When you purchase various big-ticket items: cars, houses…even smaller items like computers, you have a certain expectation of what should be included with that purchase as Standard Equipment.
Computers should have sufficient storage and speed to manage the basic tasks that you perform, houses should be up to code with plumbing and heating, and new cars should come standard with airbags, heat/ac, and four tires. The web is always changing, and when you spend good money on a new or updated website, you should be certain that specific features are included, right out of the box, when your web developer hands you the keys to your next website investment.
1. Mobile responsiveness (mobile friendly)
Does your site look GREAT, not good but GREAT, on mobile phones (as well as tablets, laptops and big screen HD TVs)? In 2008, this was somewhat of a new concept, and as per the norm, the largest, most advanced companies in the world with the biggest budgets began reworking their websites to these standards. Those days have come and gone and nearly every website that is developed these days is mobile responsive, at least to some degree, and with good reason: since April 21, 2015, Google began penalizing web sites that don’t display well on smartphones – read that as “you’re losing valuable web traffic and search results if your site isn’t mobile friendly.”
2. Easily updatable – Do It Yourself
In the 90’s and early 2000’s, websites were maintained a little bit differently, but things have changed quite a bit since then. There’s really no reason to have to 1) pick up a phone, 2) make a call, 3) talk to a developer or account manager, 4) wait for the account manager to discuss the changes with their “team” and get back to you with any questions, 5) wait a few MORE days to actually get the changes DONE, and finally 6) get an invoice, of course, for the back and forth to have have simple content changes made to your website.
With robust open-source content management systems like WordPress, Drupal and e-commerce platforms like Magento and WooCommerce, widely available (in most cases, for free), every website should be based on a well-structured, organized framework of content that is not only presented nicely for site visitors, but very easy for someone with basic word processing skills to update, edit and add content. This also allows you to keep the content of your site separate from the overall look, which makes future updates far easier and much more manageable.
3. Engaging design to fit the personality of your brand
Your site should be both interesting visually, and it should reflect your overall brand image and messaging. You site should speak to your visitors in the tone that reflects your company’s personality. The imagery, whether photography or graphics should be of premium quality – there are a wealth of exceptional photographers in all metro areas and it’s pretty certain that most every small town has at least one or two people. Graphic design may be a bit more specialized than photography, but in our global marketplace, quality creative designers are only a Skype call away.
4. Lead generation
Are you capturing names of possible customers when they visit your site? You website should be the starting point of a relationship, or a conversation with your customer and it should be easy for them to connect with you so they can stay in touch. You should be doing this not only through social media, but through email newsletter lists and specific contact “inquiry” forms.
5. Blog activity & content creation
Whether you have the staff, or if you contract out for writing services, fresh content is a key to attracting customers through SEO (Google), and conveying expertise in your area of business when these customers find you. It would be recommended to post fresh blog content at least once per week, more would be better, for any small to mid-sized business. If you’re hiring content writing services, you can expect to pay around $50-60 for a 500 word article.
6. Testimonials…from your most notable customers
What could be any better than a well-noted member of your community offering a few kind words that you can share with your prospective customers? A few of these, strategically located on your site could motivate that prospect to subscribe to your newsletter, fill out an inquiry form, connect with you on Facebook, or even pick up the phone and call you.
7. SEO & analytics tracking (including PPC Tracking & Goals)
What good is a website if you don’t know if anyone is visiting it or what pages may be most popular? If your site doesn’t get found in specific Google searches for the products and services you offer, you’re missing out on a significant number of potential customers. Your website should include, not only a way to monitor your site traffic through Google Analytics, and Google Search Console (Webmaster Tools); but you should have access to advanced SEO tools to manage titles and descriptions for every page on your site.
8. Optimized, reliable hosting, with fast load times
There are a lot of cheap hosting solutions online, but most viable web developers will put more of an emphasis on hosting quality, rather than cost. The difference in cost, from worst to best, will only be a few hundred dollars a year, depending on how much traffic your site receives. That additional investment in your website will get you quicker page loads, less downtime and happier visitors. Some developers, including us, will even include FREE SSL with their hosting. You’ll typically also get better, faster support, if you ever do happen to have a problem with your site.
9. Website scalability
If you’re spending more than a few thousand dollars on a website update, your developer should take the time to sit down with you and determine not only what you need TODAY, but also what you may want, 6 months…a year…2-3 years, down the road. The last thing any client wants is to spend $7-8,000 on a new website, only to find out that “ya, it’s going to run you another $5,000 to rework the site to do that now” …or worse “sorry, we can’t do that with your site, we’ll need to rebuild it.”
10. Support post-launch
This will often come at an additional cost by web development companies, but unless you have someone on staff (or a really good and loyal 2nd cousin) with the expertise to manage technical issues, including CMS core and security updates, in addition to making sure any plug-ins implemented on the are up to date and functioning properly, and making any layout or visual changes to the site as they are needed. Think of it as somewhat of an insurance policy, or a maintenance program for your website. You change the oil and tires on your car, right? Depending on the size and complexity of the website, and the specific developer, fees would start around the cost of a cable TV plan. This will ensure that your site is running properly and give you peace of mind if you ever need a hand fixing something down the road.