Commissioning a New Website

Our good friend Iain Row at Prominent Media offers some sage advice about things to consider when you are looking to create a new website…

Over the past seventeen years, we have created several hundred websites for customers based in Milton Keynes, in the UK as a whole, and beyond. In the beginning we were generally creating an organisation’s first website, whereas now we are much more likely to be creating the third or fourth iteration, which changes the client conversation somewhat.

First-website customers were generally excited by the possibilities of an online presence that never sleeps, or so much as grumbles, no matter how many visitors it sees in the course of a day. Our main challenge here was setting realistic expectations in every area, from the amount of work needed to create the website in the first place, to the business benefits that could accrue. Many first-time customers underestimated the amount of work they would need to do to create the ‘copy’ – the words – that make up the website, or the photos that help bring the design to life.

As always, the results were better if they had the budget to engage a professional copywriter and/or photographer, but if they didn’t, then at least an understanding of how much work they would need to do made a huge difference.

Likewise, realistic expectations of the outcome made the initial budgeting easier. We’ve built websites that generate hundreds of thousands of pounds a month in online sales, and others that were built to attract the attention of a select group of people; in both cases, realistic expectations meant that we could propose a solution that would give a good return on the investment.

Recently, as we have been building version two, three, four or more of a website, the conversation has shifted. There is usually a body of website content already in place that has been indexed by search engines, and has to be carefully managed in the transition to a new website. Here, the challenge is not about managing expectations – the customer usually knows from experience what works – as much as looking for ways to add value to the site.

A new design is nice, but the value is multiplied if it means that the site can be viewed seamlessly on mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones. Migrating to a content management system means that the site can be easily kept up to date, but there is a job to do to make sure that you don’t lose search engine ranking in the process. Your suppliers may have other systems that you could benefit from integrating your website with, so that your visitors can place an order, make a booking, or register an enquiry without you lifting a finger.

Ideally your website developer will have experience with a website of similar size and, if you are migrating to a new version of a website, they need to demonstrate that they understand the issues raised by migrating from one to another. In every case, whether this is your first website or your fiftieth, you should be looking for a website developer that takes time to understand your business and the challenges you face before they start quoting prices.

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