As a Freelance SEO Consultant, I often get asked by new start ups to design and build a new website that will both serve the business and be SEO future-proofed. I also get asked by established companies to re-design existing websites that are not ranking in the search engines or are looking a little bit dated. Unfortunately, nine times out of ten, when this conversation begins, I ask what I believe to be the fundamental questions only to be met with blank faces and vacant stares.

So lovely people, for your delectation this week, I shall set out the questions that need to be asked before I, or anyone else, can build you a website so that you may consider your answers and get a good grasp of how you want your sparkly new website to look and function, before we end up with the blank faces of doom!

Summarise Your Business

The first thing that we’re going to need is a short summary of what your business does and where it’s heading. This shouldn’t be too hard; if you can’t encapsulate what you’re doing in a nutshell then you’re not quite at the website stage just yet. Have a think and come back to us.

Budget

This is possibly the most important factor that you need to be at least vaguely aware of before we start this conversation. Obviously, any SEO Consultant or Web Designer worth their salt will have an idea of how much the kind of website you require will cost but without a guide budget from you to work with it can be a case of ‘how long’s a piece of string?’ – even seemingly basic websites can have fairly complicated elements that bump the price up – so it’s worth bearing in mind your budget and being realistic about what can be achieved.

Starting Point

The questions here will revolve around whether or not you have a domain name yet and whether you have already either commissioned some designs or drafted some yourself. Every client is different here, as some will have a good knowledge of web design and know what they want whilst some will be clueless (and it is OK if you’re clueless about web design; that, after all, is what we’re here for!)

Branding

We’ll need to know how advanced your company branding is; for example, do you have a logo or will you need one designing? Do you have your company colours decided and what pantones are they? If you do not yet have your branding defined then you will need to have some ideas in order to work with the designers and create a brand that reflects your goals and target customer base.

Target Audience

Speaking of which, we’ll also need to know who your target customers are and who the website is being aimed at. For example, who will most likely use your website and how do you want them to perceive your business? This is a fundamental factor in designing a successful website, as the primary demographic will shape the style and feel of the website dramatically and, if got wrong at this stage, will affect the entire success of the website in the future.

Function

What product or service are you selling and how will this affect your website? For example, do you want your site’s primary function to be an advert for your business and a means of finding new customers or will it be an ecommerce website through which you will directly sell a product? A website’s function is again another factor that must be decided at the very beginning of the process, as it is very difficult to alter once the basic programming is laid down.

Competition

One of the best things that you can do before commencing this conversation is to research your competition and have a good idea of who your direct competition will be and where you will sit in relation to them. For example, you will need to know points of similarity and difference, as originality is one of the most important factors in successful SEO, so copying the competition is not a great idea. Having said that, it is always beneficial to know what you like about similar websites and why, as it will help to give the developers a better idea of what you want.

Impression

It may sound like fanciful marketing speak, but knowing what the single most important impression that you want your website to leave visitors with can greatly help shape the design and feel of your website. What on earth does that mean, I hear you cry! So, you may wish visitors to leave your website knowing that your company is reliable, or cheap, or trustworthy for example. In other words, what is the most essential quality that you want your website to impart?

Everything Else!

Obviously, the previous 8 points in no way cover everything that we will need to know in order to craft you a successful website that reflects you and your business effortlessly. On the contrary, there will be many more suggestions and ideas that you will have and there will additionally be factors that we will want or need to throw into the pot. Nevertheless, these are the basics that must be established right at the very beginning; everything else can be negotiated as we go along.

Designing and building a website is a long and complex project and it shouldn’t be any other way; if someone can build you a website in a couple of days then it’s unlikely that you will end up with something that will both reflect your business and ultimately increase your revenue.

Websites are delicate things and should be crafted with care, knowledge and experience; that is what the SEO Consultants, Web Designers and Programmers will bring to the table but the entire process is impossible without you, your business goals and your design inspirations. So do your research thoroughly and know what you want, then get in touch and we’ll make something brilliant.

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