Getting back to basics! This is a blog discuss simple principals and new trends in web design.

I need a website…now what?

Let’s face it, the world of websites and how you approach them has changed over the last five or so years. Techniques and products like content management systems (CMS), Google analytics, social media and search engine optimization (SEO) are used to promote, manage and measure a website performance as well as prove its value on the internet.

Here are some key elements and basic principles to keep in mind when you decide you want to put your company or business on the web. This is an overview, check back or subscribe. I’ll be writing detailed articles on each subject.

Its all in the Presentation

A well designed website can be inviting but more importantly it can create confidence in your brand or product. If a user sees that the owner/company has invested in creating a well-designed site they are more apt to believe in the product you are offering. A clean and attractive site also places a higher value on what you are offering. Don’t overlook the design of your website. Spending a a little more money and a little more time will pay off in the end.

How was your Experience?

UX Design (user experience design) is even more important than the presentation in my opinion. A well-organized website that makes information (about the company, products; purchasing, etc…) easy to navigate through will result in longer view time and repeat visitors. Users are fast paced people with no patience for dead pages, hard to find content or unconventional navigation. It’s a skill to guide someone through your site with content and navigation. Don’t overlook the value of a good user experience. This might be an area where you need to trust who you’ve hired so ask as many questions as you can about the site and it’s “blueprint”.

Whats it made of?

Content Management Systems are the way to go. Having a CMS means you have the ability to update and create content when YOU want. No longer do you need expensive updates or to have conversations with a “web master” on updating the simplest of tasks. Updating your home page and website is important because you will encourage repeat visitors, help your page rank on Google and make your company/business seem alive. It’ll show that you are a relevant company with a pulse. Old copy and coming soon pages that have been around for months just scream poor follow up or worse “going out of business soon”.

CONTENT IS KING!!

Finally the most important item is content. CONTENT IS KING!! It’s what they say and it’s true. Your website’s content is the key to success. Content is a broad topic in the sense that it can relate to copy (text), imagery, video, audio and documents but well executed content will help your user, your brand and your search page ranking. Here are a few examples of what to do and what not to do when gathering your company’s content to fill your website:

  1. Keyword rich text: As an example, the welcome paragraph on your home page might mention how long you’ve been in business but does it also mention where you’re located, or what products you sell? The way in which you think someone will organically search for you is the way you should write your copy. With that said don’t abuse keywords. Over using the same word or term can raise red flags with search engine ranking. Be smart and be honest.
  2. Good photography: If a picture can speak a thousand words than the photo you took using your Nokia flip phone says “Garbage”. Don’t spend the money designing a great looking site and then populate it with bad photography. A cell phone picture, old Polaroid, or picture taken by someone with no experience should be considered unusable. If your business deals with cleaning up pet urine don’t show a gross pee stain on the carpet. Use imagery of a cute dog or cat while discussing your service. If you are a power wash company and want to show a before and after picture don’t have one of the workers take the photo. They’re not photographers and I’m sure they are not cognizant of issues like lighting and cropping. Finally, don’t steal pictures from the web. Plan to buy some stock photography or pay for a photo shoot.
  3. Stay away from bullets: Having a list in your copy is always necessary. I mean you’re reading a list right now but, the difference is when people get lazy. For example, if you sell ice cream don’t just list the flavors. At least give a short description to go with the bulleted label. Not only will it help your page density and user interaction it will also help your SEO. Descriptions of your products should shine. This is where your chance to sell your product lives. Don’t just list your items. Write copy as if you were speaking to someone in your store or on the phone. Be enthusiastic and informative.
  4. Remember the basics: Try not to write content from your point of view. Most of the time business owners either write very short and concise descriptions because they already know all about what they’re talking about or owners will write way too much copy filled with overly detailed explanations and uninteresting details. Try not to lose your reader (user) in the minutia of your topic. I always use my experience-teaching guitar as an example. When I taught guitar I always had to remember what it was like to not know how to play. This would always help because I would remember when I was a kid and how just playing a C chord made me want to throw the guitar out the window, Keep it simple, keep it informative and try not to bury yourself in technical terms. Speak to your user in a conversational manner. It makes for an easier read.

Time = Money

One other major point in this discussion is momentum. Sites that take forever to develop are usually due to slow decision-making, sparse content supply and countless revisions. This can lead to a disjointed site. You can see it when imagery and flow feel disorganized. Here is a quick checklist to help momentum move in your favor.

  1. Sign a contract that has delivery dates for different steps of the project as well as expectations
  2. Sign off on a site map. This is a document that will show your navigation, all your pages and where they live.
  3. Get a wire frame of your site. This is a “blueprint” of how your site will look. It’s made up of black boxes that represent the area each item will take up in your site. It’s your site before it’s styled or filled with content.
  4. See designs of your home and major landing pages. Make quick revisions and make sure all decision makers are readily available to weigh in.
  5. As soon as you sign off on the designs you should be close to providing all the content. Once this is done your site can go into programming. If the developer has all your content programming the site will be much easier and any unforeseen pages can be dealt with at an early stage.
  6. Get a test link, make your changes, approve the site and launch. It’s a CMS so you can always change your copy whenever you’d like. Just get it out there in the world.
    Keep the job moving. When a project slows down extra hours and cost always seem to follow.

I hope this was helpful. It’s an article written with the intent of giving business owners who are new to the internet an idea of what it takes to make a website. This is topline stuff but it should get your head wrapped around your responsibility when you say “I want a website”. Help avoid your first website being a costly unsuccessful venture.

As always feel free to email me with questions or sign up for my mailing list as I’ll be going into detail on some of the items mentioned above.

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