• Sabina Müller

5 questions to ask when creating a website for your business or organisation

Updated: Apr 2

Whether you’re self-employed, you’re a small business owner, running an arts organisation, or you’re on the communications team of an international organisation – building a website for your company can be daunting. Depending on the nature of your business, the style, content and size of your website will vary greatly.

There are various do-it-yourself tools out there today, think Wix, Squarespace and co., which guide you through the process of building a website from scratch. Or, you might choose to hire a web designer, developer or marketing agency to build a professional website for you. Regardless whether you are creating a website yourself, or you engage professionals to design and build a site for you, there are 5 essential questions you need to ask yourself when you start out.

1. What is the purpose of the website?

Before you start with anything else, take a step back and ask yourself what you're looking to get out of a new website. Do you need a portfolio page to show off your best work? Or are you looking to sell products online? It could be that the purpose of your website is mainly to give credibility to your business and serve as an extended business card – making it as easy as possible for your clients to contact you. Or you might want customers to be able to make event or accommodation bookings directly on your site.

Look at what your business is and make sure your website's purpose aligns with that. Are you mainly looking to provide regular news updates, meaning a blog format would be most suitable? Perhaps you are digitising historical materials and want to make them available to the public through an online archive. Is your website even for the general public, or is it internal to your organisation or for members only? The answers to these questions will determine not only the look and feel of your website, but also its structure and what tools you will be relying on. They should inform the web design process from the start.

2. What do I absolutely need now, and what can I add on later?

When defining your website’s purpose, you have probably identified more than one aim. Instead of spending months planning the perfect and most complete online presence for your business, focus on one or two of the most important points. Aim to get a small site live as soon as possible, and then map out how you will add to it. All good content management systems nowadays are modular, allowing you to do just that: start off with a basic website, which may just be one page, and then add more pages and functionality as your business grows.

In most cases, the most critical need will be to provide basic information about your business and show customers how they can contact you. However, this won’t always be the case. Perhaps you’ve already got a strong identity and loyal followers on Instagram, and what you really need is a space to write longer content? Get a blog. Or you need your friends/followers/clients to register for an upcoming event? Create a basic registration form, before you do anything else.

3. Who is the website for?

For your customers or visitors, obviously. But who are they? What is their demographic? Are they internet-savvy or still wondering how to dial up? Will they be using their phones or accessing your site from a computer? Will they be checking it from their beds or from work (in some cases those are the same)? How will they most likely get to your website, from a link on your business card, from social media, or from a referral site? It’s also important to ask yourself whether you are mainly targeting a local audience (e.g. as a local deli or restaurant), or if your customers can be based anywhere in the world.

Basic accessibility requirements (a clear page structure, readable text and concise meta copy for screen readers) apply to all websites but depending on your audience you may need to add additional features (light/dark background options, adjustable text sizes) to make your website more accessible. Who your customers are, will determine the look and feel of your website, as well as how you will integrate with additional services, such as Google Maps and local listings. You may even need a multi-lingual website, if you are targeting customers in multiple, specific countries.

4. How will I maintain the website once it’s built?

Unless you’re a blogger, when you’re just starting out, you’re probably thinking mostly about getting your website live, and not so much about what happens afterwards. However, who will be maintaining the website going forward, is an important question to ask right from the start. If you’re looking to tweak copy, add products, update news and events, or even add additional pages and page sections yourself, make sure the website is built with an easy-to-use content management system behind it. Are the designers, developers and copy writers in your team already familiar with the system, or is it easy to learn?

You may opt to engage a developer or external agency to do content updates for you each time. In that case, it will be less important to have a flexible content management system. Instead, you might employ a bit more freedom in creating non-standard designs and ways of navigating the website (take a look at these award-winning unusual websites for inspiration). Who is providing future text, image and video content is also important to clarify up front to make sure the maintenance load is realistic and you aren’t adding functionality you won’t be able to maintain.

5. How will I measure success?

It would be a shame if the effort of conceptualising, designing and building your website was a wasted effort. As you define your website’s purpose, factor in how you will measure its success. If it’s an online shop, the trend in the number of products you sell will be one measure. Another measure might be time you’ve saved because your existing customers now place orders directly online, instead of contacting you via phone or email. If your website is aimed at getting new business, the number of contact enquiries you receive might be the key measure. If it’s a portfolio page, you may consider it a success if the past work you show impresses a prospective client and convinces them to trust you with their project.

Having a clear understanding of the level of success of your website, means you will be able to allocate accurate budget to maintaining it. Can you finally justify adding on that online shop, or are you spending too much time on maintenance and it’s time to scale the site back? Your definition of success will also help you to employ the right analytical and marketing tools, from search-engine optimisation, to Google Analytics and Facebook Ads. Your involvement in your website shouldn’t end once it’s live.

Bonus Tip! If you’re looking to improve an existing website

If you are not creating a new website from scratch, but you’re just looking to improve an existing one – ask yourself the exact same questions. Make sure that throughout any additions, the core purpose of your website remains clear and accessible. Know why you are adding on a particular feature at this particular point, who the additional content or functionality is for, who will maintain it (don’t add a blog if you’ve got nobody to write!), and how you’ll know whether it was successful.

#web #design #howto