When a website is more than just a website

We have moved past the starting days of the internet and unlike other forms of technology where you can jump on board when you feel ready, the internet is less forgiving. The internet moves full steam ahead whether you are ready or not. You cannot pull the chain on the bus to get off at the next stop and assume that you can get back on at some point in the future without careful consideration of the decision you are making. The internet is not forgiving like a new computer or a new TV. If you are doing business on the web, having the wrong type of web presence is not like pushing the wrong buttons on a new computer or new TV, it will not just beep at you or the channel changes. If you put up the wrong web presence, your company’s reputation is on the line.

While the web industry is a fast paced world, it need not be feared. We have web professionals to help us tread water and keep us afloat. We should not fear these professionals because they are the ones that make this fast paced information age we live in easy to navigate and as enjoyable to use as it is. We have long since moved past the early days of website design and it is a good thing we have. Long gone are the days where a website was an extension of the Yellow Pages or a business card.

Welcome to the information superhighway, buckle up and hang on. What we experience now is a flood of information and the experience of what goes with it. A website is an important part of the marketing package for most businesses. It has become a way to entice, entreat, and woo customers to their stores, to buy their products, and spread the word with others. Not only are they hoping that we will take part in their products, but they are hoping that we will convince others to take part as well.

In order to accomplish this, they have to think outside of just their website. It is no longer just about the website. It is about the entire online package–social media, website, and how they interact with one another. Web designers and developers have to think about more than just the screen in front them of them because the picture today is much bigger than it was ten years ago. Today, the web presence involves much more than a web page with five to seven pages with a little bit of information about the company, its history, their products, how to contact them, and so forth. It has stretched outside of that. Thanks to the social media craze we have Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Google+, Digg, and blogging to name a few. The list could go on for a while. No longer is the web limited to the desktop thanks to the explosion of the mobile industry.

Social media is a big part of our digital world, thus it should be a big part of our online presence. If you want to obtain more customers, you have to go where the customers are. If you want to drive more traffic to your website, you have to go where you are most likely to find users that fit your clientele base or target audience. It is important to find a solution that will help your business do this.

If you are just starting out, this might seem like an insurmountable task to conquer the almighty web world between building a website and a social media front, but this is where a good web professional comes in. Many offer services above and beyond your basic website design. Simply ask. The website is only the beginning.

Your website does you absolutely nothing for your business as a whole if that is all that you do. The internet is not a situation where “if you build it they will come.” You have to do far more than simply put the website up on the internet. There is even more to it than SEO (search engine optimization) which is not the savior of websites. You can get good listings in Google and other search engines and still have crappy ROI (return on investment) from your website. Visitors do not yield sales if your visitors do not stick around long enough to convert to sales.

It is important to consider the entire package. It is important to look at the content and how it is presented. Often times web designers need to encourage clients to rework or rewrite content to be written appropriately for the web. It is the designer’s job to emphasize to the client the importance of good well written content and express how different the needs are on the web. A well written brochure does not have the same impact on the screen. All too often you go to a website and are greeted by dry and uninviting text when what we want is something to entice us to do something, invite us to do something.

A website should become a part of the overall business strategy. There should be a plan to drive traffic to the website and ultimately to the business. The plan should include how to handle this traffic when it increases. Ultimately, there should be a plan in place on how to convert the website’s traffic to sales whether it be in physical sales, services, or repeat traffic. The point of a website is to “sell” something whether it be products or information you are trying to convince the user to take part. Getting them to convert to purchasers is not always as easy as getting them to come to the website.

In order to do this, you must first drive traffic to the website. Once you have gotten traffic to the website, you must capture the user’s attention. Once you have their attention, you must convince them to do something. Once they have done something, your goal should be then to get them to come back and also to convince someone else to take the exact same actions.

The best part is that this process does not stop here. The analysis and evaluation of needs continues on a consistent basis to make sure the business is benefiting from the entire package. Suggestions should be made based on findings as they come available. It is important to note that one should not undertake suggestions that one is not ready to take an active part in. If one cannot dedicate the time to a blog, it is better to not incorporate a blog as a part of the business’s marketing package. No blog is better than a stale and outdated blog.  The same discretion should be applied likewise to other forms of social media. If they are just branching out into social media, perhaps starting with one platform is best to experiment with. If that experience goes well then branch out further.

There has been some discussion as to whether or not social media should become a business’s focus over the website. I firmly believe that this should not be the case. A Facebook page is not a substitution for a website in any definition or form. A website is for longevity and professionalism. It is where you are free to use your branding unbound by rules and regulations stipulated by others. It is unlimited by the rules of social media. A professional website is something that will change and be updated as your business grows. Facebook and other social media changes and is updated with the whims of trends. A website can be built for security and can establish a sense of stability and trust.

This is not to say that social media cannot become an integral and important part of a business’s marketing plan, but it should not be its primary source of information. If they use Facebook alone for this, they are immediately eliminating a good portion of internet users that do not use Facebook at all or that cannot access it due to firewalls or other security precautions put in place by their places of employment, etc. Do not eliminate or discriminate against internet users.

Hiring a web designer means more than just hiring someone to design a website these days. It means looking for someone who is capable of filling multiple areas of your marketing package in many cases or will work cooperatively with other players on your marketing team. You have to think about the overall online presence in this fast paced world. You may start with a website, but you will not be able to simply put it up and forget about it. You are going to have to work hard to get people to visit it. You are going to need to promote that website just like you would a brick and mortar store. A website is only a part of the package.

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