When you hear the phrase “modern website” it might conjure up thoughts of expensive design elements that go hand in hand with complicated development. In some cases that would be correct. However, there are design ideas for modern looking websites– continuous scroll, mobile responsive, full screen header images – that are quite simple to achieve. That’s true even for those who are not in a position to invest a large amount of money, yet still need to bring their company’s online presence into the modern era.
If you’ve decided it’s time to invest in making a modern website for your business, there are some very critical steps you must take to ensure a positive experience and a quality outcome.
How to make a modern website for your business
1. Start smart
Building a modern website is a bit like building a new house: there are many decisions to be made. Is the home a primary residence or vacation home? What style do you prefer? How large do you need it to be? Then there are decisions about the foundation, framing, utilities, interior and exterior finishes, etc. Of course you will rely on a professional architect and/or builder, yet you’ll still be involved in each and every critical decision.
The same holds true when building a new modern website. The experts will guide you but the choices should be based on your goals for the project.
First, understand there are many components to a website. Understanding this, and creating a smart plan before any design or development begins, is a key step. Some critical questions include:
What is the purpose of the website?
- Represent your brand as an online brochure
- Generate leads or sell products (these require both search engine optimization – SEO – and ongoing marketing services which will require larger budgets)
- Provide customer support or educational resources
What are the “foundation” choices and implications for each?
- Custom framework (completely unique to your business)
- Open source Content Management System (CMS) such as WordPress
- Custom design or template (the latter will save time and money)
What does the “architecture and decor” look like?
- Number of pages
- Forms for capturing subscribers and leads
- Custom photography or stock images
- Product images
- Search engine optimization
What “utilities” do you need?
- Hosting, security and maintenance
- Online ordering/shopping cart
The point is that building a new modern website involves many choices. You should make these choices yourself (with guidance) because you know what is best for your business. Understanding there are many components and considerations and taking the time to make the right choices from the start will ensure for a successful outcome.
2. Build for the buyer
Think about who you sell to. A modern website should be built for them, not you!
Buyers today research their problems first and contact a solution provider second. When someone lands on your home page it should be immediately clear to them what you do. There is limited time to make an impact (a matter of seconds). So, be clear and concise. Don’t make the buyer think too hard or search too much.
Take the time to discover what your buyers’ problems are. Then offer helpful content that answers their questions and concerns. Create an experience that allows your buyer to recognize themselves and see you as a valuable resource. Provide ways for them to learn more.
This is not easy stuff, and in most cases, not something a web designer / developer can help you with. After all, they do not know your buyer. In fact, you may not know as much about them as you need to know. Take time to develop buyer personas to help inform your decisions.
Learn more about using buyer personas to guide your modern website development: Buyer Personas: How the Best Kept Secret in Marketing Will Totally Disrupt Your Strategy
3. Research vendors & learn about costs
Yes, you can get a modern website for a reasonable amount of money! You just need to have a good understanding of what it is you need and what you are willing to forgo (hence point #1 Start Smart).
For example, an expensive custom design & framework may not be critical for your website. Plenty of really good modern websites are created from templates and built in a CMS (content management system). Custom photography is another added expense that you may decide is not necessary to accomplish your goals. Stock images may work just fine.
If lead generation or product sales is your goal, then you will need ongoing digital marketing. That will require a search engine optimization expert, not just the “basic best practice SEO” implementation that many web designers and developers include in their services.
Armed with a purpose, insights about your buyer, and some sense of what you want the project to look like, it is time to understand the service provider options. It’s important to understand the difference between a marketing agency, a creative agency, a web design / developer, and a search engine optimization (SEO) expert.
- Many marketing agencies offer a full range of services; including branding, graphic design, website design and development, SEO, and ongoing marketing services such as email marketing, social media marketing, content marketing and so on.
- Creative agencies usually stick to the branding and creative side, offering logos, graphic design, website design and development, collateral, and trade show support.
- Search engine optimization experts offer monthly services that layer onto the website design and development so that your website will rank higher in search results.
Take the time to talk with a few different types to learn the differences and determine which is the best choice to help you reach your goal of building a new modern website.
4. Determine your budget & vet options
A new modern website is not a commodity and choosing who to partner with for this important investment should not be treated as such. There are many excellent choices, probably too many!
With a new understanding of the costs and types of solution providers, set a budget that is realistic for the outcome you are looking to achieve. Create a checklist of the things you must have and those things you can do without. Contact 2 – 4 companies for consideration. Your vetting process should also include the following:
- Do they have a clear and detailed process with set timelines for input and feedback?
- Are clear expectations set from the start so there are no surprises or setbacks?
- What is included and what is not? Many website proposals do not include copy writing and/or photography. Will they provide ongoing hosting and support? What are the additional costs for these services?
- Review their portfolio. Do you like their design aesthetic?
- Talk to references. Did they stay on budget and on time? Where were there hiccups in the process and how did the vendor overcome challenges?
A modern website build proposal should be very detailed, and will need to be reviewed meticulously!
5. Be patient & go slow
I know, you want it now (or at least within the next 3 months). I want everything now too!
BUT remember (and this is the most important tip of all), building a website is like building a new house. There is a whole lot to consider and understand in order to achieve success and stay within budget. The fast builds often result in wasted money and a bunch of regrets or “should haves.”
Be smart. Take the time to build your new modern website right. You’ve waited this long!
Here are a couple of helpful resources for creating your new website: