Developing an effective website is one of the biggest investments a company can make. Regardless of whether you sell products and services online or operate strictly in brick-and-mortar storefronts, establishing and maintaining an online presence will go a long way toward cementing your long-term success.
Unfortunately, many people perpetuate the myth that developing a website requires no experience or skill. While the flow of easy-to-use Web design tools and platforms has certainly given the average Internet user the ability to build, run and maintain a website, that doesn’t mean everyone is qualified to build, run and maintain a high-quality site.
To create a website that’s engaging, effective and authoritative, you’ll need to identify and manage the issues that really matter. Let's take a look at 10 critical decisions you’ll have to make during the design process.
1. Choosing a Hosting Service
Before you do anything else, you’ll need to select a service to host your website. There are plenty to choose from, and each has a similar—yet unique—value offering. Doing your due diligence in this area will save you time, effort and frustration in the long run.
2. Deciding on Existing Template Versus Custom Site
One of the first decisions you’ll have to make is whether to use a predesigned template or create a custom website. For large corporations, a custom website is probably the best way to go. That ensures everything is tailored to your unique needs. Smaller companies can get away with using predesigned template files and may find them a more feasible and affordable alternative to the more expensive custom solutions.
3. Hiring Help
Designing a website isn’t quite as simple as ads and short guide videos make it look. To fully unlock your site’s potential, you may need the assistance of a graphic designer or Web developer. By collaborating with qualified professionals, you can convey your brand’s identity and message to customers and site visitors much more effectively.
4. Determining Content, Design and Structure
The key components of any website are content, design and structure. Content needs to be valuable, informative and pleasing to the search engines. Design should attract your visitor’s eye but not distract from essential calls to action and conversion goals. According to Web host iPage, “The right font and colors can dress up your site and make your pages pop.” Pages should be structured so they flow effortlessly from one to the next.
5. Choosing Images and Photos
Nobody likes a site full of large, uninterrupted blocks of text. An aesthetically pleasing website contains integrated photos and images to keep viewers engaged and interested. The big decision here is whether to harvest existing images or have unique photos taken. Many sites take advantage of free, pre-existing images in certain areas but also use unique photos of specific products and company features.
6. Optimizing Landing Pages
While your site’s home page is the most important part of your website, landing pages are a close second. It’s best to focus your efforts on developing two or three high-quality landing pages and optimizing your ads and inbound links to feed into them. By creating top-notch landing pages, you can lower bounce rates and keep traffic moving through your site.
7. Keeping SEO in Mind
Don’t assume that if SEO algorithms and rules keep changing, that must mean they’re not that important. You need to pay attention to best SEO practices and follow them wherever possible. A well-developed site is completely useless if it isn’t readily visible.
8. Making Content Shareable
Your biggest ally in Internet marketing is your consumer base. To fully capitalize on your site’s potential, you’ll need to let your customers do some of the heavy lifting. You can encourage this by creating content that's engaging and shareable.
9. Creating Responsive Web Design
The new standard for website development is responsive Web design. This means creating a website that can be viewed the same way on a mobile device as it is in a desktop browser. Search engines are starting to reward websites for investing in responsive design. While older sites are slowly transitioning to responsive design, all new sites should invest in it from the start.
10. Making It Easy to Change
Anyone who sets their website in stone is committing a major error. Your site should be designed with flexibility in mind. As commercial trends, customer tastes and products change, your site should evolve with them.
When you’re developing your company's website, it’s important to stay both focused and realistic. There are certain things you can do on your own, but other tasks are better left to someone with the expertise and time to get it done—after all, you have a business to grow.
Read more articles on technology design and development.
Photo: Getty Images