by Tracy Vides
Starting a business these days is tough. Perhaps one of the most difficult but taken-for-granted tasks that entrepreneurs face is crafting and maintaining a website through which their brand can establish a strong online presence.
Creating a website for your business is one of the most important things you will ever do as a business owner. While it can be a challenging – or even daunting – task, it’s not rocket science. (Nothing is rocket science, except rocket science, by the way.) Your platform is only as good as the one who builds it. The process requires a great deal of time and varied capabilities to supplement the interface.
Let’s discuss four skills necessary to create a website that strongly reflects you and your business.
1. Good Sense for Design
Perhaps one of the most important requirements needed to create a website is a good knowledge of aesthetics and graphic design. Keep in mind, you can have the best content and fundamentals on the internet, but if the aesthetics are messy, the entire interface will get derailed.
For both rookie and veteran entrepreneurs, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is designing a website that appeals to YOU, and not the user. Designing a cool-looking website and suiting your objective take two extremely different mindsets. There are several key factors that play into a strong, user-focused platform:
- Flow – This is how the user navigates your platform. When creating a good flow, the overall experience should not lead to confusion by jumping all over the place. Keep it straightforward and simple so potential customers can find everything they need. The flow should drive traffic to pages that push users to take action.
- Color – Color alone can do a lot to either draw customers in or send them packing. Your choices should wisely reflect the overall energy, aura, and personality of your brand while putting the user in the mood to buy.
- Visuals and Images – While stock images are a quick solution, any good audience can see what you’re doing from a mile away. If you’re going to add pictures or videos to your web pages, consider using photos and footage of real people taken at your business. Stock images or cookie-cutter “intro” videos can come off as lazy.
- Communication – Throughout your pages and content, the tone you speak in needs to be consistent while your message should send signals that guide users down the conversion funnel. This goes back to putting yourself in the shoes of the user. What questions or concerns might they have about your product, your customer support, or the industry as a whole?
Learning the fundamentals of website design aesthetics can be a challenge. However, it is a very valuable skill to have. There are many options available to push you in the right direction. All the major online MOOC sites, including Lynda.com, Coursera, and Udemy, offer excellent free courses to get started learning the basics of good design.
2. Stoic Project Management Skills
As an entrepreneur putting together a new website, there is a good chance you will need to outsource or delegate some of your tasks. Whether it be content writing, programming, design, or usability, there are many standards and best practices; it can take months to produce the final product – your website.
This is where project management skills come into play for keeping the construction process running smoothly. You, assuming the role of project manager, are the heart and soul that brings every component and aspect of the web development process together to ensure everyone involved has what they need.
As this is your website, the truth of the matter is that you will most likely have to do a good deal of micromanaging to ensure tasks get done on time in the way you need them to be completed.
Learning professional project management skills (and tools) early on in a startup will prove to be very useful down the line. For example, when your business starts to experience rapid growth, it would be a wise move to bring in a team to manage your website. In this case, will need to be able to delegate tasks in the best possible manner.
You might consider earning the PMP certificate to supplement your business skills. Here too, there are a lot of courses available to put you on the right path. For instance, Knowledgehut offers a top-to-bottom course to prepare you for the PMI exams with the help of certified professionals.
3. Keen Eye for Data and Metrics
Website development is a never-ending project to improve and optimize. Interfaces today are becoming more and more data-driven. The more information we come across, the more necessary it becomes to structure and categorize organizational knowledge and insights in a way that can be easily understood and processed. Every business decision you make should be data-driven to a certain extent.
Most websites are designed for the purpose of guiding visitors to complete a desired action. Whether that be buying, sharing, subscribing, or anything else, there are elements embedded in the website where presentation and sensory effects influence consumer behavior.
The ability to respond to data has seen a lot of improvement in recent years with the growth of analytics platforms. The need to bridge the gap between visitor data and making proper web adjustments is greater than ever.
As you pick up the reins of creating your website, you will need to keep a close eye on actionable data. Some of the quantitative metrics you will need to keep an eye on are:
- Sources of Traffic
- Top Performing Content
- User Conversion Rate by Source
- Bounce Rate by page
- Customer Lifetime Value
A clear sense of this information is crucial in learning what works with visitors and what doesn’t. From here, you can make necessary changes and updates while using split testing to gauge the results.
Properly analyzing these metrics is no easy task. Take a look at some online courses to learn more about how to manage and make better data-driven decisions. Zeolearn, for example, offers a very informative course in Data visualization with Tableau (the big brother of Excel) that will teach you everything you need to analyze the state and progress of your business.
4. Firm Understanding of Web Security
Tech has done amazing things for the business world. Unfortunately, one of the side effects is that cyberspace has become a dangerous environment. In fact, a PwC report found that 79% of organizations in the United States have experienced a security breach at one time or the other.
One of the most important skills you can have when managing a business website is knowing how to keep it secure. Take a look at the OWASP development guide, for starters.
Learn as much as you can about common hacker practices and the reasoning behind breaches. While we’ve all heard about hackers stealing user passwords or personal details of your customers or gaining access to important financial data of huge companies, the most common break-ins happen when there are “vulnerabilities” in your website code or structure.
For example, a common but overlooked way hackers can gain entry into your site is by manipulating URL query strings in the browser and using the error messages displayed there. An error message that pinpoints the default error in the URL (such as 404) is a strict no-no; a better option is to create personalized pages with messaging that informs and amuses, but gives little away in terms of website data to potential hackers:
Play it safe and educate yourself on the best practices for keeping digital assets secure. SANS offers a great introductory course that will bring you up to speed on how to make sure your valuable data doesn’t get into the wrong hands. Gaining this knowledge could very well be the best decision you ever make.
Over to You
This was just the tip of the iceberg, as you may well have realized by now. Hey, who said starting a business was easy? While you may not be a designer or programmer by trade, learning the basics of development is a great way to save money in the early stages of your business and pick up some fundamental skills in the process.
Tracy Vides is a content marketer and social media consultant who works with small businesses and startups to increase their visibility. Although new to the digital marketing scene compared to her illustrious She Owns It counterparts, Tracy has started off well by building a good online reputation for herself. She’s now a “serial blogger” with posts featured on Sprout Content, Steamfeed, Soshable and elsewhere.
Connect with her on Twitter @TracyVides for a chat any time!