Taking those first steps to getting a new website can be intimidating. There is so much information out there, it’s hard to know where to start. We’ve answered some of the most basic questions business owners ask when they’re starting the process of getting a website.
Why is having a website important?
When was the last time you used a phone book to find a number? Harris Interactive found that 70% of U.S. adults “rarely or never” use the phone book. Even the Yellow Pages are going digital: They’re now marketing themselves as a digital media company.
It used to be important for a company to have their business listed in the phone book. Today, it’s important that your customers and potential customers can find you online.
A few key statistics from the Canadian Internet Registration Authority 2014 Factbook:
- 87% of Canadians are connected to the Internet.
- We are one of the most wired countries in the world, ranking 16th globally.
- Canadians visit more websites per month than any other country in the world.
- We also come in second for the most number of hours spent online each month.
- 74% of Canadians research purchases online before they buy.
48% of Google users said sites that didn’t work well on their smartphone made them feel like the company didn’t care about their business.
Why is having a responsive website important?
A responsive site is one that changes its shape to fit different screen sizes. A site that looks great on mobile devices is more important than ever. According to the CIRA, 60% of Canadians access the Internet via a mobile device.
Also, Google boosts the ranking of mobile-friendly pages on mobile search results, so if you want your business to be found on search, you need your site to be responsive. For business owners, another important stat to note is that 48% of Google users said sites that didn’t work well on their smartphone made them feel like the company didn’t care about their business.
Should I use a free website platform?
A lot of people gravitate towards these types of platforms because getting a website for free sounds so tempting. But even “free” websites have costs involved, including your time. You need to choose a template, edit the template, write the content, find images or take photos, and set up a domain name and hosting.
“Free” platform costs:
- Domain name $10-$25/year
- Hosting $30-$240/year
- Images ($25+/stock image)
- Content ($0.30+/word)
- Premium themes (optional) $25-$250
- Your time to put it all together
- Most free platforms will push a monthly subscription
How long it will take you depends on how comfortable you are with the technology. If you’re fairly comfortable with computers and programs, you won’t be editing the site much, and will only add a little content (like a short About and Contact page), it could take you only a few hours.
If you’d like to add more in-depth content (like a longer About, a Services or Products page, a Contact page, and a Blog) and more images (even finding appropriate stock images can be a challenge!), you’re looking at somewhere in the range of 8 hours. (Again, assuming you’re fairly comfortable with computers.)
If you’re planning on building a simple e-commerce site using a widely-used plug-in like Woocommerce, it will likely take you closer to 20 hours. (Also assuming you’re fairly comfortable with computers.)
And after all that, it’s possible the site will still look less than professional. To build a professional-looking site from these themes, you need to have an eye for detail in terms of both choosing a pleasing design and images, and producing error-free content.
Should I use a paid platform to build my website?
The more money you’re willing spend, the better your website will look. Paid platforms are easier to use than the free templates from other websites, and they tend to be more up to date stylistically. The monthly subscription will cover the costs of hosting and a premium theme, but it does cost a bit more.
Paid platform costs:
- Domain name $10-$25/year
- Images (your time OR $25+/stock image)
- Content (your time OR $0.30+/word)
- Monthly subscription $60-$960/year
- Transaction fees 0-2%
- Your time to put it all together
The amount of time it will take to put one of these sites together is similar to using themes from a free platform. It will depend on how comfortable you are with computers, and how much content you’ll be adding to the site. The more content (or store products), the longer it takes. So if you’re computer literate, expect 2-20 hours.
Should I work with a professional web company?
When people ask how much a website costs, it’s like asking how much a house costs. How big is the house? How many rooms will there be? Does it need to be built quickly? What level of quality will the finishes be? Will you be hiring a professional interior decorator?
Also, many different kinds of businesses offer web design and development these days. You’re going to get a different experience and different prices depending on who you go with. We recommend you get a quote and talk to the people you’ll be working with to get a sense of what working with them will be like! Do your research.
Professional website costs:
- Simple informational $1,500-$7,000
- Mid-size informational $3,000-$10,000
- Simple e-commerce $5,000-$15,000
- Mid-size e-commerce $10,000-$40,000
- saskatoon.ca $1,000,000
- Your time as a collaborator
You’re paying for the developers’ time and expertise. Like a custom-built home, a custom-built website is designed to your specifications. The creative team starts with your needs and ideas and works from there. Your involvement is integral to the success of your website. You will need to dedicate some of your own time to the project.
A custom-built website is designed to your specifications.
That time might be minimal or fairly substantial, depending on how the company works. For example, a freelancer might need you to provide your own content and images, while an advertising agency might provide those. But even if someone is taking care of the content for you, you will need to review and approve the content.
What is the best process for developing a website?
No matter which path you choose, there are steps you can take to make the whole process of developing a website easier.
Questions to answer during the planning phase:
- What is the goal/purpose? What do you want visitors to do? How will you convert your visitor into a paying customer, newsletter subscriber, or social media follower?
- Who is the target audience? It’s not “everyone.” Even the City of Saskatoon website isn’t for everyone: It’s for a particular set of people who will likely use the site.
- Who is the typical customer? Many companies use “personas” to define the typical customer — an imaginary user who will be visiting the site. They get pretty detailed!
Whether you’re doing it on your own, or working with a team, you will need to answer these questions. Even if you’re hiring a professional, they will expect you to be able to answer some of these questions — or they will work with you to help you answer them.
Once you’ve answered these important questions, you can start brainstorming the site and putting together the content. First, plan the layout of each page. Called wireframing, it helps you brainstorm the elements of the site in advance. A piece of paper and a pen is all you need. It doesn’t have to look good, but it does need to be logical.
Then you’ll need to write the content. This is the most important part of your website! The writing sets the tone, sells your business, helps with search engine optimization (SEO), and is the key to professionalism — if your website is hard to understand and riddled with mistakes, that’s going to make you look bad.
Finally, you need to find great images. Bad images can ruin even the best-designed website. Better images will make your site more professional.
Keep in mind, this should all happen before you start designing your website or even looking for a theme! If you work with a content-first approach, it will make the design and development of the website easier. Even if you’re just looking for a theme, having the content in advance will help you choose a theme that will work best for you.
Once the process gets underway, remember to be flexible. As you or your developers start to migrate the content into the design, text won’t fit, images won’t work — you need to make compromises and collaborate.
And make sure you test your design. Have potential customers try out your site. Is anything not working? Can anything be improved? Making changes like this is part of iterative design.
Good luck! And if you have any questions, feel free to comment below or get in touch.