Internet experts agree that the shelf-life of a website is around two to three years. Web technologies (such as new web programming languages) and communication/marketing opportunities (such as Facebook and Twitter) advance at an exponential rate. Eventually your old website (only 5 years in real-time but a generation in virtual-time) becomes so difficult and cumbersome to use, that you are forced to abandon it.
At some point, it’s time to either refresh your website or build a new one. If you’ve done your homework and you know what you want to accomplish on the web, the next question is – who will build it?
We all have a nephew or an Uncle Fred that can build websites. In fact, there are numerous website templates available that would lead anyone to believe that just by downloading this FREE template they’re in business. But nephews write exams and Uncle Fred goes to Florida every year and it’s the business that suffers because Uncle Fred forgot to show everyone how to send out an email blast before he left.
The biggest problem with non-professionals is that they can be stretched beyond their skill set. They often create websites that are not easy to use – easy to them, but not necessarily easy for the staff.
A website is a ‘virtual’ storefront. If remodelling your storefront requires a professional contractor, it stands to reason that remodelling your website requires a professional too.
Professional website developers are more expensive – true – but you get what you pay for.
Professional website developers are in the internet business.
Most website developers make it their business to be aware of the latest trends in web technology and internet marketing. They have completed the Web 101 course. They are aware of the importance of Search Engine Optimization and Marketing. They are up on ‘Title and Description Tags’ and the latest advances to make your website more visible to search engines.
A good website developer will be one step ahead of you and quick to provide some interesting business solutions. They are already using the current social media and web applications such as Facebook, Twitter, Flick’r and YouTube. They understand the importance of incorporating those functions into a website.
They move quickly. With dedicated staff, they can build a website in a matter of weeks.
They offer customized packages.
Often, you don’t need to start from scratch, as most website developers have already done the work and created templates that provide pre-programmed functions such as: CRM; e-mail, newsletter and blogging functions; social media; analytics – and user-friendly content management systems that make it easy for anyone to update or modify a website.
Don’t shy away from these new technologies it’s a matter of embracing them. It’s like upgrading to a new cell phone or blackberry. At first it’s the bells and whistles are overwhelming, but after a month of use, you wonder how you ever lived without them.
And your business might not be ready for all the new tools right out of the gate. Even if you aren’t ready to blog today, the function is still there and can be easily added to your website tomorrow. A good website developer is only too happy to build a customized business solution or help create a work-around on an existing technology. The question to ask them is how do I do this?
A number of industries including real estate, automotive and marine, have taken the lead in providing web solutions for their dealers. The wine industry is a good example.
A leading manufacturer of make-your-own-wine kits, Winexpert has teamed up with a professional website developer, Azaris Website Design & Development, to create a complete online business solution for their dealers and stores. One example of their collaboration is the Winexpert dealer Brew Cellar.
Professional website developers often offer web-hosting and 24-hour support.
Imagine your email not functioning and making only one phone call to get it fixed! And with support services, if you can’t figure out how to get your logo into your newsletter, it’s a matter of sending an email or picking up the phone. After launching a website, a good developer spends the time walking you through the site and training the staff.
But how do you wade through the resumes? Like used car salesman on every corner, there’s a different website developer every time you check your in-box. Besides finding someone that you want to do business with, what else should you look for?
Begin with their website – what does it look like?
Do you like it? Have they posted a portfolio of previous work? Always an excellent reference point. And check out those websites. Are they beautifully designed with lots of techno-gizmos, or, are they easy to use – navigate and read? Do these websites have applications that your business requires – like PayPal. The more extensive the portfolio, the more experience the website developer has had in using web applications to create business solutions.
What’s their pitch?
On their website is there a list of business solutions they can provide such as email marketing or blogging? Ask for a tour of their Content Management System to gauge just how easy it is to use. Keep referencing your website checklist and ensure that if they can’t provide all the business solutions you need, can they offer you a different solution. And do they have ideas of their own?
Begin the discussion with what you want to accomplish with your website – and then judge the response.
Do they sound stunned when you mention SEO and SEM?
If there is silence when you mention internet marketing or social media, then perhaps they aren’t as techno-savvy as they appear to be.
Do they bombard you with techno-babble speak?
Run to the hills if they start describing their programming language. Why should business care that a website is prepared in Ajax, Joomla, or PHP? It’s not techno-babble speak that business needs. They need to know how to retrieve their email remotely.
Set your goals as what you want to accomplish with your website and find a website developer that can meet them. No website is an end in itself, any more than a phone number or a business card. It is merely a means to end.
Let a professional create your next website and concentrate on what you do best – running the business. In the web world – content is king – and good content is the mandate of business. A pretty website is just that – a pretty website. Without current content and dedicated website management, a visitor will never convert to a customer.