Bang-on questions before creating a website

When I talk to people about my business I quite often get a reaction like “Oh, I have a website. I paid X amount and it doesn’t work”.
With “it doesn’t work” they usually mean that they don’t like it, they don’t get new business due to the website’s design / content or they can’t update the website themselves to inform their clients about news or events. In worst case it means all of the above.

Another reaction often is “Had I known what to prepare, the result would have been better and my money not wasted”.

So I thought I use the opportunity to put together some of the things you as the client need to think about before you approach a web designer. He / she should ask you these things in the first or second meeting to get the right understanding of your business, the audience you want to reach with the website and ideas you have already yourself. So it is better to think about these questions beforehand.

  • Do you have a branding? Like a logo, design, fonts you are using already?
    If not this is the right time to first approach a graphic designer.
  • Who are your existing and potential clients? What is their average age? Who do you want to attract with your website?
  • Do you have a marketing plan? What is your unique selling point? Do you know your strengths and opportunities but your weaknesses and threats as well? These should get emphasised or attacked accordingly with the website.
  • What kind of marketing did you do so far? Like flyers, networking, advertisement in newspaper or on the radio. Which ones worked for you which ones didn’t and do you know why?
  • Who are your competitors and how do they present themselves online?
  • Which of their websites do you like or don’t like and why? This goes for design, pages and content.
  • What do you want to show on your website? And which features do you want to have? Like a gallery, a blog, e-commerce, a forum.
  • Do you want to be able to update the website in future yourself?
  • Do you want to use Social Media?

A lot of questions, I know. But they are well worth thinking about beforehand as it will save you a lot of trouble later. And most of them should be easy for you to answer.

I always try to take up as little time as possible of my clients but it is impossible to create a good website without your help and commitment.

If you have any further questions or are ready to start the work on your website please contact me.

Is “Getting Irish business online” for you?

What do you do, when you are looking for information? If you want to find a business near you? When you are looking for accomodation within Ireland or abroad?
Most people go online and search for the information. And the amount of people will rise even more in the coming years with more and more people getting smart phones.

On the other hand about 40% of irish SME’s don’t have a web presence and therefore are loosing business as people can’t find them online.
Some of the common reasons for not getting a website are

  • money
  • time
  • knowledge (how to set up a website)
  • the believe word of mouth is enough
  • the believe they have / need local clients only

For that reason and to tackle especially the first three points the initiative of Enterprise Boards, Blacknight Solutions, Google and AnPost of getting irish business online was launched in May 2011.
It involves a free domain name and free hosting for one year, a €100 voucher for Google AdWords and reduced costs with AnPost if you are sending products to clients.
The Enterprise Boards then offer half day courses for €25 to support you in setting up your  website if you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself and by the end of the course each of the participants will have their own website live.

This website might be a simple one but will help the businesses to get found online and to get used to having a website. And there are no limits to the amount of pages, a blog and a gallery are possible as well.

But in case you want at some stage a more branded and designed website you get full access to your hosting so you can upload any website.

I think it is a very good initiative and from what I hear a lot of businesses do take up this offer.

When you want to go for a more advanced website you can contact me for a first informative meeting. I can help you with my knowledge and experience and aim to take up as little of your time as possible.

Which Social Media is right for me?

There are a lot of different Social Media websites on the market. And it is basically impossible to use them all and they are not all well known enough to be worth putting your time and effort into them.
The main players at the moment are LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

So which one is the right one for you and your business? Idealy you would use all three of them, but that might not suit your type of business, you might not have the time or don’t feel comfortable using them.

What should you be aware of?

LinkedIn
LinkedIn is mainly a business network where you as a person sign up, put up your CV and experience (using their interface) and connect to other people you know due to having worked with them or of course private friends as well.
Due to these connections and their connections you can get in contact with people you might want to meet or need a certain information from.
The CV can link to more information about the companies you worked or are working for and you can get recommendations from colleagues, bosses or clients. You even can show a creative portfolio if that is your business.
In addition there are groups you can join. They can be e.g. Alumnis, business focussed or networking groups. There you can get information and show your competence.
Another way to show your competence and therefore attract clients or employees is using the answers and questions application.

Facebook
Facebook originally started as a private social network but gets more and more important for businesses too.
It is ideal for you if you want to share information, pictures and links with your existing or future clients and don’t want be be limited in the amount of text you write (see Twitter).
Due to Facebook’s feature of sharing posts and links it is easy for your fans to spread the word. And when they comment on your posts their friends will see it and might connect with you too.
But there are a few things you need to be aware of:

  • As a business you need to set up a page not a personal profile and the process is slightly different. In fact it is even a bit more complicated but once set up it is much easier for people to connect to your page as they can just click to like it whereas with a profile you need to accept their friendship request. If you set it up as a profile Facebook might even close that account and you loose all efford you have put into it.
  • If you want to run a competion for your fans you now need to use a Facebook application for that and follow certain rules. You can’t just post it on your page and mail the winner anymore.
  • So you need to familiarise yourself with the Facebook terms & condition and in fact need to check them regularly – or get updates for people that follow news about Facebook as part of their business.

Twitter
Twitter is basically a variation of an online chat. It is a very fast way of communication as you are limited to 140 characters in your tweet, i.e message. It can contain links to pictures or websites and these links can get shortened so that you safe characters but most tweets don’t even use the full length available.
You decide who’s tweet you want to see when you are on twitter and people decide if they want to read your tweets. You can make them private so that only the people you allow to follow you can read them, but obviously that is not recommended for a business as like a profile on Facebook it makes it too complicated for people to connect with you.
The more people you follow Twitter can become quite confusing with too much information in a short period of time. But there are special applications on the market to help you. With the best known being Tweetdeck which was acutally bought by Twitter as confirmed just today. With Tweetdeck you can have a column for every list of people your created to get a better overview, have an extra column for tweets that mention you and for direct messages plus you can post your tweet simultaneously on your Facebook page.

If you want to get more information or need help or advice on using Social Media please contact me and we can have an informative chat.

Social Media – pros and cons

Not only websites are more and more important to promote your business. The use of Social Media is almost more important – if it is done right.

In a nutshell the pros are:

  • Social Media is a more effective way to connect with your clients – existing and future. You can engage with them, inform them about news, show your competence or even reward them for being or becomming your client.
  • Search engines, especially Google, include your Social Media activity in their algorithms. So your ranking in search results (Seach Engine Optimisation – SEO) improves with your use of Social Media.

And the cons:

  • Social Media can be very time consuming. Time you need to invest beside running your business.
  • If you do it wrong, i.e. use it too much and basically spam your clients or don’t react in an appropriate manner to any complaints they might post on your social page, you could damage your business.

So you need to think about your options and capacity.
There are companies that can look after your Social Media for you – but would they be able to represent you and your business 100%? Especially for small businesses it is important to be in direct contact with their clients.

If you are not sure how to decide or which option is the right one for you contact me and we can have an informative chat.

WordPress.com versus WordPress.org

More and more people and businesses are getting their own website. Be it for a personal blog about their hobby or anything else that fascinates them or a business website. One reason is that it gets more and more important to have an online presence – especially if you have a business – as you basically don’t exist to most people if they can’t find you via an online search. But another one is that it gets easier and more affordable to get a website.

There are several software programmes out there that you can use to create your website.

  • Some free – some you have to buy.
  • Some you just use online – some you need to install on your computer to work on your website.
  • For some you need to get a domain name and hosting (and pay for both) – for others you don’t need to buy one or the other or even none of both.

The one I use and recommend when I get asked by people who want to start off is WordPress. But there is something quite confusing about it:

There are two different versions that are similar but not quite the same: WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

Easiest to use is the version you get using WordPress.com. It’s completely free (unless you need certain extras like mentioned below), you don’t need a domain or hosting and don’t need to install anything on your computer.
You get a domain like “MYNAME.wordpress.com” which is perfectly fine for personal websites but not recommended for businesses. But WordPress.com offers to redirect your website to a domain you registered somewhere else or with them for an annual fee of $12 or $17 respectively as per today.
There are several free features included when you sign up for WordPress.com. You can choose between over 100 different templates, have as many pages on your website you like, get statistics about visitors and protection against spam comments.

So what is the disadvantage?
You are limited in the design of your page as you can only change the template up to a certain point and only use the widgets that are provided to design your website further as you can’t install new ones.

So if you want to have this flexibility you go for WordPress.org where you have even more templates to choose from and can install the widgets you need. You do have to register a domain name, get hosting for your website and you need to install the software on your hosts server but your website will represent you and your business better.

If you can’t decide what is the best way for you to go or decide WordPress.org is the right one for you but don’t have the experience or time to work with it contact me and we can have an informative chat about your options.