How to buy a website

Getting a website for your business or organisation is a big deal, because websites take a lot more time and effort to make than we usually assume, and they often cost a whole lot of money.

And because you only buy a website every couple of years (you might only buy one in your whole life), it’s not like you can do it a few times to get better at it. Basically, there’s a lot that can go wrong, and we’d like to help you get it done right.

In this article, we’ll go through the things you can do to make sure the process goes smoothly, and that you end up with a great site.

Get your team on board

Firstly, you’re going to want to make sure your team wants the website as badly as you, and that they have the same vision for it as you do, whether they’re the CEO or an IT technician, a secretary or a junior team member.

Organise a meeting to discuss the new site, and make sure every decision maker attends. In the meeting, discuss the reasons your organisation needs a new site now, and what will happen if you don’t get one (or end up with a bad site). Then let everyone explain what they have in mind for it (take notes), and ask what their expectations are; especially regarding budget for it and how long they think it should take.

Research your competitors

Next, it’s very helpful to know what your competitors are up to online. While there’s much more to their activities than just their website - think social media, email newsletters, ads, etc. - their website is our focus for now. 

Write down a list of your most important competitors, then start searching for them on Google. When you browse through each one, be careful not to get distracted! You’re there to discover just a few things:

  • How do they communicate why they exist (why anyone should care about them)?
  • What does their website make you feel (eg. Overwhelmed, calm, excited, frustrated)?
  • What sort of features does their website have (eg. Customer testimonials)?
  • How do they ask you to take action? Do they ask you to buy their products, book an appointment, or did they forget to add any “call to actions”?

Write a brief containing your expectations

Taking into account what you and your team would like for the site, and what your competitors are doing, create a “brief” document that outlines what you expect of the site (and whoever you choose to make it).

You should include:

  • Why you need the site (what it needs to achieve)
  • Who your customers are (as much info as you can provide)
  • What you sell, and how your site should support this
  • What you want your customers to do on your site
  • The pages / sections that you think your site should have
  • When you want it completed by (how many days / weeks / months)
  • How much you can afford to pay (a range is ideal)

Choose the right agency or freelancer

Now it’s time to find the right person or people to make it. There’s a huge range of names that people who make websites call themselves, including “website designer”, “website developer”, “web agency”, or even “digital marketing consultants”.

When you search and start finding agencies and freelancers that you could possibly work with, make a spreadsheet to keep track of them all. You could add columns like:

  • Their name
  • Website address
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • How many employees they have (you can find this on their LinkedIn page)
  • What they claim to specialise in (What type of websites, and what else besides websites)
  • Where their offices are (or where most of their employees are if they’re remote, which you can also find on LinkedIn)

Beware of:

  • Companies that claim to be in your country but aren’t (all their employees might live in India for example)
  • Companies that claim to do everything - the more skills the claim to have, the worse they will probably be at the thing you hire them for

One more thing to be aware of is that it’s very tempting to look at their “portfolio” of sites that they’ve done and use that as a guide for how good they are, but this is always deceptive! Even stunning websites can be completely wrong for their owners, and even ugly websites can be very effective and exactly what the customer wanted. So we actually recommend not looking at their portfolio. Instead, speak to their past clients and ask if they would hire them again.

Prepare your content

The agency or freelancer that you choose will probably give you guidance on this, but in case they don’t, you’re going to need to prepare a lot of “content” for the site. This is something that only you and your team can do properly.

When we refer to “content”, we generally mean pictures and text, though it can include other things like videos, product info, etc.

Make spreadsheets of all information where there are several of the same thing (eg. Events, team members, products, services, etc.)

Make documents of information about everything else you would like to communicate, such as why your business exists, what you specialise in, and how to contact you.

Set up folders of pictures of everything that’s relevant, including your team, your products, your offices / shop, and most importantly, pictures of people (enjoying) using your products.

Check on your designer and developer regularly

Once your website designer and developer get to work, you may or may not hear from them regularly, depending on how professional they are. It’s possible that even excellent designers and developers will be poor at communicating, so to make sure you know how it’s going, contact them regularly during the project.

In the middle of the project, when they’re just busy working on the website design that you’ve all agreed on, you should be speaking to your website designer or developer at least once a week (but much more at the start and end of the project).

Wrapping it up

There’s so much more that we couldn’t cover in this article, but we hope that what we did cover is helpful and has given you confidence in getting a site. May the site you get be beautiful and effective, and make your organisation way more successful!


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