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Website - Yes? No? What? How?

It may sound odd to some but whether to invest in a website, what website to build and how is still a frequently asked

question.

Let's start with the If. The short answer is Yes. A website is the contemporary version of a business card (remember those credit-card pieces of thick paper that people used to exchange when meeting for the first time?) and clients, potential or existing will expect you to have one. I'd say that the only exception to this rule may be self-employed advisers - consultants, coaches, mentors etc. that don't have any visual aspects to their business, which is actually themselves. Having said that, even they can benefit from a website that can cost very little to create and maintain. It portrays a more respectable image than not having one and can serve other purposes - booking appointments, publishing articles (you are reading this one after all...) and with proper Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), even generate business.

Now to the What - obviously there is no single formula to a good website but there are a few guidelines:

  • Show, don't tell: your website visitors don't work for you and will not like to spend time reading long texts so try to write as little as possible and show attractive imagery. If you are selling physical products you are lucky but finding the right images is easier said than done when talking for advisers (like myself). This doesn't mean you can substitute images for text. People will still not read it.

  • Simplify: try not to have too many pages, and certainly not too many sub-pages. Avoid sub-sub pages at all costs. The reason is similar to the first point - your website visitors don't work for you, will become frustrated if they have to search too hard to find what they need and simply quit.

  • Plan ahead: it is tempting to start building the website straight away but for the A/M reasons best practice is to start with a plan, even if only for the structure - what pages to include and how to present them.

  • Separate pages or one scroll? In the beginning all websites had separate pages for different purposes but in recent years scrolling pages (all the website on a single page that you scroll down to different parts) have become popular. There is no text-book answer to what's best (although there are SEO considerations I will not go into here) so go for what you like better. Common wisdom is that if you only have one product or family of products you can go for a scrolling page and if your offering is more diversified than separate pages are better but there is no winning formula here.

  • Remember mobiles: most surfing today is done on mobile phones and tablets so keep this in mind when you are planning what to write, what images to use and what structure to select. Think how your website will look on a mobile phone and how would you prefer it to look as a client.

  • Remember SEO: this is the trickiest part since SEO is complex (and keeps changing) but if you intend your website to be found on search engines it is important to think about it when planning the website. The common website building applications have SEO guides (that you should use if you are building your own) but the one thing to remember in the planning page is to know and use your search words* as much as possible in your texts. The rest you can do after the website is built.

Finally - How? There is an ongoing debate on whether to use a simple website building tool, a more complex one, or to hire a professional and just like the What there is no text-book answer and it changes by circumstances. I will try to offer some pointers (I have no affiliation with any of the tools I mention below) in ascending complexity, options, and cost levels:

  1. If your website is for PR only and you have the time and a minimal approach to computers, the simple website building tools (like Wix or SquareSpace) are great options. You don't need to be a programmer and they offer a lot of help. The downsides - you must host** the website on their servers and you are limited in what your website will be able to do (although there is a large number of applications you can use for various needs). Having said that, if you are only using it as a substitute business-card there is no reason to pay for someone else to build your website. It also means that you are free to make changes anytime you want with no extra cost.

  2. Although both Wix and SquareSpace have online shop applications you can use, they are quite limited so if you want to sell online with more flexibility and options, Shopify is a better solution (there are others with similar solutions - do your research). You will also need to host your website on their servers.

  3. If you want almost limitless control WordPress is your next option. It allows full control of your website but require more work. If this is what you need you will most probably want to hire a professional, although you can still do it yourself if you are a bit computer-savvy. A WordPress website can be hosted on any host so it may be cheaper in this aspect.

  4. If all this is not enough and you want an all singing, all dancing solution, or if you do't have the time nor the inclination to build your own, hire a website builder. The result will probably better than what you can do yourself but it will be more expensive and you will probably need to pay for every change you want to make to the original build.

If there is one single advice I can give about websites is that you don't need to fret about it too much. If your website is functional, easy to navigate and visually nice you will do fine.


* Search words - the phrases your potential clients will use when searching for what you want to sell

** Host - the server where your website lives


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