Creating and managing your online business requires you to follow the same basic principals of any business - relying on sound Business Strategies. There are however, a few practices that differ or that just are unique to an online business. Here we share our views and experience with you to help you develop a more effective and profitable online business.

How to define your website requirements

Let me say right up front space- there is no single Web solution that fits all needs for all businesses. Your business operates in a certain manner, you have a wide range of information content to deliver and your outcomes will vary to those of other businesses.

Whilst it sounds simple - purchase yourself a template, install it on a Web server and just add content - then your website is away and running. The truth of the matter in the real world is that this is rarely the case and as for achieving a positive result, there is little likelihood of success if that is all you have done.

So what should you consider when defining your website requirements? Firstly you should follow the approach we suggest in our article "Develop Your Website with the End in Mind". The detail of aspects that you should consider and how you approach in defining your website is spelt out in that article. In this article however, we offer the specific details of those things that you should consider when following the aforementioned approach.

Website content

This may seem straightforward but experience shows that this is the biggest challenge faced by new website owners. Time spent on planning your content needs will be well spent. In determining the content to go into your site, consider the following:

  • what pages and words are required and what structure and styling should be applied to your content
  • what images do you want to use in your banners, illustrations and icons
  • product data if you are setting up an online shop including images descriptions and any attachments that may need to be included
  • multimedia may be relevant so consider what video and audio content compliments your site and the source of such material
  • other sources of information that you may need to automatically display from other systems within your own site
  • blog articles that you will be writing
  • user contributed content such as discussion forums
  • inclusion of digital magazines

Maintaining Your Content

Content Is King is a long held belief that is even more relevant now than ever and requires fresh and up to date content be fund in your website. In achieving this you will want to consider:

  • which content within your website will need to be updated
  • how often will Web updates need to be performed on your web site content
  • what means for updating content are available to you
  • do you have the people  resources available for updating your Web content and do they have the necessary skills (if not where and how can these be obtained)
  • where will the Web content updates get new materials from

Website Functionality

This is about what visitors to your website will be able to do and how they will do it - what we embody in the graphical user interface design where we consider how we will do what need to be done. Aspects that should be considered would include:

  • are areas of your site to be restricted to different classes of uses
  • what information do you want to collect from visitors and how is that information to be processed
  • how can Web forms be design to be minimalistic but still give you a critical data you need
  • if you are selling products how you deal with pricing, shipping, up selling of products, handling product variations such as colour/sites to name but a few
  • what payments will you want to handle online and by which payment mechanism - PayPal or direct merchant payments collection
  • is there a need to interface your website into external systems in any way e.g. accounting, POS, ERP
  • how do these web processes integrate into your other business functions

Internet Marketing

As we continually stress, merely building your website is not enough. In order to be truly effective you need to market your site. The degree to which you do so will depend on your objectives. Aspects that should be taken into consideration fully digital marketing campaigns are:

  • your overall inbound marketing strategy
  • identifying the digital marketing channels available and ranking these in accordance with their capability to your needs
  • what tools can be used to disseminate content to your marketing channels
  • your contacts database space-space the State, currency and management thereof
  • the degree of alignment with your other marketing initiatives
  • your use of search engine optimisation (SEO), pay per click (PPC), social media, banner advertising, video
  • use of virtual services e.g. chat, walk on promotions
  • sending of auto responders
  • loyalty programs
  • on-site promotion initiatives
  • e-mail marketing strategies on how to best deliver

Performance Measures – Analytics

Once you have your website in place, it has been optimised, processes are in place to continue with such and you have a good proactive marketing plan in place, you need to see how effective these initiatives are.

Measuring is relatively straightforward in principle but like many aspects of Internet technologies, the devil is in the detail. Implemented correctly and with dedication, a range of web reporting tools can provide very useful analytics data to assist you in knowing what is really happening by way of visitor patterns to help you identify what might need to be changed.

Different tools are needed for different aspects of measuring website and general Internet traffic however in general terms the following should be considered:

  • measuring and analysing your website traffic and visitor patterns (Google analytics is a good start but not necessarily enough for some larger websites with more complicated process and communication paths)
  • examining user interactions with your webpages by way of heat mat tools can be very useful in identifying the nature of user interaction with individual pages and page layouts
  • measuring the level of social media interaction and general engagement
  • marketing analytics to measure the performance of your individual inbound marketing activities

The above is certainly not a comprehensive list of aspects that you need to consider in defining your website requirements. Obviously there is a great deal more detail that lies behind many of the points raised above, however these should provide you with an excellent framework for you to work from when defining your requirements for your new website leading to a more complete and effective website design.

If you would like assistance with your own website design project, Top Left Designs can help you with all of the above areas and we invite you to contact us for an obligation free discussion.

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