Since your mobile dog grooming service received excellent word of mouth (or would that be “bark of snout”?) and 5 star reviews on Yelp, you’ve opened a storefront location. The intense focus that went into your successful grand opening has now shifted to getting paws through the door to cover overhead.
Putting on your Chief Marketing Officer hat, you know that your one page website consisting of a logo, photo of the mobile grooming unit (aka “The Trimming Truck”) and contact information will no longer suffice. It won’t convey to potential customers that they can entrust their four legged family members to you for a day of shampooing, clipping and teeth cleaning. Nowadays, potential customers check out a new business on the web before spending their cash.
You understand that the new website you back-burnered until after opening needs to be launched asap. You have ideas of what “bells & whistles” you want on the site: services menu, canine customer photo gallery, testimonials, the “Barker Blog” and online appointment scheduling. What you don’t have a feel for is the process involved in getting it done. Well, you’ll be barking up the right tree by reading on.
There’s No “Website Services Store” in Your Local Mall
At some level, a website is a piece of tech equipment that your business is buying. But it’s not the same as going to the office supply store for a new printer. And even in the realm of customized purchases, it isn’t similar to having your business cards done by a graphic designer. Despite common belief, neither is it a matter of paying the tech savvy to push some buttons and voila, your website is launched and addressing the internet needs of your business.
That is not to say that launching a new business website will be an impossible task or about as much fun as buying a used car. The process is merely of a type that many small business owners don’t undertake all that often. It is somewhat similar to working with an interior designer to configure the layout of your brick and mortar. They may have design expertise, but you are the expert regarding the actual operation of your business.
The Website Creation Process
Creating “a website” can be done by anybody with internet access and a registered domain name. And that may be an adequate solution if the goal is merely an online presence for potential customers to find you on the internet and get the basics (location, hours, contact details, etc.).
But that “just the facts” approach as well as the majority of the one-size-fits-all solutions out there won’t account for your specific business needs. Neither will they get the best potential return that a website tailored to your business would. For example, if your dog grooming business wants a customer loyalty program where they can login to see how close Fido’s free visit is, some customization will be necessary.
It’s a Collaboration
An apt analogy to creating your business website is to having an architect build you a house. If you just asked for a 3 bedroom + 2 bath, they might come back with a two story design when you actually wanted a ranch style to prepare for an aging parent eventually moving in.
Working with your website developer similarly requires collaboration to ensure it addresses your business needs. At the beginning of the process you should make the developer aware of any goals you hope to achieve. Some examples for your website might be:
- Ranking high in search engine results for your geography
- Establishing your branding online
- Customer only areas for ordering, scheduling, or social networking
- E-commerce currently or potentially in the future
- Internal business operations (e.g., employee scheduling or training)
Your website developer should also provide potential website ideas as they learn about your business. The key is collaboration between the website developer who has expertise in their field, and the person with expertise about your business; namely you.
It’s a Process
A recurring refrain by business owners is the amount of time from an initial meeting with a website developer to the actual launch. It is an understandable frustration based upon how many tasks are handled nowadays via a few keystrokes and clicks. Schedule your monthly bill payments in 5 minutes. Online ordering of a gluten free crust pizza with mushrooms and extra cheese for delivery in 30 minutes.
However, a website that best addresses your business needs requires more than an initial phone call or meeting followed by the developer pushing a few buttons. During the development process you will have to provide additional information and make decisions on issues that arise along the way. What information will be on your “About Us” page? Will your “Services” list include pricing?
Generally, developers follow two methodologies: Waterfall or Agile. Waterfall is a linear approach where developers collect all project requirements and then plan every stage of development from start to finish. Agile development focuses on achieving short term goals broken into “sprints” so developers can focus on one element of the process at a time. After each sprint there is testing and feedback, which is incorporated into the project before the next sprint. A comparison of the 2 methods can be found in “Agile Development vs. Waterfall”.
Regardless of a developer’s methodology, your input and collaboration throughout the process is essential. That is the only way that the resulting website will advance the goals of your particular business. Otherwise, the only goal that might be achieved is a good looking addition to the developer’s portfolio.