… and how long is a piece of string?
Websites are like houses, they’re all different! Most web development companies will custom build your website just for you – they’re the consultant, project manager, architect, designer, builder and marketeer too!
In Cairns, Australia, websites are known for being much cheaper than they are throughout the rest of Australia. Nobody really knows why, but Cairns businesses certainly get a great deal over their down south competitors.
Here’s a quick guideline to what you would be paying for in our area.
These are tradesmen or single-operator businesses. Mostly they need a simple website to show their scope of skills and their prices.
Service-based industries: $2500 – $3500
Lawyers, media/PR, accountants, web developers… anyone who provides a service fits in here. These industries are hoping their website will provide a strong credibility tool with a good portfolio facility and detail about services provided.
Ecommerce websites: $5000+
Any website which sells something requires credit card security, lots of great photography and good product spiels.
Most web design firms work on an hourly fee for services, and if they give you a fixed price there’s a good chance they’ve considered the time it will take them and multiplied it by the hourly fee.
A good web designer will charge between $80 – $130 per hour.
If the cost is any less than this, I would have a thorough look into their portfolio and check the developer isn’t cutting any corners in essential places.
When asking for a price, consider that most developers will have a minimum charge, some as low as 15 minutes. All jobs, even the smallest ones take at least 15 minutes. Here’s a list of the things a developer does when you request changes to your website:
So even without taking the actual time for the job into account, that’s 32 minutes work. Many of these costs are often absorbed though, parts like billing or receiving the job.
Unless you’re in a marketing program or have something special you won’t have any ongoing fees associated with your website design.
However, you will have some web hosting fees. You should allow for between $250 -$500 annually to cover your website hosting and domain name registrations.
One of the major factors responsible for a cost blowout on website development is continually making changes and tweaks whilst the site is still under development.
Most web development companies will charge you hourly for changes made to your website, so it’s important from a cost perspective to get all the glitches, spelling mistakes and formatting ironed out before you hand it over to your web developer.
Lots of little changes add up, and can put a project significantly over budget. Even worse for businesses with marketing deadlines, it can also cause your website to be late.
When you’re approaching a web developer for a website, ensure you have the following ready:
Before broadband internet was mainstream in Australia, many people joked about the web being the world wide wait. Certainly high-speed internet access has made a considerable difference to everyone’s web browsing habits, but still some pages are slow. Why is this?
Big images mean large file sizes and therefore longer download times.
Animations are made up of lots of images, and typically take longer to load as a result. They’re also frustrating to users as they often have a loading screen where not much happens (except waiting).
Websites which have automated features like search are sometimes doing lots of things in the background while loading the page. This can lead to slowness.
We’ve had the ideaology of business plans, marketing plans and other plans drummed into us by business success professionals for a long time now, but one plan we don’t here a lot about are website plans. So, where do you start? With the goals!
Like all things, a website will have one or two major goals, and a number of minor goals. Usually the minor goals support the major ones. Throughout most websites we build, the major goals don’t change.
Does anyone have further suggestions on other goals websites might try to achieve?
There’s a dreamy romance about the notion of making money while you sleep. This is one of the major motivations for new online entrepreneurs – which is understandable when you read stories about the gobs of money made by the great global success stories such as Amazon, Google, facebook and eBay.
Many people concoct amazing new web ideas every day; lots don’t get developed, and lots don’t make it online. Some run out of budget after launch, and sadly fizzle in the market. Here are some aspects to consider when trying to make it in the web world.
It’s hard to believe, but the web has been mainstream in Australia since 1996. In 12 years the web has evolved significantly with some 5 billion websites. Just on numbers, the big winners are few.
The internet is experiencing an era like the industrial revolution where multiple people fought over who was the first to invent particular machines. Brilliant ideas are dreamt up every day, and there’s a good chance someone else in the world has already thought of it. In fact, there’s a good chance someone else is developing it already.
Many people believe the web money now lies in narrow niche markets. For example, there’s not a great deal of room in the market for another major player like Amazon. But there are strong online opportunities for antique book dealers, collectible book specialists, rare and hard to find online bookstores.
Similarly, as more people seek to purchase local goods and services online, geographically niche concepts will become more important, and certainly more profitable.
The first step of any online entrepreneur is to get some advice from people in the know. Sit down with a number of IT gurus and thresh out your concept. Refining the idea early on will save you a lot of money down the track.
It is best that once you’ve talked to a few friends in the industry that you seek the advice of seasoned internet professionals. Most web developers who’ve been in business for 5 or more years are considered veterans and will happily work in a consulting capacity to assist you.
People mistakenly skip this step and try to keep ideas to themselves for fear of someone else stealing it. The reality is ideas need substantial development to make it to market, so it’s well worth investing in the professional advice of people ‘in the know’ and experienced with your market.
The great rules of traditional business are equally but arguably more important for online business. A business plan, start-up capital and a strong marketing strategy are required for online success.
Business plans for websites are different beasts to those of bricks-and-mortar businesses, but you most certainly should not skip this step. Most web development companies will have somebody on staff to assist with the conceptual planning and realistic goal targets from an online perspective.
Start-up capital for most online operators needs to cover the cost of website development as well as realistic marketing costs to get the idea off the ground.
What’s your idea going to cost? Most customised websites with unique and interesting features start from $20,000.
All the awesomeness of the web’s automation has won hearts in the past but customers now crave the essentials of traditional businesses; customer service and reliability. Unfortunately, it is usually the automation features that attract budding online entrepreneurs and it’s important to remember that customers require so much more to become regular website customers.
Automation trends now only impress when intelligent interpretation and intuition is used throughout websites. An example of this is where you fill out an online form and upon answering a question the form tries to predict the answer to your next question.
Delivering superb customer service through intelligent automation should be the goal of emerging web businesses. Think carefully about the text in automatic emails sent to your customers when they complete certain actions on the website, such as asking for more information or subscribing to your newsletter, as you can keep a visitor for much longer if you can continue to satisfy their curiosity.
Ultimately once your website is built, you’ll need to sink some marketing dollars into drawing visitors. The quickest way to do this is through Google’s AdWords program, or advertising on high profile websites within the region or industry in which you operate.
Many new websites skip some of the user testing techniques employed by the big websites to maximise profits. Try this simple one: find 5 to 10 people you know to participate. Just friends, work colleagues and family will be fine. Give them all a slightly different job to do on your website. For example, purchase 3 items using the shopping cart, or make an enquiry. Watch how they traverse the website, where they need to stop and think about their next action, and where they find the site easy and intuitive. Use this information to improve your customers’ experience.
The web is undoubtedly an exciting place to do business, and if you don’t lose sight of the basics of business, the road to success and profits will be much smoother.
This article was published in the May 2008 edition of In Touch In Business magazine.
The text on your home page is the most important text on your website.
Your home page not only leads your visitors into the money-making parts of your website, but it also provides the most important terms search engines will use to rank you.
Without text on your home page you’ll fall behind competitors in the search engines, and annoy customers who’ve come to explore your site.
Consider the most important words you believe your customers will type into a search engine and ensure these are included on your home page. This might be your location and industry, like cairns web design, or it might be the product you’re selling, like tennis balls.
Summarise your website on your home page by including useful paragraphs and snippets about what information can be found throughout the website. Invite people to explore further through strong calls-to-action.
Most importantly, don’t let your web designer build you a home page with just images, and no text.
Small business owners on a tight budget are often tempted by the cheap prices of inexperienced web designers or the opportunities presented by tech-savvy family members. Unfortunately my firm has recently fixed a lot of problems caused by the creation of what we refer to as backyard websites.
If you’re serious about your business but don’t know much about the web here’s what you should consider when choosing someone to build your website:
Now that everybody owns a digital camera there are a far greater number of amateur photographers who take their own photos for their website. Whilst I strongly recommend you hire a professional photographer, I realise this is cost prohibitive for many small businesses.
Here’s some tips for making your website photos look more attractive.
- Don’t ever use blurry or out of focus photos. Always reshoot these until you’ve got a crisp subject.
- When taking a series of photos of a similar theme, keep the background and lighting the same in each photo. This is particularly important when you have a shopping cart website and are displaying many products on the same page.
- Because the photos displayed on websites are quite small, less complex photos look much better. Try for shots with a single subject and a simple, plain background.
- Putting people in your photos will help your visitors put themselves in the picture. Carefully consider the age and look of your models though, as you will put some demographics offside by choosing models who your market don’t identify with.
- Include photos of you (the business owners), your team looking smart in their uniforms and your building. The internet is anonymous so photos of the management give visitors some people contact they miss from a face-to-face transaction. It also raises your credibility through recognition.
When you’re planning a website, you will most likely be asked to write a design brief, or your web developer will write one for you. The process of writing your design brief is a great way to have focus the thoughts of your website project and define the goals you’re trying to achieve. Your design brief will also save you a lot of money in the long run.
Here’s the essential things you consider including in your brief:
Write a couple of paragraphs about your business. Think about your company history, current staffing levels and how your product or services range has evolved. Your web designer will be trying to establish what type of business you are, and what style of website would suit you.
This is an area lots of businesses struggle to define, but it is important as it sets the mood of your website. When deciding on your target market, consider the following demographics:
Websites You Like (and Dislike)
Scour the web for similar businesses in your industry, both locally and abroad. Look for aspects of these sites that capture attention and include them in your design brief.
Be sure to pay attention to anything you don’t like, or anything that captures your attention in a negative way.
It’s important for your web developers to know how you plan to promote your website, as they can help you track the performance of your endeavours. Consider including both online and offline promotional activities.
If you’re a bit stuck for ideas download our Website Design Brief, and just fill in the blanks.
This article was written while I was on holiday in California and was inspired by the many great travel businesses I encountered throughout America.
When creating a website within the tourism industry it’s important to keep a strong focus on the needs of travellers. The website ideaologies applying to travel also apply to a broad number of websites selling single products online.
It is much easier to maintain this focus if you have a clear idea of your target demographic. Many businesses fall into the trap of believing anyone can stay in their hotel, or take their tour, but the reality is each product will only appeal to a subset of the travellers visiting any region.
Tourism providers who’ve been in the industry for some time will tell you that the internet dramatically changed the booking habits of travellers and it’s important to realise why this is so.
Why A Traveller Uses the Web
The primary reason a traveller will visit your website is to gather information about tourism product. This means more information then the brochure displays or a travel agent might know. Travellers are frequently disappointed when a website contains scant information or fails to answer even their most basic questions.
Essential Website Parts
For a traveller the most important page of a website is your home page. Research suggests most people will visit at least 10 different product websites before making a purchasing decision, and much of their decision to delve further into your website is based on the professionalism and information on your home page.
Your home page should be a three or four paragraph summary of your product which addresses questions about location, rates and sells your products major benefits over your competitors. In addition you should ensure your home page does not load slowly, and avoid flash animations as they rarely display the information required to entice your visitor to go further.
Within the information on your home page, ensure there is appropriate linked text where visitors can find out further information. This is particularly important with rates and calls to action.
The rates themselves should be clearly displayed in a neat table with the fine print or pricing conditions close by. A visitor needs to be able to quickly figure out how much your product costs, so avoid making them fill out a form with their dates and number of people as this is likely to annoy them and generally results in them studying your competitors rates page instead.
A strong call to action leading your visitor to book, enquire or phone should be near the rates data and is nearly always forgotten by less savvy website owners. Be clear about what your potential customer should do next.
Most often a visitor will contact you before booking if your website does not have an automated availability and booking form. You can make this process easy for them by having separate booking and enquiry forms.
Hire a professional photographer and include your most spectacular shots on your home page, and then scatter the rest generously through your website. Include talent from your target market demographic in the photos. This allows people to put themselves in the picture having an enjoyable experience.
Hindrances To Conversions
As the web becomes increasingly automated the time it takes for a visitor to gather the information they require from a tourism product provider will determine which provider makes the sale. For this reason consider investing in a web-based reservation system to allow customers to make decisions instantly. Customers will get frustrated if they need to wait for responses to their reservations and book a competitive product.
Many web users attest their biggest annoyance about websites is not being able to find the information they require to answer their questions. Think about the most common questions your customers ask and answer everyone of them.
The question all customers need answered is the one of prices. Some products mistakenly leave their prices off their website hoping someone will contact them to ask, but this strategy will sooner send your customers to a competitor which does display their prices. Just as bad as having no rates is having confusing rates, so keep them simple.
When a customer has an enquiry request ensure your enquiry form is short and sweet and only asks the absolutely necessary details you need to respond to the customer. Long enquiry forms will put customers off and they may choose not to bother asking.
Be careful with the photos you include as bad photography with small grainy pictures or old shots devalues your product and puts customers off. Avoid including anything blurry, out of focus, or where the photo has too many subjects.
Resources Travellers Use
Think about the online resources travellers use to find product, and ensure you have strong representation.
The first and most important is the search engines, especially Google. If you don’t have good rankings, consider purchasing advertising with Google AdWords to ensure you have good visibility.
Travellers often review prominent, high ranking information sites containing general information about the area. Look into advertising on these sites for more exposure to travellers who have not yet decided their precisie itineraries.
Big for international travellers are review and comparison websites like Trip Advisor (www.tripadvisor.com). These sites give customers an unbiased view of a number of products in an area, and rates them by popularity. Customers trust the reviews on Trip Advisor so encourage your customers to write something about your product.
Similarly travel forums like Lonely Planet’s The Thorn Tree allow travellers to explore destinations and their products through discussion with other travellers. Especially tour product will benefit by participating in online forum discussions and passively promoting their products aand services direct to potential customers. Seek out localised travel forums and ensure you follow the accepted ettiquette for product promotion.
The prominence of travel blogs have seen an increase in product providers being featured in personal stories from customers who have experienced that product. These are powerful reccommendations, and travel providers should consider asking customers if they have a travel blog and encourage their product’s favourable inclusion if so.
Travel websites are by large all about your customer. They need to cut through competition by doing a great job of answering your customer’s questions and being well organised with spectacular photography.