Sometimes even the most established business owners struggle deciding what content and functionality should appear on their website. If you’re an entrepreneur or veteran business owner, this is important information for the digital side of your business. if you’re trying to move product, you probably want to sell it on your website. If you’re trying to move ideas you probably want a blog, perhaps with a newspaper or magazine layout. And if you’re a photographer, you probably want an image-heavy website with an attractive layout to sell your products or services…or maybe both.
But what else does your website need? As you know, there is much more to getting a website than just setting it up to sell widgets or motivate ways of thinking. Do you know what functions and programs your website really needs?
The first step in knowing what to include in your website is changing your mindset a bit so that you can think of this project similar to the way you might go about hiring a new employee. Lets start at the ground level. When looking to hire someone, you first need to write a job description. A job description includes a summary objective of the job, who the individual hired reports to, qualifications and special demands of the position, and, finally, job duties and responsibilities. Let’s think of your website in the same manner and make your website, literally, work for you as a member of your staff.
- Summary Objective: Your website works for you. It accomplishes various tasks and goals like an employee, but what is it’s overall purpose? Your objective may be sales, it might be ongoing outbound communications (blogging/articles), inbound communications, or even a showcase/gallery if your purpose is highly visual. Before you can begin the process of having a website built for your business, you need to know and be able to articulate what your primary objective is.
- Website Maintenance & Upkeep: In the hierarchy of a business, employees know that when there is a problem or issue, or even just a request for time off, that there is someone specific that they need to connect with. There’s a chain of command and everyone reports to someone. Who does your website report to? Who is responsible for making sure it is doing its job as it was set up to do? A website is a composition of several pieces of software combined into one smooth-running package. Like any app on your phone or computer, website software needs to be updated so that it remains reliable. The person responsible for this task may also be responsible for updating your images, posting new blog content, or adding items to your online store. It’s imperative to know who this person is, whether it’s you or someone you need to hire or ask the web designer to continue to do. The answer to this may actually determine what kind of website platform you choose.
- Qualifications or special requirements: Have you ever been hired for a position and read in the job description about the requirement to be able to lift 30 pounds? We’ve all seen it, and it hasn’t always been applicable, but even a website has its limitations if the special requirements aren’t planned for in advance. For instance, if your website requires the ability to host its own video content you need to be confident that your website structure accommodates video and that you have enough hosting bandwidth to handle all of the views. If your website requires that you receive uploaded documents from your clients, you need to be sure you have the correct plugins and uploading capacity.
- Job duties & responsibilities: This is the section that truly gets to the heart of the issue. It’s what everyone looks at before they decide if they’re going to apply for the job. This is the part that truly describes the day to day work of the new employee. So now you need to think of your website is your employee..how do you want to describe its day to day tasks? How is it suppose to help your business develop and grow? In general, your website should be a means of contact for your current and potential customers. It should describe your business products and services and explain why your company can meet their needs. It can be a location for people to make purchases, or it can direct them to a brick and mortar store front where purchases can be made. The website can help you set up appointments with current and potential customers or it can provide a phone number where people can call to do that directly. What you want your website to DO for you is ultimately the question.
Basically, you want your website to DO things to make your world a bit more manageable. Of course, you want it to BE something too. You want it to BE attractive, modern, and memorable. What you want it to BE relevant to what you want it to DO. And when beginning the process of building a website, you should know that what you want it to DO is directly related to any of the software needed to make it function properly. Though I’m not really elevating function over form, essentially if the website does not work the way it needs to, its aesthetics will mean a lot less to those who are visiting your site, they are the people you need it to function very smoothly for.
When you begin the project of building your website, you need to draw from your business plan and marketing plan, making sure you’re working according to the strategy you have already put into place. And then as you think about where to begin, start by writing a job description. Fill in those categories of Work Objectives, Who will maintain the website, any known special requirements of the website, and overall responsibilities of the site as it relates to your business. Once you know what it should do for you, you can move into the next phase of designing your site.
Sarah Flashing is a digital creative, writer and public speaker. Her professional goals include helping people find success by employing the best tools available. Formerly a college instructor with a background in leadership development, Sarah works with organizations around the country helping them to develop & implement marketing and management strategies. Invite Sarah to speak at your next event.