Building a website the right way from the start is the most important thing about getting traffic, keeping it, and converting it to sales. in this article, I'll share what goes into building a website, from the Home Welcome text to the Terms and Site Map; and the importance of each aspect.
Web builders need to know about your business, products and services to get an idea of how your site should be constructed, 'flow' and look. This depends on your business model, personal style, existing marketing and competitive analysis. The first thing the designer has to do is listen to the client. Take notes, organize emails, files and images, and really talk to the client about their passion behind their business, their history and vision for the future. This information will save the developers and graphic artists hours of re-do work.
1. Choose a Layout. Layouts don't vary too much, logos go on top with a main menu next to or under, then positions on the page such as Top, Toolbar, Left Right, Bottom... you get the idea. There are hundreds of themes and templates for every type of website system, most of which have dozens of layout options. With a little trial and error, you can make these themes look anyway the client wants. Make sure all parties are on the same 'page' with the layout to start with.
Most templates have 'collapsible' module positions, so if you don't use Sidebar A or B on the left or right, the areas shrink while System Output expands to fill the space. With the right combinations, you can create custom layouts, place menus and widgets anywhere you want, etc.
2. Colors and Graphics. Color can affect the success or failure of a website, just like any other form of marketing. The right color scheme can illicit feelings of trust, happiness, even joy; while others can make people feel trapped, uneasy, skeptical or downright scared to do business with you. Make sure your colors match the genre, industry and visitor's expectations. Sometimes the hardest part of planning a layout is convincing a client their color choices are not a good idea, such as neon green text on yellow background to get attention. My eyes hurt just visualizing that.
Graphics and Stock Photography can make a site look elegant, urban, delicious or gross, regardless of the layout or content. Choosing your photos and creating graphics are extremely important and should complement the site's color scheme, logo and background.
3. Content is King. Web builders must be or employ good content writers. Content is more than just a welcome, about and conditions pages, it's things like headlines, calls to action, slogans, descriptions and then general content. They must have a marketing mind and various levels of flair, mixed with pop culture, literature and even some memes from time to time. If you're not a millennial, you may not know what a meme is; kinda the point.
4. Navigation and Flow. Building a website structure is based on your Menu Items. Most sites have a Main Menu, sometimes a Side Menu and often, a Bottom or Footer Menu. Main Menus can and usually do have sub-menu or drop-down links, and should be relevant to the 'root' menu item. They should break down your content or product categories, lead the customer to the sale or call to action, and generally entertain or engage the visitor in some way. Bad navigation is very common, and is the #1 reason people bounce from a website.
5. SEO - Search Engine Optimization. Web builders should pay very close attention to everything they place in a website, to optimize it for Search Engines, load speed and mobile-friendliness. Making the content keyword rich and optimized is obvious, but things like image sizes, image ALT tags, anchor tags, keyword links, structured markup and compression of CSS/JS gets overlooked way to often, even by larger web design companies. SEO is built into a website from the ground up, and every element that is not optimized is either a missed opportunity, or worse, can result in a bad ranking on Google.
6. Required Pages. Every site should have a Home, About, Contact page, this is obvious. Some sites need Return Policies, Terms and Conditions, Privacy Policies and the like, while others don't. But they all need a Sitemap, in the form of an XML file, webpage, or both. Sitemaps help people navigate to what they're looking for quickly, while Google and Bing use them to almost instantly index your website daily.
Be sure to know what pages the client wants, needs and what their competitors all over the web have. In many cases, companies put up these pages out of necessity, due to a problem with a customer, frequently asked questions or required information for the sale. Learn from others pasts and ward off problems before they start.
7. Style and Flair. I mentioned this before, but it deserves it's own paragraph. Some websites are pretty much black and white, letting the content speak for itself. In fact, Craigslist is the ugliest and plainest site out there, and has tremendous traffic and customer satisfaction. So it's important to be able to go strictly professional or rub some funk on it, depending on the web builder's client. Some of the most fun I've ever had is with sites that needed lots of colors, with vibrant imagery and snappy titles.
8. Programming, HTML and CSS. Web builders must be able to edit php files, write HTML code and work with CSS files. CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) control everything about a website, from the font size and color to the width of the sidebars and logo. I've used CSS to make the same theme look completely different from one site to the other. There is lots of information online regarding editing and writing CSS, use Google Search and take your time, it's worth it. HTML5 includes nice shortcuts to save you time, it's a good idea to brush up on it. CSS3 is very cool, as it bootstrap CSS. Most advanced themes for WP and Joomla have great CSS and Typography. Don't go cheap on your theme, buy a professional licensed theme for your site, it will save you hours of work building your own CSS from scratch.
There are a few more things a web builder should know, but most branch off from these top points. If you're looking for a web design company that knows all this and more, give us a call.