How to start an online business – part 3

How to start an online business – part 3

Ok I’ll level with you. Creating an online business can be a bit of a roller coaster ride — even with all the experience I’ve got on board. I’ve promised you I’d share my journey so to be honest with you, since I last wrote I’ve bottomed out, but don’t worry, I’m now back on the up!…  To share with me in the highs and lows since I last wrote….

STEP 13 – Create a site map

With the design off being integrated (see Part 2 of the journey to catch up on this) it’s important to get a handle on how big your website will be and how various pages will flow into one another, so at this point, I created a site map. It’s amazing how many people we deal with who ask us for a simple 5 or 15 page website, but if you actually sit down and map it out, it inevitably turns into a much bigger monster than you may have earlier anticipated.

STEP 14 — Liaise with web developer

At this point of the journey my web developer showed me how the integration was going and got me to check it to make sure he was understanding my vision (a very wise idea indeed before all the work is done and you’ve gone off on the right path).

I was super excited to see that ‘yes’ if you clicked on a set category, it pulled in a couple of ‘dummy’ listings of business awards and it all displayed (well almost) exactly how I wanted it. He suggested however that in terms of the back end, it would require entering each category in as a new listing — a lot of additional work I wasn’t anticipating. My heart sunk at the thought of this and his indication that he couldn’t think of a less labour intensive work around and this was the ‘bottoming out’ I referred to in the intro.

You see my earlier vision was that you could provide criteria and then be presented with a list of exact categories in specific business awards you could enter. After some serious thinking, I confirmed with the developer that I wished to pursue the idea of getting the listings to display at a category level, I provided him with a few possible work arounds and he proceeded with some amends. This meant more time and therefore more money but if you are 100% committed to seeing your vision come to life, then you have to be determined!

To be perfectly honest, at this point I found myself dizzied by the complexity of what I was creating (so if you’ve ever suffered a headache when getting a website built, rest assured you are not alone!) On several occasions I had to take myself away from the computer and do some serious thinking to connect with what both my intuition and my sensibility were telling me with how to proceed with the project. I put pen to paper and kept on ‘mapping’ out possible ‘paths’ of the user-journey (had I a glass wall this could have been like a scene from A Beautiful Mind with Russell Crowe).

The revised option came back with caution from my developer that it would now require entering the data at two points — one point for the awards program itself and another for the categories, and that each category would need to be entered individually and that you would have to get the awards program name exactly right so the two listings would effectively ‘talk’ to each other. This still didn’t gel with me and seemed like too much room for error.

After some more serious thinking and a 3 day retreat in Byron Bay (which has been so incredibly powerful for clarity and inspiration) I’ve reverted back to option 1 remembering the important adage that I teach people — simple is often best and remembering I can always further develop the site in future phases. The key objective for the time being is getting live in the time frame I have set myself (yes we have a launch date — 15 September is d-day!) with a quality product.

STEP 15 – Set up page structure in the ‘back end’

As I have access to the ‘back end’ of my website, also known as the cms or content management system, in the next step in my journey I am rolling up my sleeves as part of the website development and starting to create the pages I identified in the process of creating the site map in step 13.

In addition to basic pages which come with most websites i.e. about us, contact us, home etc, in my case I also need to create a page for each of the categories my users will be able to navigate to and/or query to arrive at. I am planning to launch with around 60 categories in all (very ambitious) but I want new users to arrive and feel like there is ‘something for them’.

It also dawned on me at this point how I must encourage user generated content where possible, so I started adding in a simple sentence to each heading ‘Want to suggest an award which should be in here? Click here to submit your suggestion’ linking to a page with a simple web form on it which will sit awaiting moderation but has the ability to be ‘published’ should we think the awards program submitted is a worthy candidate.

Encouraging interactivity on your website and user-generated content is something I highly recommend. There are many ways you can achieve this, and this is just one way I will be achieving it on this site.

NOTE: This step is something your web designer/developer will normally do as part of your website build. However check your quote/scope carefully as sometimes you will be required to do this and it should outline which is the case.

STEP 16 – Connect the pages internally — hyperlinks/menus

This is the fairly labour intensive leg of the journey so I roll my sleeves up and get stuck in! Essentially once all the pages have been set up as per step x, I then need to ensure that they connect to one another where required i.e. if you click on the navigation bar or a link it takes you to the page it says it does! Nothing more frustrating then clicking on a link in a website and discovering it’s broken is there?

With 70 categories, this phase involved for me adding the category to the dynamic menu, linking it to the category page and then ensuring the actual page it refered to was also linked. To keep track of my progress, I set up an excel spreadsheet, carefully marking off where I was up to each step of the way so if I stopped to do something else, or even came back to it after a day or two, I knew exactly what had been done and what hadn’t.

NOTE: This step is something your web designer/developer will normally do as part of your website build. However check your quote/scope carefully as sometimes you will be required to do this and it should outline which is the case.

STEP 17 – Preparing website content

Knowing my website is fast shaping up, it’s time to get writing! One of the biggest hold ups in working with clients in the development of their websites is waiting for them to provide ‘content’ that is words and images to go on the website pages. Whilst we can assist clients to write suitable copy or words for their website, there does need to be a certain level of involvement from the clients, whether it be an interview to extract the key information or the provision of key company documents from which we can draw the necessary information.

In the case of my business start up, there are no clients holding up the content, just me to put finger to keyboard and write. And that I have done. When you’re passionate and knowledgable about a topic I find it just flows. Writing engaging website copy is a real knack and one which I don’t encourage you to do yourself if you don’t have the time (as it takes a fair bit) or skills (as it will impact on how well your website performs both from an SEO perspective and a conversion perspective).

Note carefully whether your web designer/developer will do this as part of your website build — it should outline it on the quote/scope carefully — many won’t. If they won’t you may consider asking them to quote for this, or seeking assistance elsewhere. Or to make it super easy, just talk to us!

STEP 18: Set up and integrated Launchrock to drive interest

With the website fast shaping up, our boy Jag Quimby suggested we use some cool software which one of our other clients, and a business advisor have been having some success with — LaunchRock is a slick web app that allows you to create a simple, clean launch page to gather email addresses, share your message, and prepare for launch day. Their system not only allows people to sign up for your project/service, but also has powerful referral abilities that incentivize subscribers to share your message with their friends.

With over one million signups through their platform since January, it’s clear that the Launchrock has used their own tool – a platform for user acquisition and engagement which is best known for its beta signup form – to great success. Check it out. You’ll love it.

Until next time!