, make sure all your social media sites link back to your website too!

If you’d like to create a new website that does all of this and more, just get in touch