Each month, we chat with industry experts to bring you the latest insights, arming you with tools and knowledge that could help your business grow.
In this edition of Business Basics, we talk to designer and developer, Raquel Fernandes, about the importance of the web and how small businesses can improve their online presence. Raquel runs her own consultancy The Mighty Fox, through which she delivers web design and build solutions for businesses of all shapes and sizes – giving them an effective platform from which to find new customers, and engage with existing ones.
Even in the most rudimentary of industry sectors, the web has a huge influence on consumers, and SMEs need to stay abreast of emerging technologies if they’re to continue competing. Here, Raquel shares her knowledge and insights of how businesses should approach a web build, and offers tips on creating a strong, functional and scalable website.
Read the complete Business Basics Q&A with Raquel below.
Hello Raquel, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. There are still businesses which do not place great value on their website, do you believe there are any businesses which do not require a strong web presence?
There are two stats I would quote in answer to that:
So, the real question is, can you afford to lose out on that amount of potential business?
Also, having a professional-looking web presence is a great way to legitimise your business, and showcase the level of quality a customer can expect from working with you. To me, it would be insane not to leverage that.
Designing and developing a website is a long and often expensive process. Do you have any tips to help business owners and project managers develop accurate budgets and delivery schedules?
My biggest tip would be to know what you want before you approach a developer or agency. Yes, they know their stuff and should guide you along the way, but if you have a clear vision of your end-goal beforehand, your quotes will be more accurate from the outset and you’re less likely to see the timeframe spiral.
I would also suggest being totally honest about everything you want from the site, including potential growth. Don’t be tempted to leave things off the list hoping to tack them on at the end for a cheaper estimate. In the long-run, you will pay in time or in money.
Once the project is underway, resist the temptation to make too many micro-tweaks outside of dedicated revision/feedback phases, or move the goal-posts on the project. What may seem like a ‘quick change’ here and there can have a real knock-on effect.
Obviously, it is important that businesses have a strong relationship with their web developer. But how closely should the in-house project manager work with the developer? How often should they meet? And how much should the developer be encouraged to offer suggestions and solutions?
As a general rule, the more seasoned the developer, the fewer touch-points you’re likely to need. However, you should be pragmatic about project management here. Do you trust the developer fully understands your requirements and is capable of staying on track without you looking over their shoulder? If so, you don’t need a weekly meeting for an end-of-the-month deliverable.
On the suggestions front, hopefully you hired your developer for their skill and expertise. Not being open to their input is, quite frankly, not making the most of your investment. Encourage them to offer suggestions and solutions to your heart’s content, and milk their knowledge for all it’s worth.
When creating a website, businesses can choose between a custom Content Management System (CMS) or an off-the-shelf product. Which would you recommend and why?
Nine times out of 10 I'd recommend off-the-shelf. In fact, I've built my business around it as I design and build websites exclusively on the WordPress CMS (the self-hosted version).
You get so much flexibility nowadays to create e-commerce, blogging and even full recruitment platforms through plugins and add-ons, as well as custom code designs to your desired spec. Off-the-shelf no longer means unoriginal.
Unless you’re creating functionality that is truly unique or quite complex, there is no need to re-invent the wheel when that extra time and money could be better invested elsewhere in your business.
For businesses working with media partners and digital agencies to hone their ongoing activity, should these third-parties be included in the decision-making process of web design and development?
For the sake of your timeframe, budget and sanity - be cautious of the process being hijacked by third-party steering. It is, however, important to be inclusive in your initial spec and make sure that the platform you end up with is fit-for-purpose. It might be useful to have a consultation process in the very early stages, perhaps before you've approached a developer, in which a third-party can submit their recommendations.
I would suggest weighing up how much influence a third-party might have on your long-term plans and make your decision on how involved they should be based on that.
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It is important to future-proof a new website as much as possible, but it is inevitable that it will one day become outdated and require a refresh. Should a web development project have a projected lifecycle, so stakeholders can anticipate updates to the build, and complete redesigns?
Each site should have an approximate lifecycle and you can defer to your web developer for what that may be in your specific case. However, you’re keeping pace with changing technology and design trends, so they may find it difficult to be precise.
How on-trend and modern was your site design when it launched? How up-to-date was the technology when it was built? Is your website functionality complex? Have there been major shifts in your industry’s standard? Is the site regularly maintained and do you make regular adjustments based on analytics feedback? All of these questions will influence that timeframe.
Finally, what is the biggest mistake businesses tend to make when designing and creating their website?
Not bringing themselves to the party! Some businesses are so focused on coming across as professional that they completely neglect to show any personality on their site. In other words, they make themselves bland and forgettable. Regardless of what type of business you're in, your website's first task is to connect with your ideal client or target audience enough to get them to stay and continue to read. Robotic professionalism is not the biggest motivator to stick around.
For more insights and knowledge on bolstering your web presence, we’ve listed several related Business Basics issues below:
And there’s more where that came from – head to the Gazprom Energy blog to access our complete collection of Business Basics Q&As, as well as other helpful guides and features.
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