Your website serves as a virtual storefront.
Often it provides the first point of contact with customers, who use your site to browse products and services, learn more about what makes your company unique and discover how to contact you.
So it’s important for your website to offer customers the same satisfied experience a well laid-out, bright and appealing physical storefront does.
But picking a web design agency can be intimidating. Seemingly innumerable options for web design exist – including do-it-yourself sites that promise far more than they often deliver.
To help alleviate stress, here are the must-haves to look for when you’re in the market for a new website for your business.
Pick a web design agency that wants to talk to you.
Any reputable web design agency or independent developer should request a meeting or a phone call with you to make sure they understand your business, what you’re looking for from a new site and the challenges you’re facing.
This allows the agency or developer to have a solid foundation from which to create a quote for your website. Anyone willing to throw out a flat fee for your site — without understanding what the project entails — will likely provide a site that’s far less than your company deserves.
Direct communication also allows you to ask questions about the agency’s or developer’s capabilities, their internal process for handling new websites, how they communicate with clients and what content they need from you to create the site.
Most of all, meetings put you in a powerful position to compare the quote you’re given with any other offers on the table.
Never offer money or provide access to your site to a person or an agency you have not met with in person or – at the very least – spoken with over the phone.
Ask for an audit of your current website.
This may sound unnecessary if you’re already planning to create a new website. But it’s indispensable for you and the agency or developer working on your site.
That’s because a basic website audit reveals factors on your website that could be negatively impacting where you rank in search results. And while some of these may be resolved with a new website, not all of them are.
Take, for instance, duplicate content, or copy on your website that is found in other places on the internet. If you just slap that same content on a different website, it won’t give your site a better position in Google search results. A website audit reveals issues your web developer or agency needs to address.
Additionally, an audit may reveal that your site design is acceptable, but there are simply issues behind the scenes hurting your online presence.
For example, a well-designed website may have missing title tags or meta descriptions, which provide the information that shows up in search results and summarizes a page’s content. Fixing those issues is a relatively minor undertaking and less costly than a complete overhaul.
Determining the health of your site with an audit is a must to find the best path forward for your site. And it’s something any reputable agency or developer should offer before jumping into creating a new website.
Plus, the provision of a post-redesign audit can be compared to your first audit to demonstrate how much your site has been improved.
Be sure your new site is responsive.
If your website isn’t designed to be responsive — which allows it to look good and function well across desktop, smartphones, tablets and other devices — you are in for a world of hurt.
Consider that 40 percent of website visitors turn to a competitor’s website after they have a bad mobile experience. (On a more humorous note, 23 percent of the adults have cursed at their phones when a site fails to function.)
Additionally, about half of all website traffic is from mobile traffic. You’ll alienate a major portion of prospective customers if your website doesn’t have a responsive design.
That’s why it’s vital that the developer or agency you’re working with plans to create a responsive design. Make sure any design they show you includes display on desktops, phones and tablets.
Also examine how the navigation works across devices or where contact information displays. Your website should look good and function well, regardless of the device your customers are using.
Request an SSL Certificate.
In 2018, Google said it would begin flagging all websites in Chrome that did not have a security certificate. If your website doesn’t have this certificate, 1 billion Google Chrome users will see a “Not Secure” tag next to your website URL at the top of the page.
Depending on the previous security of your website, they may also receive a full-page alert saying your connection isn’t private and someone may be trying to steal your information.
Given today’s concerns about security and privacy – especially if you’re asking customers to share personal data — a “not secure” warning raises a host of red flags.
SSL certificates offer a host of other benefits. This includes the ability to encrypt sensitive information like the email addresses entered on your contact form pages, and protecting you from cybercriminals.
In today’s world, an SSL certificate is a non-negotiable for any new website. Make sure the agency or developer you’re working with plans to set up your website as an https, and that they have an auto-renewal process for your certificate so it never runs out.
Make your message clear.
Who you are and what you have to offer a customer should be unmistakably clear on every page of your website. A customer should never have to go to the “About Us” page to figure out what your company does.
Clear messaging means every single piece of content that is on your website – from photos to quotes to blogs – conveys the overall mission and message of your brand, and leads customers toward the action you want them to do.
Your agency or developer should understand this and point out places where the message may be getting lost.
They should also offer creative ways to move customers toward the action. That may mean including a contact form on every page, implementing a chat box on the site that connects prospective customers directly to you, or placing a video on the top half of the site to ensure the customer watches it.
However it fleshes out, make sure your website clearly communicates what people can buy from you and what their next step is in obtaining what they are looking for.
Set up Google Analytics & goals.
You can’t have a successful website without analytics and relevant goals.
Analytics help you to continually understand how your audience is interacting with your site. This includes what pages resonate and what pages don’t, what types of devices customers are using and how they’re finding your website.
Installing Google Analytics on your website is an absolute must. But equally important is setting goals within analytics around desired conversions.
For some companies, a goal may be getting customers to watch a video. For others, it might be driving customers to a contact form.
A reputable agency sets up these goals within analytics based on the conversations they’ve had with you about your overall business goals so you’ll be able to chart your website’s success.
Depending on your involvement or interest in Google Analytics, it may also be helpful to ask your developer or agency to conduct a short training session about the goals they’ve set up.
This can help you better understand the analytics dashboard and the related reports so you can determine if adjustments are needed.
Don’t launch a website without SEO & Google My Business
Search engine optimization (SEO) and Google My Business are key in the success of your website. They are part of the ongoing maintenance of your site well beyond the launch.
Your agency or developer should have filled out title tags and meta descriptions for the main pages on your website and claimed your Google My Business listing before launching the site.
However, SEO and Google My Business listings need to be constantly monitored through monthly management. If you’re just starting to learn about the importance of SEO, here are 5 facts to help grow your knowledge.
Even if you don’t have the budget for monthly SEO management services, be sure the web design agency or developer you’re working with for your site’s redesign is proficient in SEO to ensure your website ranks higher in search results after the relaunch than it did before.
Don’t neglect your virtual storefront.
You don’t have to be an expert in web design and development to find an agency or an independent contractor who can create a well-designed, high-ranking site for your company.
You may not be an expert web developer, but you are an expert at your business. And you can find the right partner to create your new site with the help of these must-haves.
Making sure the agency is well-versed in website audits, SEO, responsive design and SSL certificates will make a big difference in the website you’ll end up with.
Don’t be afraid to ask for the best for your website. It’s what your virtual storefront needs, and it’s what your business deserves.
Have questions about creating a new website that weren’t addressed in this blog? Contact our web design and development team here, and we will respond to you within a week by email or phone.