All companies and even freelancers are now practically obliged to maintain their own up-to-date website, whether used simply for self-representation, the sale of products or to provide online services. Customers and prospects have come to expect being able to quickly find their business partners online and having a business website has become one of the pillars of a brand’s image, regardless of the industry or the size of the company. Although the vast majority of companies are already present on the internet, smaller businesses with limited budgets are finding it particularly difficult to keep up with the competition due to the rapid pace of technical development including mobile use and new digital marketing options.
“Too complicated” and “too expensive” are just a couple of the arguments used by many to postpone updating or redesigning their websites or online shops. The danger in this is that the website may be cumbersome to use on mobile devices, it may not be possible to use sophisticated digital marketing measures, and customers could be attracted to faster competitors.
A good website is difficult to make, especially when it comes to content. But excellent options are now helping even those less technically savvy users with limited budgets remain up to speed with the latest technology.
Web development – fast and cost-effective ways to create a modern website
There are now a variety of reliable, easy-to-use website builders, which remain technically up-to-date and can be used by almost anyone to build and then operate their own website quickly and cost-effectively. Of course, it is still important to have good content (text, images or videos) to fill the site with. Many of these builders are available free of charge, optimized for mobile devices, include several design templates and come with a dedicated domain name. Providers like Sitebuilder, weebly or WIX.com earn money by offering additional features.
So-called standard themes are a bit more complex, but also much more versatile and suitable for sophisticated applications. Thousands of themes are available for various different content management systems. These standard themes provide users with fully programmed websites that are usually very visually appealing and easily adaptable to individual requirements. Layouts and functionalities do not have to be elaborately programmed, thus significantly reducing the time required for development.
The themes are either available free of charge, for a one-time fee, or as a subscription. However, it takes technical expertise to configure and operate the theme. Untrained users have a particularly difficult time handling the wide range of options for adapting a site to one’s own needs. Nevertheless, they provide for a significant reduction in costs in comparison to individually programmed web sites, while still allowing for development of websites that meet all professional requirements.
Web development, however, is not simply a matter of developing an appealing visual appearance and a few functions. Therefore, experts should always be involved when it comes to more complex website requirements. This ensures sensible solutions to the questions addressed by the website while also avoiding having to make elaborate adaptations in the future. The process should include development of requirements specifications, clear definition of the user journeys, development of a suitable information infrastructure, the technical integration of any other systems including CRM and databases, and inclusion of options for digital marketing. A dwindling number of companies have the required expertise in-house.
Content remains king
When calculating the costs for a website, it is often forgotten that especially websites with a lot of content require a much greater effort to create and select text, images, charts or videos than the budget for the visual and technical development alone includes.
Not enough time can be spent on considering which content is displayed how and where on the website. The user journey is another aspect that requires careful consideration. What is presented to the website visitors and where? Where should they be lead? How fast can customers or applicants find the primary information they are looking for? …
The way people are gaining information is increasingly characterised by visual elements, which means the requirements of websites is also increasing in this regard. There is a growing demand for better imagery and video material, which has to be designed accordingly. Even the most perfectly programmed website is no longer attractive for today’s users if it includes poor quality image material. Experts are therefore also required for this. In order to remain within budget, focus should be placed on quality rather than quantity.
It is a common mistake to think that anyone can create text. Creating copy for websites is a speciality and requires adherence to many rules in terms of search engine optimization (SEO). After all, it should be possible to easily find the beautiful informative content online. In the best case, this means that it will be displayed on the first page of a Google search. Experts should be involved or at least provide training for this as well.
Content without marketing is found less often
Once the new website is placed online, it’s not enough to just wait for visitors. On the contrary, the website — and especially its content — has to be marketed in the best possible way. Particularly smaller and medium-sized businesses often have a difficult time distinguishing themselves in the competition for attention using SEO (link to the blog post). It is easy to be found if the internet user searches for a specific company name, but being found via Google as the supplier of product A or B in category C requires extensive effort.
Active marketing of one’s own content therefore plays an important role. If companies want to reach their target audiences, they have to create email campaigns, newsletters, Google ads, Facebook ads, social media channels, etc. for more website visitors. The user journey should also be considered carefully in this context. When does the customer click on a link in the newsletter or the Facebook ad, where do they land on the website, where should they be lead to, or what are they supposed to do? Should they visit the online shop, call the company, request to be called back, or something else?
Online marketing options are becoming increasingly sophisticated, as seen with targeting. The major advantages of many online marketing activities include the low entry costs, scalability and effectiveness, especially in the case of Google or Facebook ads.
Once the website is online, new informative or entertaining content is required as fodder for marketing on an ongoing basis. One thing is certain: nothing is more boring for visitors than a website that is not maintained or that doesn’t have something new to discover on a regular basis. This applies to large and small businesses alike.