Websites are the very heart of all Digital Marketing for small businesses.
They are, in essence, very straightforward- simply a form of electronic publishing! This can,however, vary in complexity from a simple digital business cards or brochures to large and complex ecommerce sites!
In the past they have been percieved as technical and expensive by small businesses.Websites are now simple to design and build requiring little more than basic wordprocessing skills. If you can write a Word document and cut and paste you can build a website.
The slideshow to the right presents an overview of websites for small businesses.
The role of websites is evolving in two ways:
The website as a hub. This is often also refered to as a portal or an ecosystem, each of which is equally valid. The website is seen as the central and cordinating point of all marketing activity both online and traditional.
The "content rich" website. The webite is seen as the core repository and source for a whole range of different types of content which can be used to market a business. These content types can include Press Releases, Articles, Blogs, Brochures etc.
There are in essence two options: You can commission a third party to build it for you on a commercial basis or you can do it yourself.
DIY Sites. This approach is increasingly popular with several different methods(see slides). Website Builders are the simplest, because they form a simple one stop shop, and do not require technical skills. For sites of up to medium complexity these are extremely cost effective for small businesses.
Third Party Sites. This approach can still be appropriate for complex requirements or where budget is available and resources can be better used elsewhere. If it is decided to go down this route then an explicit requirements document is fundamental and an ITT generated for a formal procurement to a shortlist of suppliers. If rich content is required then how this is managed is of particular importance.
The answer to this question, for the vast majority of businesses,is yes;and increasingly so.If your customers are influenecd by online content, then you need a website.
There is a considerable range of website types, ranging from basic business card sites and brochure sites through to complex dynamic ecommerce sites (see slides for more details). It is important to spend some time considering what the marketing requirements are from the site both now and in the forsseeable future before deciding what type of site you require. Do not be influenecd by what a supplier may wish to offer!The same applies for planning the redevelopment of an existing site
There is some basic information that most websites should contain (see slides). Over and above this there are a number of aditional features such as additional content types and social media integration that can be incorporated (see box to right).
The most important feature of design is that users should be able to get the information they are looking for as easily as possible, so simple structures and navigation are paramount.
The visual design of the site is relatively unimportant. So do not obsess over it and do not allocate a disproportianate amount of resoursces to it!