Are you looking for a new website for your business or thinking about a design refresh?

Do you know which is the best build and management option for your needs?

Website_CMSHere are the pros and cons of the 3 options depending on (1) the time you have available, (2) Your technical knowledge, (3) Your budget and (4) how you want to manage your site in future.

The 3 options are:
  • Website builders.
  • Open source website builders.
  • Bespoke build.
To help you make an informed choice, let’s go through the details with the pros and cons of each.

Website builders
Website builders such as SiteBuilder, Wix and SquareSpace provide a platform to enable you to build and manage your own website. They are suitable if you have the time to spend choosing from the many website builder systems on the market, learning how to use the interface and then building your website using their system.

Pros
  1. You can build and edit the website yourself.
  2. You must choose from the design templates available.
  3. Most provide one free domain name and one email account.
  4. Website hosting is usually included in the monthly cost.
  5. Cheap option.
Cons
  1. It can take a lot of time to learn the system and manage everything yourself.
  2. Design is limited to the design templates available and they will look like a lot of other sites.
  3. Technical skills may be needed to do more complex designs and page layouts.
  4. You may have to compromise on quality, depending on your technical skills.
  5. Limited functionality available in the system; this may not meet your future needs.
  6. Not always suitably optimised for viewing on mobile phones.
  7. Not fully optimised for search engines (SEO).
Choose if you have plenty of time, are not too concerned about the quality and are working with a small budget. This may be your first website when starting up a new business.

Open source website builders
The most popular open source website builders are WordPress, Joomla and Drupal.

Similar to website builders, these content management systems (CMS) are more flexible than simple website builders and allow you to add a range of “plugins” for example, photo gallery, document library or booking system etc.

You will need to register a domain name, host the website on a server and build your website in the system. If you have the necessary skills you can do this yourself but generally, you will need the support of a developer to get your website up and running and hosted on a server. Future changes can then be made by you, using the CMS.

Pros
  1. Design templates are available for you to choose from.
  2. Your developer is on hand to support you if you need more complex changes and updates within the template.
  3. Multiple functionality plugins are available.
  4. Easy to move your website to another developer.
  5. SEO plugin available.
  6. Responsive mobile optimisation.
Cons
  1. You will probably need a developer to build the site unless you have the necessary skills.
  2. Design is limited to the design templates available and will not be unique.
  3. Security. The CMS is known to hackers so constant up dates are required which can sometimes affect the website. Plugins are even more vulnerable to attack.
  4. Plugins are created by different developers and may not be compatible with your website. This can cause problems as the site is being built and in the future.
  5. Your developer may not always keep on top of updates and may charge you if anything breaks as a result of an update.
Choose if you don’t need a unique looking website design and you are confident that your developer will keep the security updated and fix any ensuing problems; check the ongoing cost for doing this.

Bespoke build
Discuss your requirements with a web development agency, they take your brief, think about what is needed and produce a unique design and website functionality that meets the exact needs of your business.

They probably use their own CMS and will be able to include any functionality you need such as photo gallery, document library or booking system etc.

Pros
  1. You get a professional looking, unique website from your web agency.
  2. Support and advice is available.
  3. Tried and tested CMS which is intuitive and user friendly.
  4. Secure and stable platform because code is unknown to hackers.
  5. Because the CMS is developed in-house, any additional requirements can be met at the build stage or in the future.
  6. Built to be SEO ready as standard.
  7. Responsive or adaptive mobile optimisation.
Cons
  1. Not a DIY option.
  2. May not be the cheapest option.
  3. More difficult to move to a new provider, though not impossible.
Choose if you value your time and would rather be working on sales than your website. You want to stand out from your competitors and get the maximum conversions from your website.

If you would like to discuss any of the above in more detail before you decide which option is best for you, please call us.

We will provide a free unbiased opinion, even if the best option for you is the DIY route.

 

Website-planningOver the years we have gained many clients who have contacted us because their website was, in the words of one, "a bit of a mess".

It’s a sad fact that many businesses spend a lot of time and money on their website and get poor results or worse, websites that don’t work properly.

From our experience, the 10 mistakes to avoid are:

1. Trying to Build your own website
You can use website builders to produce your site; however, if you have not used the interface before, it can be a long process and the results you get are still not great. Your time would be better spent selling your services or products and increasing sales.

2. Getting a friend of a friend to do it in their spare time
This will seem like a good idea at the time but you may find they are not available to keep your site maintained, or even contactable in the future.

3. Not considering security and hacking
Where your website is being hosted and what software is being used to build it is paramount to the security of your website. Off-the-shelf open source products such as WordPress, Drupal and Joomla are well known to hackers. A bespoke CMS (Content Management System) is more secure because it is unknown and the code is not publicly available.

4. Thinking all domain name hosts are the same
There are hundreds of domain name hosting companies. Selecting the cheapest is not always the best option. Either you or whoever builds your website will need access to change settings and possibly transfer the domain to a new provider in the future. Some control panels are not very user friendly and other providers charge for transfers. Support can also be limited, so it is wise to go with a reputable supplier.

5. Writing your own words
If you find it laborious putting finger to keyboard to write about your business, then you should probably get a copy writer to craft the content for your web pages. It will save you time and they will be more objective about what your business can offer.

6. Not thinking about how your visitors will navigate your site
Your website needs to have impact and hold visitor’s attention to get them to a point where they can act. UX design (user experience), page layout, calls to action and photographs can all help to improve conversion rates.

7. Not taking time to plan your site
Your website is your shop window and can have a direct effect on sales. Visitors will
make up their mind in seconds whether to stay on your site or jump off to one of your
competitors. Taking time to establish your goals and develop a wire frame before design and build starts will pay dividends in the long term.

8. Not researching your target market
Do you know whether your audience will be more likely to visit your website using a mobile phone or a desktop computer? Age and profession of your customers may determine how your website needs to look and perform on a variety of devices.

9. Ignoring advice from the professionals
Web developers, like any other professionals, are experts in their field. If you ask for something that will not work across all browsers and devices, a good developer will explain why it won’t work and provide alternative solutions. There are usually very good reasons that you may not have considered. Always check your web developer’s credentials and their own website before you choose who to work with.

10. Not considering how you will market your website after launch
Build it and they will come no longer applies in our crowded online market place. You need to think about how you will deliver traffic to your website.

For more information, download our FREE Guide to web design and online marketing at the bottom of the page.

Website design has changed significantly over the years and is constantly evolving as our use of the web via different devices increases.

Web-design-and-user-interfaceA web designer will consider a number of factors that will determine the navigation, layout and placement of content on a website to get the desired action from the user.

You may have noticed that modern web designs generally follow a similar theme these days. There is a good reason for this. From studies on user interface and the use of eye tracking software, we now understand what attracts a viewer’s eyes and where they tend to look first. We can then make sure the important information such as menu and calls to action are placed within these areas.

There are other factors to consider, such as how search engines will rank your web pages from the content and keywords on the page. The headings and where they are placed will influence which keywords search engines will prioritise and rank your page for.

These are the stages a designer will go through when developing your new website:

Research
  • Competitors.
  • Keywords (software is available to help with this).
  • What makes your business unique in your market?
  • Visitor analysis if you have an existing website (use Google Analytics, if installed).
Site map, navigation and wireframe
  • What do you want to communicate?
  • Plan the navigation and pages needed.
  • Consider content for each page, text and images.
  • It is more efficient to design around your content than fit your content into a design.
  • Create a wireframe for your website.
Copywriting and keywords
  • Identify best performing keywords.
  • Include keywords in your headers and your content.
  • Break down information into bite sized chunks with sub headings.
  • Write a new page for each subject and set of keywords.
  • Select suitable images to complement and break up large areas of text.
Engage and convert
  • What are your main messages?
  • What do you do, how do you do it?
  • Required call to action: sign up, telephone call, gather information or email?
  • Testimonials, reviews or case studies to back up your content.
Search Engine Optimisation
  • Build your site to the latest web standards.
  • Develop the site to ensure search engines can crawl all of your pages.
  • Check for errors and site issues before going live.
  • Continuous research and improvements to pages and content.
  • Measure and monitor keywords and site rankings.
Your input is valuable at every stage to of the design process. Whether you decide to write the content yourself and supply images or hire a copywriter and photographer, you should always have the final approval on how your business is presented on the World Wide Web.

Mark Langston
Type the above phrase into a Google search bar and take a look at some of the posts on the page.
Most of these posts have been written by WordPress developers advising ways of getting around some of the issues that are inherent in WordPress, such as:
  • Security
  • Poor quality plugins
  • Software updates causing problems
  • Server needing constant surveillance
  • SEO limitations
  • Content management difficulties
There are advantages of using a WordPress theme. You get an off the shelf design that is “mobile ready” which can save time and money.

You may have to compromise on quality and your content will have to fit into the design theme that has been selected, but if you are on a tight budget, then this solution may suit you. Design themes can be sourced from a variety of providers; some are free but most have to be purchased.

Design theme costs
Most themes are governed by a licence fee and, depending on the provider there will be a one off payment or monthly cost for the use of the theme. One source of themes is Envatomarket’s Themeforest. They offer two licence options (taken from their website):
  1. Regular licence (typically $59) - Use, by you or one client, in a single end product which end users are not charged for
  2. Extended licence (typically $2,950) - Use, by you or one client, in a single end product which end users can be charged for
If the end product, including the theme, is going to be free to the end user then a Regular License is what you need. An Extended License is required if the end user must pay to use the end product.

These themes take a considerable amount of time to develop and design, so agencies using these themes will have to pay to use them and will pass those costs on to their fee paying clients.

You may want to check with your developers how this cost is being passed on and that the theme they are using to build your website has been licensed for you.

Custom design and build or WordPress theme?
There are some initial questions you need to ask to help you decide which route to take:
  1. Do you want a design and custom built functionality that is unique to your business? Do you want your developers to understand your business and its requirements and design a website that is built around your content? Then you will want a custom design and build
  2. Are you happy to select a design theme that you can insert your content into? Do you mind if your website looks similar to a lot of other websites? Then a design theme may save some time and cost, depending on how much the licence fee is
At Crystal Thought, our preference is to build custom websites after meeting you to find out about your business, target audience and competitors. This way, you get a unique site that will meet the challenges of your business that also has the ability to grow as your business develops.

However, we understand there are times when a design theme will work well for a business and with this in mind we have developed a selection of design themes customers can choose from. The advantage of developing our own themes are as follows:
  • Wordpress-problemsBetter security
  • Intuitive content management system
  • More stable and better build quality
  • Better control of the hosting and server maintenance
  • Mobile optimised
  • Improved SEO
  • No license fees
Call us to discuss your preferred option.

Mark Langston

 
Successful content marketing relies on developing a strategy that is tailored to your own individual business requirements. The strategy you adopt will depend on the most effective media that reaches your customer base.

Content marketing covers a wide range of media, from writing articles for your blog, email newsletters and posting to social media. Other methods include:
  • Case studies and white papers
  • Webinars and videos
  • Press articles
  • Printed materials
Your content marketing strategy needs to be planned to achieve specific measurable goals. For example, one of our clients provides commercial insurance to businesses and their aim is to use content marketing to build brand awareness, establish themselves as experts in their field, improve customer retention, and generate leads.

Their strategy includes producing regular articles covering detailed information about insurance services that businesses may need to protect themselves from financial risk.

Well written, informative articles with unique content posted on their website and shared on social media, together with a regular newsletter to clients, provides a number of benefits for them:
Article_writing
  • Informs existing clients of other insurance products available
  • Communicates their industry knowledge and expertise
  • Earns customer trust
  • Creates content for social media sites and newsletter
  • Provides effective Search Engine Optimisation to improve their website rankings

Effective Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
One of the key benefits of adding content to your website via a blog is SEO. Search engines such as Google regularly update the way they rank websites and deliver search results. Consistently, the most important factor that affects a website’s ranking is the visible content on the site.

Regularly adding relevant content to your website, either by adding pages or writing blog articles, enables the search engines to rank your site against your competitors.

What makes content relevant?
Content is more relevant if the subject you are writing about is being searched for by your customers. For example, if you write an article on “videotapes” you will attract fewer searches than for “Blu Ray DVDs” because videotapes are now obsolete. Therefore, before you start your article, you will need to do some keyword research to ensure you are writing for your target audience.

I find it useful to have a list of relevant keywords at the top of my page when writing an article to make sure the most searched for keywords are included in the article. I use SEO software to help with this research. This applies to any content added to your website.

If you need help with keywords or writing articles for your website, give me a call.

Mark Langston
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