Planning Ahead: 3 Things to Keep in Mind Before You Build Your Website

plan ahead

We entrepreneurs known for being independent and doing things ourselves. For the true DIYI-er, building your own website can be a real playground. But getting ahead of yourself can cost you additional time, frustration and even money later when you realize there are things you should have taken into consideration and didn’t.

As with any project you undertake, a little planning goes a long way. Here are some pointers:

Do your research. It’s tempting to use a site builder because someone you know used it to build their site, but is it really the right fit for you? Ask yourself some key questions as you research which tool best fits your need. Will your site need to include an online store? Do you plan to incorporate a blog into the site? How will you collect and store customer information from contact forms and other interactive features of your site? The answers to these and other questions can impact which website builder you use and how you use it. Even if you are not adding an online store now, but think you will in the future, make sure the builder you are using can accommodate them.

Map out your pages. Before you start building, think about what pages you need to include and what content should be on each one. A flowchart can be a very helpful tool in this process as you map out pages and sub-pages. For example, rather than describing all your services in detail on a single page, it might be better to have a summary page with links to sub-pages that each describe a particular service. When it comes to web page content and keeping your visitor’s attention, in most cases less is more.

Incorporate your branding. Your website is a marketing tool that should be a part of your overall marketing plan and reflect your brand. When choosing a website template (or designing your own), think about how those colors and design elements can be used in your other marketing materials – business cards, brochures, etc. The last thing you want is one look for your website, a different look for your blog and a different look for your printed materials. Consistency is key in getting the public to recognize your brand when they see it.

These are just a few of the important things to keep in mind when planning your website.

As always, if this is something you would rather hand off to someone who has been there and done that, Freestyle Business Solutions is happy to help.

Next week’s Website Wednesday topic: Using Images on Your Website

 

Using Forms to Make Your Website More Interactive

Welcome to our new blog series called Website Wednesday! If you are a website DIY-er, this series is for you. Each week we will explore practical things you need to know to make sure your site is the best it can be.

This week’s topic is forms. Forms are multipurpose tools that can be used by your site visitors to submit questions or concerns, request additional information or get on your mailing list. Here is the short version of how they work:

Your customer enters information into the form’s fields (name, email address, etc) and clicks “Submit.” You then receive an email with the information your customer submitted so you can take the appropriate action – follow up with them to address their questions or concerns, send them the information they requested, add them to your mailing list, etc.

Forms are useful because they do two things:

  1. They make your site more interactive, and
  2. They give you control of what information your site visitors submit.

The Interactivity Factor
People like content they can respond to immediately. You can have your site visitors send their information or their request to you through an email, but they typically have to leave your site to do so. Once they do, they may or may not make their way back.

Forms allow your visitors to contact you directly and immediately from right on your web page, and once they click “Submit,” they are more likely to continue to look around than if they have to leave your site to contact you. Anytime you can engage them in an interactive behavior, you are creating a connectivity between them and you that opens the door for continued interaction.

The Control Factor
Forms allow you to control what information you collect from your visitors. If someone sends you an email, they may or may not provide you all the information you need to adequately address their issue and/or contact them for follow up. With forms, you decide in advance what information you need them to provide and include fields for that information in your form.

Do you need their daytime phone number, email address or the name of their business? Include fields for that. Do you need to know which product they are requesting information about? Include a drop-down selection box where they can select from a list of available products.

How Do I Do That?
Depending on what site building tool you use, there may be a form designer already built in. If not, or if it doesn’t give you the flexibility you want, there are free and low-cost form designers available online that you can easily embed into your site. These easy-to-use tools usually allow you to choose the color and look of your forms so they are a natural extension of your website. Some are free, some have a free trial before you pay for the ongoing service, and some have a free limited version that offers you a certain number of forms and/or monthly responses in addition to upgraded paid plans that allow more forms and responses. You will need to try to estimate how much traffic your form will get in determining which form designer is the best fit for your site.

A few to check out include Jotform, Formsite, EmailMeForm, Zoho and Freedback.*

As always, if this is something you would rather hand off to someone who has been there and done that, Freestyle Business Solutions is happy to help.

Next week’s Website Wednesday topic: Planning Ahead

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*Freestyle Business Solutions does not endorse or guarantee any of the products or services listed here. The above list is provided for informational purposes only.