How not to build a business website

15th July, 2016

Building your business website? There are some common traps to avoid.

Your website can make or break your business, so do your homework before you take the plunge.

Is your website an eCommerce site acting as a digital shop front? Or simply an online billboard promoting your wares to the world? Either way, these days you can’t afford to treat it as an afterthought.

Regardless of whether you’re building your website in-house or outsourcing the job, here are three hidden ‘gotchas’ to avoid in order to get the most from your online investment.

Don’t forget mobile users

A website design which doesn’t play nicely on small-screen devices is punished in Google’s mobile search rankings. This could render you invisible to smartphone and tablet users who will take their business elsewhere.

Look for a website design that caters for mobile users without too much back-end complexity. Your site should reconfigure itself on the fly to ensure it’s not a scrambled mess on a small screen.

Text shouldn’t be too small to read without zooming, nor should you need to scroll across to see the entire page. Sites shouldn’t depend heavily on Adobe Flash and other web technologies that aren’t mobile friendly.

Don’t ignore the fine print on your eCommerce platform

If you’re selling goods or services online, then your eCommerce platform is the most critical part of your website. It must meet your current and future needs, especially if it’s impacting on your website design and choice of other providers.

If you’re a growing business, be wary of putting yourself at the mercy of an eCommerce platform that limits the number of items on your site or the number of sales you can process each month. As the business grows, you’ll either have to hand over more money or scrap your website and start again, so think long-term before signing on the dotted line.

Your choice of eCommerce platform can also dictate your choice of back-end third-party service providers, such as your hosting service, merchant facilities, order fulfillment and delivery options. Some demand a slice of every transaction and can get greedy if they know you have no alternative but to use them.

Also consider whether your eCommerce solution requires complex and expensive integration in order to work with your financial package and other business systems.

Don’t skimp on website hosting

Once you’ve built your website you need to store it somewhere. Budget website hosting deals typically look too good to be true and won’t meet the needs of businesses.

Budget hosting usually offers unlimited storage, so there’s no restriction on the size of your website. You’re even granted unlimited bandwidth, so there’s no restriction on how many people can visit your site. This sounds perfect, but there are other limitations behind the scenes.

A budget hosting deal runs your website on the same physical server as dozens of other websites, with each site only permitted to use a fraction of the server’s memory and processing power. Should your website experience a traffic spike, putting extra load on the server, the hosting company will take your website offline.

Hosting companies like to keep things vague rather than specify exact usage thresholds, but it’s important to know what happens when your website is inundated with visitors. Some hosting companies will simply pull down your website and wait for you to complain, while others have less draconian policies which scale back your site and return to normal service as the traffic spike eases.

You need to ask about these policies up front, especially if you’re signing up for a long-term contract, or you might be stuck with a hosting deal that leaves you in the lurch when you need it most. If you’re expecting plenty of traffic then it might be worth paying extra for your own dedicated web server, especially if an outage will cost you in lost sales.

Upgrading to more expensive business-grade hosting can also entitle you to priority business-grade customer service, which can also save the day when downtime impacts on your bottom line.

While mobile web designs are becoming the new standard — and may be included in the price you would pay anyway — eCommerce platforms and hosting vary widely in price and quality.

As with all aspects of your business, your website is another area in which you must balance your current budget with your long-term growth plan.

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