In many cases your website is your shop window, the place people will go to find out more about you and your product or service before making the decision to buy.

Getting it right is imperative to ensure your potential customer moves through your customer journey to convert into a solid sale.

Damien Maddalena is the founder of Elucidate Studios. Based in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, Elucidate aim to design, develop, and deploy meaningful brand and digital experiences through exploration, experimentation, and collaboration.

Building websites since the early days of the internet, Damien has more years’ experience than he cares to remember.

Damien delivered a talk at a Lunchtime Learning session facilitated by the Cathedral Quarter BID (Business Improvement District) full of tips for small business owners.

Here are Damien’s key questions you need to answer for anyone thinking of building or changing their business website:

“Your website should be at the centre of your digital universe” said Damien, adding: “All your online activity should direct users to your website for more information – from social media, to email marketing. All your offline marketing activity should also point to your website – from letterheads to print adverts. Your website acts as a centralised online hub for your business.”

A website creates a destination for those who want to know more about your business, acts as an archive for content, news, and stories about your business, and is a simple means of contact for your customers and potential customers to find you and get in touch. As such a key communication tool, it’s important that your website is high quality and effective.

Key Questions For SME Website Development

  • What is your business strategy and how will a website help you meet your business objectives?

  • What does your current online presence look like and what needs to change?

  • Who is your online audience, and how do you find them? How do they find you?

  • How do you perform online compared to your competitors?

Damien explained: “Websites are not vanity projects. It is a functional tool for your business. Consider your wants versus your needs when designing and developing your website. What is going to add value to your business? Sliding banners and additional features like moving components might look good, and maybe your competitor has them, but what value are they going to add to your website?”

What else should you ask yourself?

  • What does the website need to do?

  • What is the scope of your website development project? The scope will impact on your design and functionality needs, and ultimately on your budget.

  • Have you considered mobile responsiveness, search engine optimisation, hosting and security?

“Your website design should represent and reflect your brand” said Damien.

“Core features include a home page, an about page, product or services pages, a news or blog section, a contact page, and a cookie policy/privacy notice. Additional features can include an online booking system, customer portal or login area, and an ecommerce online store.

“Spend sufficient time scoping and planning your website from the start. Adding in functionality down the line can be costly and make the design and development process much more difficult. This is known as “reactive creep.”

But it’s not just about the structure of your website that businesses need to consider when developing their website, said Damien. He identified the following questions as integral to the website build.

  • Do you have a plan for the content of your website? If you are not comfortable or confident writing this yourself, you can hire a copywriter to write it for you.

  • Do you have high resolution logos, artwork and images for your website? Or do you need to hire a graphic designer to create these for you?

  • What are your expectations for the website? Have you seen samples of things that you like that you could show to your web developer?

Damien added: “Some website developers will have graphic design and copywriting skills in-house, but many won’t. It’s up to you to make sure all the content and imagery is how you want it to be. Not having the content ready can delay the creation and launch of the website, so make sure you have thought about this in advance.”

Practical questions

  • What on-going support do you need from a website developer? Most websites will require plugin or security updates at a minimum, some will also require a budget for on-going tweaks and improvements over time.

  • How do you choose which website developer to go with? Ask to see a portfolio of their work or speak with some of the clients they have worked with in the past.

  • Are you happy to use a WordPress or similar website developer who designs using templates, or do you want a website that is fully bespoke? What does your budget allow?

Check out Damien’s full Lunchtime Learning which goes into a lot of detail on the questions you should be asking yourself, as well as your website developer, as an SME that is planning on commissioning a new website on the Cathedral Quarter website: https://www.cathedralquarterbelfast.com/whats-on/lunchtime-learning-websites-for-smes

To see more Lunchtime Learning sessions go to: https://www.cathedralquarterbelfast.com/lunchtime-learning

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