Your website will be one of the most important assets for your wedding business. Whether you choose to promote your business mainly online through Google and Social Media or offline via wedding fairs and networking, at some point your potential customers will want to check out your website.
So it’s vital that you make the right choices when creating yours.
With so many options available that’s not always easy – so here are our top 10 tips for choosing the best solution for your business.
1. Define your needs
Take some time to think about what you need from your website.
Will your site be basically an online brochure or will you sell products/take bookings?
Will your customers need access to their own area (most photographers provide this)?
Brainstorm all the functions and features you think you need and categorize them as “Essential”, “Desirable” and “Nice to Have”.
A mobile friendly website is essential these days, as is the ability to change content without paying your web developer. But a newsletter sign-up box may not be necessary for your first website.
Here’s a great infographic to help you (not wedding specific, but aimed at all small businesses).
2. Determine your budget
A good website doesn’t need to be expensive, but you should be prepared to invest in getting the right site for your business.
Cheap DIY websites usually look just that – cheap. They won’t impress your potential clients and could well end up losing you more sales than you save.
Remember to allow for design, build and copywriting. And don’t spend all your budget on creating the site – you will want some left over for marketing it.
3. Assess your own skills
Of course you can save money by doing some parts yourself. But be realistic about your skills.
If you are a great designer but not comfortable with technology then you may well be able to design the look and feel of the site but need a web developer to build it for you.
If you are not a great writer, then hiring a good copywriter to create your content will be money well spent.
4. Talk to people
Once you have an idea of what you need and how much you can spend, start talking to people.
Ask other wedding business owners who built their website (whether good or bad!).
Talk to lots of website developers about what they offer (but don’t commit yourself just yet).
At this stage you want to get a feel for what is available within your budget, the types of solutions offered and who comes recommended (and who doesn’t).
5. Research the different platforms proposed
There are probably thousands of different options around. From basic DIY website builders like Wix (approach with caution) through WordPress (currently the most popular platform for small business websites – with good reason) to sophisticated ecommerce platforms like Magento.
Take a look at the main ones suggested to you to understand whether they offer what you need and the pros and cons of each.
Be wary of having a completely bespoke site built from scratch (especially if it’s your first site). Unless you have very unique requirements it is almost never necessary. Most web developers use existing software like WordPress and then customise it for you.
6. Make a shortlist
Now it’s time to focus and narrow down your search.
Choose 3 or 4 options that you think will meet your requirements. This could be 3 different platforms or 3 different developers who use the same platform.
7. Understand the full cost
Be sure that you are fully aware of both the upfront costs and the ongoing costs for your website. And that you know exactly what is included and what is extra.
Online free website builders usually offer only the very basics free and you will need to pay a monthly fee to remove their advert from your site.
Other things to consider include hosting charges, software upgrades and the cost of making any changes – these can all add up.
8. Think about the future
It’s worth thinking about your future needs at this stage. If this is your first website do you expect it to last several years or do you want to get something up and running now with the intention of upgrading once you are established?
Bear in mind that interim sites have a habit of becoming semi-permanent and that a poor website may well hold your business back.
9. Think about possible pitfalls
Like what happens to your website if the developer goes out of business/decides to go backpacking round the world for a year? Or if you fall out with them (this happens all the time).
One advantage of using something like WordPress is that your site can be taken over by either yourself or someone else relatively easily.
10. Make a decision
By now you will have thoroughly researched your shortlisted options, assessed each against your requirements and have a clear idea of the costs.
So it’s time to make your choice.
Once you have, make sure you get everything in writing with your chosen supplier(s) so there are no nasty surprises.
Remember that this is a collaborative process – aim to build a good working relationship with your developer and you will have an asset that will enhance your business for years to come.