Identifying the need for a website
What seems an obvious question is one of the most overlooked of all business decisions: Does the business need a website? You must be able to define the need for a website, define its purpose and also show how the website will integrate into your business. There is nothing mandatory about having a website and, even if you can make a business case for developing one, you should never overlook the commitment it will entail; do you have the resources to devote to the long-term maintenance and development of it?
The first step is to eliminate the inevitability of having a website just “because everyone else has one”. Think about what kind of business you are and think about how your customers will interact with your business. Do you sell a service or manufacture products? How do people in your area of business look for information on what you do: do they prefer face-to-face relationships, telephone or postal contact? Is IT usage common in your industry?
Answering a combination of these questions should quickly help you decide whether you need a website or not. A website can have a profound effect on your business: you might generate greater interest and revenue through your website or, conversely, you might lose money if the site is only of peripheral interest to potential customers.
Remember to keep in mind that in no way is a website somehow “external” to your business. Being able to identify the need for a website means it is not a clumsy add-on that can do you more harm than good. Think of the website as being a business resource like any other. It should be considered objectively in the same way you would look carefully into, for instance, what kind of premises your business may need, or what plant or machinery you require.
Also keep in mind the amount of time and effort a website can consume – these can be a direct cost to your business. Websites need regular updating and are more date-sensitive than conventional print media. This use of time and effort must make sense from a financial point of view: does your website generates sales, income or interest in ways that you can measure? Don’t allow a website to become an indirect tax that draws money from your business but does not contribute to your balance sheet.