Content is king in this day and age. Getting started can be overwhelming with the sheer number of options that are out there. People increasingly look for do-it-yourself alternatives to avoid hiring expensive designers to develop custom websites. The great news for small business owners is that affordable options are not only increasing in quantity, but in quality. You can build a website and blog for your business that look great, are easy to use, and don’t cost and arm and a leg.
Choosing a Content Management System (CMS)
Quantity can be a gift and a curse. It is important to know what your needs are before you start so that you can make an informed decision. There are a lot of articles discussing the ins and outs of open source CMS; this article is a great comparison of Drupal, Joomla, and WordPress, the top open source CMS tools currently available. The comparison includes – but is not limited to – example sites, features, ease of use, and best use cases, all of which are very important when you decide to put your business out there. Using a well-known tool is great for beginners because you can utilize established online communities for support and templates.
Picking a Template
After you choose a CMS you will need to pick a template. The template will enable you to make your site stand out from other businesses and establish your brand. Write down your needs and refer back to your list when reviewing template options. Here are some things to think about when you begin browsing:
- Look and Feel: While look and feel is very important, it isn’t just about how the template looks. You want something that is pleasing to the eye, is polished, and gives users a great impression of your business – but the template must also be a good home for your content. Are you going to blog? What layout best fits your needs? Is your content going to be photo- or video-heavy? What are the needs of your audience? These are important content questions that will help you decide how to show your content
- Mobility: Most people use smartphones to not only access their contacts, but their life. The template you use should be a responsive design. A responsive design ensures that your reader will have an optimal viewing experience, meaning all the elements on your site scale to the size of a phone or tablet screen and maintain navigational ease. Most designers recognize this now, but it’s important that you confirm this
- Customization: Many templates allow you to customize to match your existing brand. Color, font, and adding your logo, videos, and photos are all ways that you can customize a website. If the necessary elements aren’t there, what will you need to do to add them? Minor customization should be expected, but if you have to redesign the entire website, chances are the template does not suit your needs
- Know your audience: Before you start a website you should know who you are speaking to. What are their wants and needs? What are your competitors doing? What do they need to hear from you to build confidence and spark curiosity in your brand? Create a persona for your audience and speak directly to them.
- Make a schedule: Take the guesswork out of content creation by putting together a content schedule in advance. Keep in mind the trends, events, business milestones, and holidays that are relevant to your business and schedule your content around them. This gives you and your team time to get proactively prepared. Having a schedule will also help you stay consistent – which is imperative to building an audience
- Be local, be personal, solve a problem: If you’re having trouble coming up with material, this should be your creative mantra! Make it personal for your readers by showcasing your story, showing community involvement, and/or providing insight on an issue that you know they might face
Getting started is the hardest part. Your schedule will keep you on track, and once you have a few months under your belt you can begin to use analytics as another tool to help drive content decisions. Trial and error is all part of the process – especially in the beginning. Be open to change as the needs of your business and customers evolve.
Do you run a website or blog for your business? Are you just getting started? What are your tips, comments, questions, and concerns about the process?