Whether it is a websites for your small business or for your personal blog, you should follow a few simple rules to have a great product.
A busy website makes it difficult to determine what is trying to be said. A good website should be well designed with enough, but not too much, information so that you dont lose the “forest through the trees.”
Content is good for search engine optimization (SEO), however, you must be able to present the website in a way that you can attract business, not scare business away.
It isn’t only web design that makes a good website, your site needs good programming too. Many websites will only display correctly with the most up to date browsers and plug-ins. If a user is using an older version, what is seen on the screen may be incorrect, potentially losing a customer. It is essential that your programmer must take into consideration Internet Explorer (still used by 50%), Firefox, Google Chrome, and Safari. Generally I find that the later 3 are pretty similar, with generally only Internet Explorer doing different things.
Also your website programmer should consider smart phones and ipads. These are more and more important. You don’t necessarily need a new site for the iphones, Blackberries and such, but it should at least be considered in the design.
Less Bells and Whistles
We feel less is more. Too many animations, sounds and an overload of detailed pictures will slow down the loading of the website. Google has stated that one of the factors in its ranking algorithm is speed. Your website design needs enough to be attractive without being distractive. Your users need to be “funneled” to the goal – whether it be a phone call, purchase, or email. If they can’t focus, they can’t be funneled.
Steps to a Good Website
- Plan ahead
Start by figuring out what you want out of a website. What is it’s purpose? It may be just information about the company, or it can be a complete on-line e-commerce masterpiece. Are your customers local, or international?
- Register a domain name
This can be done on-line or by any website company. There are a wide variety of prices and services. Sometimes the company who will be hosting your website will register it for you as part of the setup fee. Look into it first.
- Draw up a Flowsheet
Draw up on paper a quick layout of the page content and how you want them linked together.
- Determine Page Details
Determine the detailed content of each web page and the general design / layout of the website. Figure out design issues like your desired colour-schemes, locations of your links and ideas of backgrounds and pictures. Take a look at other websites to get an idea of what works for you. If your mind draws a blank, ask someone for his / her opinion. Or have a website designer do your web design and layout for you.
- Design the Site
I am of the opinion that a well designed website will get you far, but isn’t the entire answer. Find yourself a web designer with a website portfolio that you like. Make sure that the prices you can handle. You can get a design for free (eg some WordPress themes) to thousands for a high-end website designer. Often your designer will not be the same as your programmer. Be careful using a programmer as your designer. It’s rare to have the same person that can design and program both. Other things to consider in the design is interactive content. Polls, videos, images, blogs are all good – and Google likes them too. Anything to get people coming back is great for a design.
- Program the Website
If you can’t program yourself, there are a couple options.
- Purchase Software such as Adobe’s Dreamweaver to help convert designs to websites. These however, take some time to learn how to use and are costly for the recreational programmer.
- WordPress (www.wordpress.org) is a good free tool for creating a site if you are “design-challenged.” It is also a very common platform for web programmers and designers as it can be done by those who do not know programming or want the clients to be able to change their own site.
- Find someone who can program. This is recommended because a good programmer will make sure there are keywords in the code to get noticed by search engines. Also a good programmer will make the website easy to change. There are several ways to do this that are beyond the scope of this site. You can do a web search under “website programming”.
- Find a Website Provider
There are thousands of businesses that will host websites. And again, there is a balance between cost and service. You can host your site on your own computer, but this is not recommended unless you know what you are doing and reliability of your business website is not too important. There are a tremendous number of hosting companies that are generally about $10 / month for a shared hosting plan. My favourite hosting company is Dreamhost.
- Upload to your Website Host
Generally the person who programs your website will be the one to do the uploading. This requires the company that registered your name to know who is hosting for you. They will point the name to the host location. This “pointing” is part of the yearly name registration fee. Uploading requires a program which can be downloaded off the internet (there are free FTP products out there such as FireZilla). Once uploaded, your business is “on the Net”. Good luck!
Search Engine Optimization
Once you are done your website, you are number one on Google and you can sit back and watch the visitors come and you start making the money, right? Well, probably not. Often you can get close to what works with a first go around. If you’ve created some great content, including headings and titles, then you are ahead of most, but you should do more. Ensure you have some sort of analytics program on your site, so you can monitor the traffic and see what works and what doesn’t. Then tweak your content to optimize. There are also many other things you can do to have great success with your website including signing up on free online directories, create Facebook and Twitter accounts, make sure your Google Places description is done well. Contribute to blogs… Make a video and post to You Tube. There are many other things you can do to get found. Much of this is best left to the professional SEO people – they know the tricks and can probably in the end do it better for less.