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When you set out to redevelop your website you will no doubt have a range of requirements. 

It is always helpful to identify ‘must haves’ in a project brief that potential agencies can quote for. Be sure to make the non-negotiables clear and specific.  These could be elements such as:

  • Online payment facility
  • Downloadable resources
  • Integration of live chat facility
  • Twitter feed

To make the most of your website you must ensure it is:

1. Highly Professional

When existing or prospective clients visit the site, they need to be struck by the professionalism of your business. Even if you run a quirky business, your copy must be well written, in the right tone of voice, the visuals are not ‘over designed’ and there are no technical errors on the site.

2. Has a Sensible Structure

A straightforward user experience is essential. Keep in mind that you are likely to have a number of different client types, at differing levels of understanding, and all looking for different information.  Therefore package and structure your content is following a well-thought-out and logical structure.

3. Optimised for Conversion

The site needs to be technically well built so that it is attractive to Google, and therefore will achieve a better ranking position for relevant search terms.  It also needs to have content that is packaged sensibly so that it is easily indexed, has numerous calls to action across the site to encourage engagement, and uses ‘lean code’ to ensure ‘speedy page loading’.

4. Flexible

Built in a way that gives the flexibility to not only amend existing content but add new sections and content.  In addition, it needs to have the flexibility to build new functionality as your business grows and evolves.

5. Future-proof

The CMS (content management system) needs to be intuitive and flexible, allowing updates and additions with as little input or cost from the development agency as possible – putting you in control.

6. Intuitive

Whatever CMS you choose to go with, it is essential that you see a full demonstration first. Do some research and ensure that you and other members of your team will be able to use it easily.  You don’t want to rely on other companies to do simple content updates or have to spend a long time trying to figure the system out.

7. Mobile Friendly

The site needs to display perfectly on all mobile devices with no degrading of content, functionality or experience for the user.

8. Cross Browser Compatible

There are four major browsers – Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Apple Safari and Adobe Firefox.  It is essential that a full testing schedule is carried out to make sure that your site works on all of them.

9. Cost Effective but Quality

There are always efficient ways to build websites, to either save you money or make your budget go much further.  You can also use plugins or licensed third party software which are far quicker than building that functionality.  But beware, make sure you get a list of plugins or software that are used and make sure they are all reputable (they will have reviews like an Amazon product) as too many plugins or those that are not reputable or updated may lead to security issues on your site.

10. Visually Engaging

In such a competitive online environment, your site needs to be visually engaging, using clever techniques to separate it from competitors.  Look at sites you like in your sector and pass this information on to your build partners.   

11. Secure

The site needs to be as secure as it can be, so ensure that as few plugins and external pieces of software are used, regular updates are easily applied and you install an SSL Certificate on the server where it is hosted.

12. Supported

Where required, ensure a stable and established agency partner is available and on hand to rectify any pressing issues, or to further develop the site as the business grows.

Is this all I need?

The 12 points above can form the basis of a brief so that when you send it to prospective development partners you can ask them for their thoughts on how they’ll address each point.  You’ll also need to identify the specific functionality you want on your sites, such as e-commerce or a library of downloads. When you come to appoint the partner, we also wrote about a further six questions you should ask them, to feel completely comfortable you’re making the right choice as your web developer.

Good luck with your project and make sure you do some research yourself. There is lots of information online about content management systems, plugins, software, security and of course you can see other websites to pick what you like most.  It is a big investment and one you only want to make once every three years or so, so get it right the first time by following our advice!

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