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Five Key Points you NEED to effectively brief your Web Designer

Building a website for your small business should not be a spur of the moment decision.

And yet, as a website developer, I often meet new clients who have decided to build a website for their business but they haven’t yet considered how that site is going to improve their business.

Some still view a website as an online business card and, as I’ve covered in my blog posts before, a website can be so much more if it is planned and implemented correctly. The key to this effectiveness is carefully-considered planning – at every stage along the line.

Before picking up the phone or emailing a web designer for the first time, there are a few key questions that need your attention to ensure that the website development stages are quick and the final website is more effective when it is launched.

#1 What is the Key Objective of the Website?

Very simply, in as fewer words as possible (one sentence if possible), write down a measurable objective for your business website. This single sentence will guide everything else that happens along the way to development your site. The measurement is usually written as a percentage.

i.e. Increase the Monthly Sales of XYZ company by 20%

#2 Who is the target audience?

With point #1 clearly in mind, now look at what kind of site visitor is going to make that measurable objective possible.

Who will be looking for your products/services? Where are they? How old are they? What gender?

Be as specific as you can – this information will help your designer plan and style your site.

i.e. 18 to 60-year-old men interested in recreational fishing around the North QLD area.

#3 What kind of content will your audience be seeking at your site?

After identifying the audience that you want to attract to your site, grab a pencil and paper to map out the type of content that these potential customers will respond do. Will they want to read text blogs like this or would they respond better to video or imagery? Maybe a mixture would work best?

What kinds of information / products / services will they be seeking from you and, most importantly, what information do you want them to have about you and your business?

i.e. Information about the latest estuarine fishing equipment, videos on how it is used, fact sheets on where the fishing are biting….

#4 What are your competitors doing online?

Get this information in conjunction with point #1 – Get online and see what your competitors are doing with their websites. Google all relevant information regarding your target audience. Your top competitors will generally be at the head of the list – What kinds of content are they using? What appeals to you on their sites? What doesn’t?

Although your web developer should do this research as well, it will be highly beneficial to you as your website takes shape and you know what you are aiming for.

#5 What timeframe do you have to complete the site?

Armed with the knowledge that designers work better when given a timeframe (I know I do), when you want to launch your site to the world? Keep in mind, you must be able to “hold up” your end of the bargain and ensure that you can provide the content that the site requires for launch. Even the most experienced developer will baulk at a proposed launch date if they don’t have the content for the site.

Conclusion

By having the above planning completed/documented before contacting a designer, you will also be able to brief them clearly and then ascertain whether they can do the job at hand.

Don’t leave your small business’ website goals up to the designer. Remember that no-one knows your business better than you.

Have you got all the above planning done and are ready to go ahead and contact a designer?

Get in touch with Tropical Coast Web Design on 0488 406 050 and we will work with you all the way (and even beyond) to a great, customer converting website for your small business.

The five key features that your small business website needs

Creating a small business website is a daunting task for anyone who has very little or no online experience.

Even the smallest bit of research will unleash a whole range of techno-jargon and online marketing advice from all angles – enough to make anyone’s head spin.

To avoid this overload of information, a new site should be treated like a V8 Supercar heading out to the track for the first time. It must be built on a solid framework but will be constantly tweaked throughout its life span into an efficient, customer-converting machine.

To provide this solid framework, there are five essential items that must be taken into consideration from day one:

#1 An Easy-to-Use Navigation Menu

The menu system of the site must be easy to find on the page, simple to understand and uncluttered in appearance. Refine the main options (those visible straight away) down to the bare necessities and “drop-down” menus should be used to display any extras that need to be accessed during a visitor’s time on the website.

#2 An “About Us” Page

It’s been found that today’s online consumer likes to “connect” with businesses before they purchase products or engage services.  A good “About Us” page should be jargon-free and clearly display who you are, where your business has evolved from and why it exists now. Once again, keep to the essentials but at the same time, don’t leave any important information out.

Be sure to also include a “Contact Us” page on the site with a contact form that sends directly to the site manager’s email.

#3 Helpful, free content

Another way to create a connection with your customers to provide helpful content that will improve the way they interact with your products and services. This can be achieved through a variety of ways including FAQ pages, videos, customer forums and downloadable PDFs. By adding high-quality free content to your site, visitors are more likely to return in the future to what else you have to offer them.

#4 Customer Testimonial Page

Whilst writing your own content will go a long way towards selling your products and services to site visitors, nothing works better than testimonials from your current customers.

Select a few satisfied clients that you have worked with and send them a friendly email requesting a short description of their experiences with your business. You may be surprised how quickly you will receive a response from them – most people love to reward good service.

#5 A Clear Call-To-Action

Everything above counts for nothing if you don’t provide a quick, easy to find Call-To-Action (CTA) somewhere prominent on your site. The CTA is the method by which a site visitor chooses to become a customer. For example, on a motel’s website, a “Make a Booking” button provides as the Call-To-Action. On an eCommerce site, you’ll find a shopping trolley icon marked “Checkout”.

The CTA may be different for each business but the rules for displaying them are the same – it must be eye-catching, clearly defined and be designed in such a way to encourage interaction.

Without a Call-To-Action, a website quickly becomes an online brochure.

Conclusion

There are loads of other elements that help make a successful website that converts visitors to customers. These five items will allow you to create a solid framework from which to build the remainder of your site.

In future blog posts, we will cover some of the extras that will add even further value to your site and help to build your business in both brand and bottom line.

For help getting your small business website off the ground, get in touch with Tropical Coast Web Design. We’ve been working with small business since 2007.

Five Reasons Emails are better than Phone Calls

In the initial phase of designing a website for a client, it is very important for me to make a connection via a quick phone call to that person. Even if it is just to confirm that there is a real person behind my email, this initial phone call is often the “closer” on the deal and we can start doing business.

Beyond this however, I am real advocate of email only business. I find that phone calls are often unnecessary, cause disruption to the work flow of business in general and eat away at time that could easily be used more efficiently.

Here are five reasons why email HAS to be the communication line of choice when working with any type of business.

#1 You can’t review a phone call before you have it

Phone calls are often spur of the moment. You can’t look over what you are going to say during a conversation – it just happens. And, as with spur of the moment events, things can be skipped, left out or forgotten completely. This will often to a second, time consuming phone call.

With emails, you can type your thoughts and views quickly, review them and edit before clicking the SEND button. If something is forgotten, it takes less than a few seconds to quickly shoot out a second email however this is less likely to be needed as you have already reviewed the content of the first! Time saved!

#2 It’s hard to set aside time for phone calls

Unless you have a secretary with an iron clad policy to follow (no phone calls between certain hours), you invariably are going to have phone calls dotted throughout your day. Just you are just getting “into the flow” of a new project or work assignment then, bang, in comes that phone call. It takes you away from that important work, breaks your concentration and, when the call is finished, you have to get back into the zone, if possible.

Most efficient email users set aside a portion of their day to use specifically for the purposes of email. They know that, for example, between the hours of 8.00am – 9.00am the emails will be looked at and the correspondence for the day will be taken of – free of interruption.

#3 Emails are easier to focus on the point (no unnecessary small talk)

Phone calls are always filled with some small talk (how’s the family, did you watch the game, great weather we’re having) just to keep the conversation at a friendly level. Whilst there is nothing wrong with this, this type of talk is generally reserved for lunchtimes and outside of work hours. It slows productivity and breaks the work flow of the day.

With an email, you can start with curt greeting and launch straight into what needs to be said. No small talk, just action.

#4 You can’t attach anything to a phone call

Have you noticed that very few businesses are utilising the fax machine these days? Some are still holding onto this archaic, out-dated piece of technology but most have realised if you want get that document, file, photo, image or form to its intended recipient, there is no substitute to the prompt delivery of an email attachment. Enough said.

#5 Phone calls can interruption to the work flow of a day

As already pointed out, the main factor against the use of a phone call in favour of an email is the sheer interruption that it can cause to a day. Some people can handle the constant flow of calls but most business people need to focus on the work that needs to be done. Scheduled email times and less phone calls will allow them to do just that.

Of course, I will be the first to admit that if you are dealing with anyone who is not “on top” of their emails then a phone call must be the way to go. Personally, I subscribe to the GTD methods of organisation and this helps me to keep my inbox at zero. It only takes few minutes a day (which I set aside) to answer emails, reply and sort other items into actionable folders.

Be there for customers 24/7 (even when you’re asleep)

Sit back for a moment and think of a business that you deal with regularly – one that you enjoy returning to time after time. Now, delving a little deeper, why do you go back to that particular business each time? Is it just for the price of the goods and services?

Chances are (with the exception of the big chain stores), it’s not – you go back for their customer service.

At the end of the day, businesses are often not remembered by the goods and services they provide. They are remembered for the helpfulness of their customer service and the promptness with which it is given.

To the small business owner, time is always valuable and providing a customer service that is high quality, helpful and prompt can take a fair chunk of this time. Fortunately, with the right systems in place, you can provide this level of service through your website.


Here’s five website-based systems that could work for your business:

The Helpdesk

Easy to install on most content management systems, a helpdesk provides a simple form for customers to complete which is sent directly via email to the business. With this system, unless you have staff available 24/7, be sure to indicate on your site the hours that the form will be supported. Outside of these hours, link the Helpdesk straight to the FAQ (see below).

LiveChat

A very popular option, this system incorporates a small pop-up chat window (usually in the lower right of the website screen) that is answered by the business’ staff. When staff are not available (i.e. serving customers in a physical store), most live-chat systems will display a message asking the visitor to leave a question that will be answered ASAP.

Troubleshooting Guides

These guides can come in a variety of forms, the most popular being factsheets and tutorial videos. Without taking valuable time to answer the same question from a multitude of customers, a guide can help the customer work through the problem themselves. A great example of troubleshooting guides can be found at the front counter of any Bunnings store with their variety of how-to pamphlets.

FAQ (Frequently Answered Questions)

Similar to the troubleshooting guides above, the FAQ of a website can be built over time to answer those questions that pop-up repeatedly. With a FAQ, you only have to answer it once and that answer is then available to anyone with the same question in the future. An additional part of an FAQ can include a “smart” form that starts looking for an answer as you begin to type – like Google does when you start to search.

Community Forum

Provided you can generate a “following” for your products and services, a forum is great for customers to start helping each other. Users can post questions and they can be answered by either other forum members or members of staff that are available. Once a forum starts “rolling” along, they can be very effective in generating a “tribe” of followers for a business.


Start small and build your support system over time using the questions that you hear every day. By using actual customer enquiries, you can answer exactly what your cliental needs to know without having to re-invent the content yourself. And by simply setting aside a small amount of time each day/week, you can build a resource that will not only save you time and money but can help your customers even while you sleep.

Note: If you opt to use the non-automated systems such as LiveChat and Helpdesk, your staff must ensure that answers are provided as soon as humanly possible, especially with LiveChat where a customer may be waiting for the answer.

Tropical Coast Web Design