3 Questions to Ask Before Building Your Website . / Credit: Web design Image via Shutterstock

Designing an effective website for your business may seem like a big challenge, but it doesn't need to be, at least according to one expert.

Oz Whitesell, business director at MKJ Creative, says companies can simplify the sometimes challenging process of designing a website by determining exactly what they need their website to accomplish. To do so, companies should have a clear and well-defined plan for the design process, Whitesell advises.

"Great websites don't happen overnight, so give yourself and your team the proper time to research, discuss and plan," said Whitesell.

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Other tips that companies should take into consideration during the design process include the following:

  • Determine who will use the website

Pull your team together to figure out who will use your website. First, consider how your team will use the website internally. How will new content be created, reviewed and published? Will employee roles change or expand as a result of the new site? Next, determine who will use your website externally. Who are your clients, partners and vendors that will visit it? Ask yourself how each of these groups will use the site differently. What value can you offer these visitors? Great websites take all stakeholders into consideration.   

  • Determine needed features

Thinking about all of the elements of a website and determining which ones are right for your company can be a challenging process, especially if you're not aware of all the features at your disposal. Here are some of the most common features you may wish to include

Photography- Take the time to consider if you will need new photos for your site. How will you want the photos to be displayed? Will you want the photos to rotate or remain static? Will photos need to be added on an ongoing basis.

Video- Telling your story through video can be impactful, so consider including this feature if your time and budget allow. If you decide to include a video, determine where you will host the video and if it will be shared on sites like YouTube or Vimeo. Will the video be embedded on the site, or will it need to be downloadable?   

Forms- Will your organization require a contact form, order form or sign-up form? How will you want the collected data to be delivered to you? Will you want the information to be automatically added to a customer relationship management system (CRM) or simply emailed to you.

E-commerce- Does your business sell merchandise or tickets? If you wish to have the ability to sell products online, you'll want to express that request to your Web designer in your preliminary discussions. The ability to collect money online requires a third-party payment gateway and demands additional research.

Maps- Don't overlook the importance of embedding a map on your site's contact page. Google maps are often recommended for their search engine optimization (SEO) benefits. 

Blog- Will your company blog? If you've decided to blog, make sure you have the time and expertise to publish content on a regular basis. There's no point of blogging if you can't do it consistently. 

Social- Likewise, there are many benefits to engaging socially on sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, but don't jump in without a thorough social media strategy, complete with goals and the team to support the initiatives. 

Special features- What special features are unique to your company or industry? Do you require a press kit, a way to schedule appointments, a VIP login or an RSS feed? Are you planning to advertise other products or services on your site? Take a look at your competition, do your research and make certain you give proper consideration to any special features.

  • Determine technological needs

Don't fret if you don't know the technical ins and outs of building a website. The company building your site should be able to work with you to examine the impact of the aforementioned decisions on the site's infrastructure.

Follow David Mielach on Twitter @D_M89. Follow us @bndarticlesFacebook or Google+. Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.