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5 things whoever rebuilds your website needs to understand

I’m detecting a lot of interest at the moment in B2B companies rebuilding their websites. There are many reasons why you might want to tear it all up and start again, but they’ll probably be something to do with the fact that the existing one is fiddly (or expensive) to add to or maintain. Many companies have been soldiering on with old, outdated content management systems which have severely restricted their ability to make the changes required for search engine optimisation, for instance.

If you think that your 2010 marketing needs to be centred around your website (and I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t), and the prospect of developing it isn’t very appealing, it might be time to rebuild the whole thing to take account of current best practices. I’ve managed some website rebuilds for industrial companies recently which have come in at under £5,000.

But what should you look for in a website rebuild?

1. Somebody to do the job who understands the advantage of a good CMS
The content management system (CMS) is the database behind the website and the interface through which you add new pages and edit existing ones. Some companies don’t have one at all, just adding pages on an ad-hoc basis using a web page design application like Dreamweaver. This is like herding cats. Many more companies use proprietary content management systems designed by their website hosts, which were inflexible at the outset and which have never really been developed. It’s easier to change systems than most people realise, but the fear which most companies have of doing it means they’re locked into their existing website hosts. Moving over to a more widely-used content management system offers many advantages, such as independence when it comes to website hosts, so you can choose one based on the right reasons (their performance and cost) and move whenever you wish without penalty. In addition, the more widely-used content management systems are updated continuously, and widely understood, so it’s easy to find IT people and designers who’ll be able to work with you on future, as-yet unknown, projects.

2. Somebody to do the job who understands more than graphic design
For a new website, many companies just turn to a graphic designer. But creating a good look is only a small part of creating a good website. The engine underneath needs to be right, the structure needs to be well thought-out, and the framework for good search engine optimisation needs to be in place. What about possible future developments? Can these be added without seeming like obvious bolt-ons? Will your website rebuild include a session discussing and simulating likely customer requirements, to ensure they’re a design priority? The graphic design should be a skin introduced after all this.

3. Somebody to do the job who understands your business
You do not want to have to spend large parts of the website rebuild project explaining to the designers you’re using just what your products actually do, and describing the likely website visitors (your customers). Your website designers may not need to understand the technicalities of your blue widgets – although it’d be even better if they did – but they do need to understand your market. Business to business marketing is not like consumer marketing, but from the looks of many websites, a lot of designers don’t realise this. Building your site around keyword research is a fundamental strategy, and you want intelligent input from the website designers here, rather than all the work being left to you.

4. Somebody to do the job who understands that content is king
Once you have your new website, your next task will be to grow the content. This means things like an integrated company blog, and easy addition of new pages or sections such as case studies. You need to be set up for this from day one. Also, the new content needs to be automatically distributed by the different methods available, such as RSS, email, Twitter, etc. And if you’re going to subcontract out the new content generation to a PR agency or freelance technical writers, the content management system needs to be straightforward enough that they can generate the pages without you having to spend ages explaining how it all works. But you shouldn’t have to tell the designers all this, they should be suggesting it to you.

5. Somebody to do the job who understands that you have a real-world budget
It’s no secret that many companies have been ripped off – that’s the only way to describe it – by website designers over the years. I’ve had clients sheepishly admit that they paid £50,000 for a website with a few dozen pages and no great functionality. Today, with website hosting being cheaper than ever and the best content management systems being free, budgets can be much more realistic. You can get your website rebuilt by people who tick all the boxes in this article for a fraction of that cost. I aim to ensure Business Marketing Online stays in the forefront of that group.

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