Use your Website to Boost your Business

Use your Website to Boost your Business

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Website monitoring service Pingdom recently released some fascinating statistics on the Internet in 2011. By the end of last year, there were 555 million websites, 300 million of which were added in 2011. Of the 2,1 billion Internet users across the globe, 118,6 million are in Africa.

As a result, there’s an increasing focus on generating traffic in the online marketing world. The fight is on for clicks, and businesses are spending thousands of hours pushing their websites to the top of search pages.

Quantifying success

But what makes a website great instead of just good?  A great website is one that produces a sale, not necessarily directly on the site itself, but perhaps through the user contacting the owner of the website in order to do business.  Even the smallest businesses should have a web presence, even if it’s just a few pages in the design, to create the perception of business stability and experience in the field and to portray a professional image to its potential customers.

“People are visually orientated,” says Leigh-Ann O’Hagan, owner of website design company LIT Creations. “They don’t like to read too much content. Rather, they prefer seeing visual content pertaining to the products and services being offered.

A good website will guide a user from the home page to the pertinent information in the easiest, most visually appealing way. Sites that provide too much information, or endless links to pages which only have one or two lines of text, confuse users and create irritation, resulting in a user leaving the site before any conversion to sales.”

What does a website cost?

Great websites do not have to cost a lot to create and maintain. The technology industry is continuously reducing its pricing to accommodate the growing user base.

“In the past, business owners had to secure the services of graphic designers and software developers to create a website if they didn’t have the design or html coding skills themselves,” says Carolyn Holgate, GM, MWEB Connect.

“Website template services make it quick and easy to set up and maintain a website, and add databases and e-commerce functionality. Template services also give you more features and flexibility than a blogging platform. A number of Internet service providers offer website template services free as part of their hosting offerings, so ask around.”

To avoid making expensive mistakes, spend time planning your website project, says Athena Turner, marketing and communications manager of web hosting company Hetzner. “The more complex the website, the more extensive the planning process needs to be,” she says. “Planning will ensure that most of the potential errors are discussed and avoided. Set realistic expectations of what the website is going to achieve for you. Clearly define its purpose from the outset.”

It’s important to be specific from the outset of the project when briefing your web designer. “Recognise the skill involved in developing a site. If it were as easy as formatting a word document you would have asked your marketing department to handle it.

“Designing a website is far more complex, so don’t expect sudden changes on your part to be received with enthusiasm from the web designer. Make your decisions in the planning process and then let your web designer get to work. Agree on clear progress milestones and keep accountability.”

Monique Verduyn
Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.
  • allchornr

    Where as much as it appears that Carolyn from Mweb is trivialising the process (very serious mistake on a business owner’s part), it seems that Athena from Hetzner’s advice is spot on.

    It doesn’t have to cost the earth, but if you’re serious about your business, please don’t get your nephew in high school to create it, and if you’re an accountant, architect, computer retailer or [insert other non-web-design career here] then hire a professional web designer / firm.

    Just thought that might help as the distinction between Carolyn and Athena’s advice is not drawn clearly.

  • onlineivan

    My advice for people with a low budget is: Get a website started by yourself (or your nephew) and get the process rolling with free advice from professionals. Then, when you really want your site to start doing something useful, prepare to pay a professional to either advise, train you/your staff or continue the development for you. It can all be started by you but to get real results you will need to budget for it. In my opinion to keep getting good results from your website you need to assign a good part of your marketing budget to it every month. Paying someone a once-off amount and expecting the site to do something is wishful thinking. It is an ongoing and worthwhile monetary investment.

  • Fudley Bez

    Just do it! There is no right or wrong in getting your business online. A lot of the prevailing “advice” is superfluous… spouted by many who are unqualified. The best you can do is seek the advice of other business owners in your industry who have gone before you.

    For your own purposes, be absolutely clear on your goals. Just a simple “what do I want my web-presence to achieve”?

    Then get someone do it for you who you can trust to meet the objective. Remember, the Titanic was built by professionals, so using boutique web developers is no guarantee of success. If you, yourself, know nothing then employ someone who has the experience. If my neighbour’s son had built a couple of good looking websites, I would certainly use him for my starter web presence.