Know the purpose of your domain or website
At Host Africa, we have seen that having a website is no recipe for success. Some companies only have a web domain so that their email address corresponds to the company name. This a very valid reason to have a domain and better than having a website misrepresenting your company. If your domain is only there for your email, at least post a neat, one-page site with your company logo, contact details, location and maybe a short paragraph telling what the company is about. Leaving a site up that permanently displays “Under Construction” or “This spot is reserved for….” can do your company more damage than good.
A good site needs proper planning. Yes, some sites do grow organically but need to start with a solid structure first. Plan the paths you want site visitors to follow. Meet up with marketing, sales and some decent graphic designers and layout specialists if your budget allows. Decide on what the focus areas are. What are the company values and goals that need to be emphasized on a website? Design a storyline for the website. Run some mock sessions to see if your plan makes sense. Visit competitor sites and see what they do right and what they do wrong.
Get the right perspective
Look at your website from a customer’s point of view. Can they reach what they want quickly? Is the information path clear and uncluttered? I will never forget one website that was designed in the late 1990’s. This site was a web design company’s dream. Full of fancy graphics, flash presentations and all the latest and greatest gadgets. It even won the prize as the website of the year. What no one kept in mind was that this site was done in the days of dial-up internet. On a normal dial-up connection, the site took almost 5 minutes to load, 2 of which it showed only a pitch black screen with no activity. The site was a total loss as far as a marketing tool, although it made the design company a tidy sum of money.
Ensure that you have easy access to your web-designer, developers, admins that are needed to manage the site. Do not rely on your hosting company to solve some obscure Java or WordPress issue. The more knowledge you or your company have in-house around the maintenance of your website and email, the better. Ensure that you have an open communications channel with your hosting company. Do not leave bits of hosting scattered across different providers. This is one case where putting all your eggs in one basket is a GOOD thing. Keeping your Domain Registration, DNS Records, Web Hosting and Email all with one provider makes troubleshooting far easier as you only have to explain your problem to ONE company. It also has the advantage of avoiding the “blame-game” as the provider cannot tell you that they cannot help you because the issue is not on their part of the hosting.
Ensure that everything on your website is optimised. Use the smallest images that will still look good. Add compression to all images. Optimize the site code as far as possible. Add caching and compression to your site. Test the end user experience – a fast and responsive site is a sure way to keep a site visitor on your site. Good content is important as well, but only if it is easy to access.