Everyone needs a website. If a consumer Googles your name and finds nothing, then that’s what you are.
But be sure what you want to achieve; it’s just as easy to overspend as to underspend. Will it just be your face to the world, or do you want people to interact with you online? Don’t buy what you’ll never want, but don’t make decisions you might regret. Often it’s cheaper in the long run to spend some cash up front.
Most importantly, be clear about who is going to update the site and how often it is likely to happen. A simple content management system that allows your staff to quickly change text and upload new information is cheaper and ultimately more efficient than having to go through a web provider. And it doesn’t mean the site can’t still be visually appealing.
Know what the site will cost to set up and to maintain. An out-of-date site is negative advertising.
Setting up a website
Before approaching a web developer for a concept and quote, prepare a detailed brief (for yourself as much as anything). Ask yourself:
- What do I want? Is this primarily a marketing tool, a selling tool, a communications tool or a mixture? What functions will be the most important?
- Who are the target audiences, how different are their needs, and will the website structure need to reflect this? What will people expect to find on the site?
- What websites do I like (to look at and to use) that can form a basis for discussion?
- What are my concerns about having and maintaining a website?
- How often will I genuinely have “news”, as opposed to updating core information?
- Do I want the ability to sell online or let people subscribe to a mailing list? What sort of data collection capability do I want?
- Who will write the copy? If you don’t want to do it, don’t assume the developer has to. You might want to use the same person who wrote your brochure to ensure you keep the same tone and messages – but he/she will need to work with the developer to ensure the navigation and the text are compatible.
To find a developer to get a concept and a quote, ask around. Don’t just be guided by a site you like the look of; with websites, what you don’t see (and as a non-geek probably don’t understand) is as important as what you do. If you like the way a site works, ask the people who own it how they found the developer and the process. Ask other wineries in your region or your regional association.
When you do sit down with a developer, ask:
- How will they ensure your site is prominent on search engines (ask about meta data and search engine optimisation)?
- Will you be able to track how the site is being accessed?
- How easily will you be able to update the site, and how can you get help if it’s needed?
- Is what they provide compatible with your current systems (eg your database)?
- What are the tricky parts of the job from their perspective and do they expect any problems or delays?
- What are their expectations of you if the job is to go smoothly?
- If this is your first website, how do they suggest you have it hosted?
Once you have selected a developer, ensure you have a contract and a clear scope of work and timelines. Some things will take more time than you expected, and others less.