1. Choose a free website creation tool.
Arguably the most popular are Wordpress (wordpress.com) and Tumblr (tumblr.com) - Wordpress is essentially a CMS (content management system) which allows you to update and maintain your website yourself. There are countless available templates (many of which are free). As your requirements and your budget grows, you can invest in additional functionality through Wordpress plug-ins.
2. Decide on a basic look and feel for your brand
Yep, you have a brand. Presentation is bigger than it’s ever been. With access to all the beauty that is Pinterest; word art and clashing colours simply no longer cut it. Fear not; your look and feel need not be complicated, it just needs to be clean and consistent. Choose 4 base colours max and 2 or 3 fonts tops. If in doubt; less is more.
3. Think visual
Out-of-focus photos snapped with your brick of a cellphone aren’t going to cut it. Organise decent photos of your product(s) to display on your site. Inexpensive tools like instagram (iPhone and Android app) make it easy to add an arty edge. Better yet, have a professional photographer snap some pics for you. Perhaps you can offer a trade exchange (products in exchange for services).
4. Invite feedback on your site.
Keeping in touch with your clients and users is crucial if you want your website to function and look the best it possibly can. Make sure you are easily contactable and communicate with your users.
5. Keep it simple
Your website no longer needs to be a complex and expensive platform with fancy built-in features. However, it should be easy to navigate, cleanly designed, and contain the most important information, such as contact and product details.
6. Make your contact details prominent and ensure they are up to date.
To me, there are few things more annoying in terms of websites than hard to find contact details or sites where the only contact option is an online form. It may well be that you have a potential client with a short deadline who wants to be able to call/mail you now. Allow them the option to do so. A map and your address should be included if relevant.
7. Buy a domain
Lovelycakes.wordpress.com is just nowhere near as professional as lovelycakes.co.za. Also, when you buy a domain you get a number of free email addresses included. Having a ‘company’ email address rather than a gmail address immediately ups your credibility. To buy your domain, check out companies like Hetzner, and Google.
8. Ensure that your website is well worded and succinct
If English (the universal language of websites) is not your strong point, have a skilled friend or a copy writer help you out.
9. Social media integration (the ability for users to share your content on Twitter, Facebook, etc), is vital.
A website without social network functionality is a missed opportunity to connect with a broader market and build real community around your product offering. It misses the opportunity to have your users market your business.
10. Interact on your website, answer your messages and watch your business grow.
If your business if fairly established and you’ve gone the DIY route for some time, it may be necessary to invest in a professionally designed website. Contact brand and design agencies for quotes. The bottom line is that people take your business seriously when you do.
Natasha McClymont is Managing Director of Fresh Brand Activation (www.freshba.co.za), a full-service agency that specialises in below the line marketing. Natasha and her colleagues have many years combined experience in the marketing industry and are passionate about working with their clients - big and small - to ensure business success.