When someone comes to us needing a new website, it's often in the early stages of planning a new business or venture. Our discussions tend to start when the project is just a concept and many aspects are still fluid, such as what the business name will be, what the logo and branding will look like or exactly how the service will function.
Fresh eyes and ears
While it's great to have a fixed brief to work within, we also love this kind of challenge and the brainstorming that results even though it's not directly related to a website - and it's something that sets us apart from many other web design agencies. If we are the first ones to hear an idea that someone has been mulling over for some time, it gives us the opportunity to consider it objectively and offer a fresh perspective. As complete outsiders, and with our analytical brains firmly engaged, we can talk through the various options and ask fundamental questions. We act both as a sounding board for ideas being considered and as (brutally honest!) critical thinkers with regard to the business as a whole.
Picking a name
The discussion usually starts with what domain names are available. It's a good starting point to see whether the suggested business name is available as a .co.uk or .com. Sometimes we discover it's already taken, either by a competitor or something that could cause confusion for customers, which might prompt a rethink about the company name. A website doesn't necessarily have to match the registered company or trading name as long as it is stated clearly on the site. Something snappier and easier to type can often work better, and in a crowded marketplace, it can pay to opt for something original and memorable. Express Stairlifts based in the South West found that they regularly struggled to communicate their fairly long address expressstairliftssw.co.uk over the phone (especially given the number of adjacent S's) so we suggested nomorestairs.co.uk which they loved.
Look and feel
The logo and branding can be a blank slate too. In these cases, we'll have a conversation about what kind of impression the client wants to convey, usually looking at other brands in the same or comparable fields. People who know their prospective competitors will already have a good idea of what those rival businesses are doing, but if not it can be a good opportunity to see what services are available, the kind of language and imagery used and where gaps and opportunities exist for a new business. The branding exercise can prompt reflection about what type of image the business wants to project: sophisticated, approachable, informal, alternative?
Designing the structure of a new website and writing the text to accompany it can be the first real test for a nascent business. While you're dealing face-to-face with existing clients, it's much easier to keep your business model informal and a bit fuzzy. As soon as you need to explain it to someone who has never heard of you, you have to establish the fundamentals:
- who are you?
- what's on offer?
- how much does it cost?
- how does it work?
Talking through these basic issues can raise some important questions because until it's written down (or on-screen), it's easy to skip over the details. When we talked to Tracey at Reset 12 about her weight loss coaching sessions, an important question for the website - and Tracey's business - was what times and days the sessions would be available.
These types of considerations have a real and lasting effect on how a business runs day-to-day. For example, displaying a prominent phone number will encourage people to ring you. That's great if you want to establish a personal relationship with potential customers, but if you're often unable to answer the phone it might be better to help visitors find answers on the website and direct them to a contact form for further queries.
User experience rules
A website should do much more than attracting new customers; it should make the whole process of managing new enquiries easier for both parties. A well-designed enquiry form will capture the information necessary to give a quote or take a booking, saving back and forth phone calls and emails to get the details required. Lerryn Memorial Hall already had a page on their village website and decided to add an online booking form. Previously, all bookings had been made face-to-face and on paper. It was a system that regular hirers were familiar with but it was a lot of work for the booking clerk and would have been a huge task to pass onto someone new. Defining the criteria for an online form forced the committee to clarify the options, costs and terms as well as share the workload in managing bookings. Hirers can now see straight away if the hall is available and receive instant confirmation when a reservation has been made.
Since you asked...
We're certainly not professional business advisors but we do have a lot of experience talking to new businesses and converting their visions into a workable reality. We will also be honest and upfront in our recommendations because we know that starting a new business can be a scary (not to mention costly) process. We might suggest starting with a simple, single-page website or even a Shopify site selling a handful of products until demand has been tested; the all-singing-all-dancing bespoke online shop can come later. Whatever our clients decide, we're always happy to chat through the possibilities and we are never backwards about coming forwards with our own opinions.