Looking to design the perfect website for your business? As a full-service digital marketing firm here based in Burlington, Ontario, we’re happy to share with you a few key principles we’ve learned that help you get the results you want out of your new website.
Before you dive in to building your own website or hiring someone to do it for you, save yourself some time (and money) and take a look at the list below. You’ll get an idea of what you may want to do, what you may want to avoid, and how you want to do it.
We’ve got some tips for you that will help you avoid hassles and get the results you want.
1. Choose The Right Domain Name
If your company name is long, or the exact match in a domain name isn’t available, be sure to choose a memorable domain name that’s easy to type into a browser.
2. Need Website Hosting? Don’t Get Sold Snake Oil
My recommendation without a doubt is WP Engine. They have great service, fast load times and a free SSL certificate. Win-win-win!
Web hosts offer numerous different packages. Things to consider? Disk space, CPU usage, bandwidth, backups, and much more. While you don’t want to end up with too few options, you also don’t want to end up paying for a Cadillac every month when all you need is a Ford.
3. Avoid Free Website Hosting
If you are running a business website, do not try and get free web hosting for it. Free hosting means slow service, advertisements that have nothing to do with your business, and unreliable service for your web visitors. Yuck.
4. Patience is Golden
Whether you are working with a marketing firm or trying to DIY your website, don’t rush it. Half-baked ideas are just that…online or offline. Invest the time in your website now – because the dividends will pay you for years to come.
5. Once Your Website is Built, Don’t Neglect It
We’ve all visited those websites that were pretty clearly built in the ‘90’s and haven’t been updated since. Yeah: nothing says “not relevant” like an outdated digital storefront. Once you’ve built your website, revisit it every year or two to ensure it stays modern and appealing to your potential customers.
6. SEO Matters
If you build it they will come! Isn’t that what the saying is?
Some website developers and platforms are far more conducive to getting some good SEO mojo going than others. Find a developer and/or platform that will give you the most SEO bang for every one of your pages!
7. SEO Matters, But So Do Your Readers
While SEO is all about content and keywords, all the content in the world won’t matter if nobody wants to read it. Write often for SEO, but ultimately: write in a way that will appeal to your target audiences.
8. Competition Will Only Help You
Don’t be afraid to check out what your competitors are doing online. Make a list: what do you think they’ve got right? What can they improve upon? Take the results from your investigation and put it to work for you!
9. Get Creative with Your Website Design
Think outside of the browser box! While you can take inspiration from your competition, be sure to put a unique spin on your website that makes your business stand out from the rest of the pack.
10. Know Your Subject Matter
Don’t write about what you don’t know — even if Google Keyword finder tells you it’s a good idea (it’s not). If you really think a certain topic somehow applies to your business, you can ask someone who really knows their stuff to help you out.
11. Get Feedback
Find people who are representative of your target market and ask them to check out your website. Is it easy for them to find the information they need? Do they leave your website with a clear idea of how your business can help them?
12. Keep Your Content Interesting
There’s far more to good content than just 500 word blog articles! Eye-catching images, asking readers to weigh in with comments, and interactive activities such as polls can make your website a homerun with visitors.
13. Make Your Website Load Quickly
Nothing is more frustrating than a slow loading website. In fact, 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less.
Way more important than a great-looking website? One that loads quickly. Learn about how to compress your files — and don’t overload your website with needless plugins.
14. Keep Your Website Design Accessible
Adding a video or image? Provide alternate content so that readers who are impaired in some way can still understand what you are trying to communicate (and with ease).
15. Your Logo Must Stand Out
Your logo needs to sparkle. If it’s time for a new logo, don’t put it off. It’s how your target audience will recognize you – online, in person, or in print. A good logo pays for itself many times over.
16. Create an Outline
Start with an outline of how many pages your website should have, and a general idea of what you want to say on each page.
17. Never, Ever Automatically Play Music
Why? That’s so ‘90’s…and that’s so annoying. Don’t annoy potential customers.
18. Want Your Visitors to Complete a Form? Keep it Simple
Yeah, we know it’s pretty great to get a ton of information from your website visitors. What’s even more great, though? Getting a ton of website visitors to just give you their email addresses. Keep your opt-in forms simple so more folks fill them out.
19. Your Content is Your Business Card
So…make room for it. Don’t value design over content. If you design doesn’t leave enough room for your content, ditch it and start over.
20. Good Website Design is a Process. Never Stop Asking Questions.
Reach out to friends, family and colleagues: how does your design look? Can they help with proofreading? Does your message need more work?
21. Fixed-Width Website Designs are a Terrible Idea
While they used to be popular, today’s modern adjustable width-size designs accommodate any size viewing screen (like a smart phone).
22. Colour Counts
Choosing the right color combinations through color theory is crucial to creating a successful website
When it comes to good website design, color counts. Use it wisely. What colors reflect your business? What colors can help your visitors feel a certain way (as in…moved to buy or make contact)?
23. Invoke Good Color Theory
Believe it or not, the way colors work together is all but a science. Colors can either help people better understand information….or they can help confuse people. Learn the difference — or work with someone who has.
24. Three-Second Web Design Rule
Think of something you want to learn on your website. Next, look at your website for just three seconds. If you can’t quickly find the link to that information, revise.
25. Typography & Fonts Matter
Steve Jobs was obsessed with good typography – and we understand why. Typography can make the difference between someone actually reading your content…or surfing far, far away.
26. Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
Your passion is your business — not web design, right? It’s great to reinvent the wheel in your business, if that’s your thing…but when it comes to a website for your business, stick to the tried-and-true formats (so you don’t end up with an expensive, time-consuming, and uninviting project on your hands).
27. A Good Website Menu is Easy to Find
Your website’s menu, or navigation bar, is the key to your online business storefront. Make it simple, easy-to-read, and give it a clear hierarchy that’s as easy to navigate as possible.
28. Always Practice Left-to-Right Website Design
In the Western World, we read left-to-right. Be sure to display your important details starting at the top and moving down, and reading from left to right. A good rule of thumb is to place your logo on the upper left corner of your website.
29. Less is More
Don’t try and throw in everything and the kitchen sink all at once. Your potential customers need the basics – not a comic strip, an ROI calculator, and a moving GIF!
30. Give Your Web Visitors an Experience
Make sure your visitor’s experience at your website is both memorable and positive. Make them laugh, make them smile, or make them interested. The best way to achieve this? Simple, clean website and clear, compelling content.
31. Don’t Irritate Your Website’s Visitors
You really don’t want to irritate your website visitors. How to avoid doing so inadvertently? Make links and files easy to find, don’t force unnecessary downloads or form sign-ups and keep the pop-ups to a low roar.
32. Don’t Go App-Crazy
A couple years ago, every single website HAD to have an app attached to it. These apps were expensive, and for the most part, no more useful than an actual website. If someone suggests you need an app, it’s time to get a second opinion.
33. People with Disabilities Are NOT the Minority
From those who wear eyeglasses and need larger fonts to those who use screen readers, people with disabilities are not in the minority on the world wide web. Today, there are numerous ways to ensure your website is accessible for people of all abilities. Free tools, like WebAnywhere, can help show you where your website might needs some accessible TLC.
34. Find All the Bugs
Bugs happen. Invest some time ensuring your customers won’t see them. Assemble a group (family, friends, employees, etc) together to really put your website to the test. Have them click every link and fill out every form. Find all the bugs (and fix ‘em)!
35. Cross-Browser Web Design Testing
Different strokes for different folks…and in today’s Internet age, that means different browsers, too. Be sure your website looks nice in as many browsers as possible: BrowserShots, for example, can help you out with that.
36. Practice Phone-Friendly Website Design
Guess who likes mobile friendly websites? Google.
Everyone, well almost everyone, has a smart phone these days. Be sure that your website looks good on different mobile platforms and in different smaller screen sizes.
37. Be Weary of Flash But Don’t Avoid It If You Need It
38. Tables Belong In Your Kitchen, Not All Over Your Website
Back in the 1990’s, table-based website design was all the rage. These days, tables have been replaced by ‘divs’ in CSS. Tables are still somewhat useful in certain applications (pricing tables, for example), but as a rule: do not construct your website using tables alone.
39. Do Not Try to Outsmart Google
If you’re trying to find out how to create some great SEO, you may read a few ‘blackhat’ or ‘greyhat’ SEO tactics in online forums…don’t listen to them. Don’t try to pull some SEO shortcuts to get your new website to the top of the rankings on search engines. Why? Google is getting smarter every single minute and even if a tactic works for a week or a month, Google will find you and sentence your website to obscurity. Be careful with SEO – do it right and reap the benefits. Do it wrong and end up invisible.
40. Don’t Waste Time on Your Alexa Rank
Ranks are about as useful as those popular cliques back in highschool. Your Alexa rank, for example, is just a number.
41. Use Robots When You Need ‘Em
Want to help search engines find your website more easily? Add a Robots.txt file to your website.
42. Make Sure Your Website is Secure
Search Engines now take into consideration if your website has a SSL certificate when determine your ranking
SSL certificates ensure your website is secure – and they help you establish trust with your potential and current customers.
43. If You Have Sellable Products, Sell Them!
Don’t avoid putting your products online just because it seems complicated. Why? You’re wasting some good opportunities for revenues. Online stores can be simple enough to set up (and still look good).
44. Freebies & Contests Build Relationships
Ever heard the expression, ‘Put a coin in the jukebox to get the music going…and watch the coins keep coming in all night’? It’s true. If you want to drum up some traffic to your website, consider offering a freebie (whether it’s a free sample or free eBook is up to you) or giveaway to add some incentive to your website visitors.
45. See Ya Later, Sidebars
Be very weary of too many sidebars. They have a time and place, but that place is not usually on a main page where you want to convey a clear and simple message to your visitors. Keep the visual clutter to a minimum at all costs.
46. Larger Font Sizes for the Win
Beyond just helping out folks who need glasses, big font sizes (within reason) help everyone out. It’s easier to read bigger letters – and when your content is easier to read, your visitors will read more of it!
47. Don’t Slack on Image Quality
Upgrading the quality of the images you use in your work is a great web design tip for elevating your projects. Instead of simply using the free images that everyone else has access to, it might be time to invest in a premium stock image service.
48. Lot of Visitors? Learn to Love A/B Tests
Not sure if that “Sign Up” button should be blue or red? Employ some A/B testing to get your evidence-based answer. A/B testing, which is easy to do with the right website, can give you a website that keeps on creating conversions for you.
49. Call Your Visitors ‘To Action’
Tempting isn’t it?
What do you want your visitors to do? Call? Sign Up? Buy? Have a button or link (aka the CTA) on every single page that prompts your visitors to act.
50. Finally Point? You Probably Shouldn’t DIY Your Website
As you can see from the list above, a lot goes into an effective website. Our advice? Don’t get sucked into the allure of building your own website. Professionals can help you with all of the above items, and much more. As much fun as it is (and we get it) to learn coding, your business’s website really is not the place for practicing.