Websites and website design are a funny thing. There are now approximately 1.1 billion websites in the world. So, you’ve quite a lot of competition if you want your site to be seen.
Back in the ‘good old days’, people would code and design their own sites. The first website I designed was pure HTML and very simple. Later along came software, such as ‘Dreamweaver’ that would help you create sites from your desktop.
The latest standard is to use an ‘open source’ platform, such as WordPress. These platforms or ‘content management systems’ have evolved. They feature vast arrays of templates and systems to allow designers to create attractive websites.
If you’re thinking of replacing or upgrading your website, or if you don’t even have one yet – what should you consider? Here are a few thoughts:
1 – Speak early to someone who has previous experience with websites.
Often, clients come to us, saying, “I’ve had this website designed, are you able to…”. This is usually followed with, ‘make it better’, ‘fix this bit’, etc… At which point, our thought turns to the old joke about getting to Dublin: if you want to get there, I wouldn’t start from here!
Take advice from people who work with websites every day. We don’t design websites yet (we work with talented people who do), but we have to manage a wide array of sites. Most are built using WordPress but many have some very odd features which, if we’d been able to advise our clients from the outset, could have been avoided.
Good, early advice will help you get the most from your designer. From speaking their language to understanding what functionality you actually need. Working with a team who understand user behaviour and search engine ranking systems can mean you get more from your website than a snazzy design.
2 – Choose a platform, and template that’s easy to update and amend.
WordPress is pretty much the standard now for website design. But within that basic platform, there are a host of different templates and tools. Some are easier to work with than others, so again, ask someone who knows for advice.
If going off-piste and using a different template or system, then the same principle applies. Ask and check how easy the base template is to update or modify. Ideally, ask your marketing team what they think.
3 – Stick to the old principles
Some of the old principles that held true in website design 20 years ago are still valid today. Optimise image file size – there are still people who aren’t using broadband all the time. Reduce and optimise code and load time wherever possible. Keep things as simple as possible. If you don’t know how to do this, make sure your designer does.
We recently had a client website suffering from serious problems loading one page. The solution was simple enough with a bit of research and the addition of a bit of code. We had to spend £30, but the page now loads 90% faster than before.
4 – Use a designer who knows what they’re doing
Sadly, there are a *lot* of people out there who will promise the earth for your website, get money upfront and then let you down. Like most things, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If an email drops into your inbox promising to triple your website traffic, then it’s likely to be a disappointment.
Check your designer is reputable. Get a recommendation or reference if possible. Also, pay a realistic price for your website. It’s possible to pay less than £2,000 for a website, but the chances are it won’t be great, unless you can do a substantial amount of the work yourself. Depending on the size and complexity, you can expect to spend more for a good quality design.
5 – Get the copy and images right
Ultimately, it’s your business. You (or your marketing team) are going to have to put some effort into ensuring the content and imagery is right. Do the images match the tone of your business? Does the copy sound like you? Does the copy work as hard to sell the business as possible?
As we’ve said many times before – check how many times you use the word ‘we’ or ‘our’, and how many times you use the word ‘you’ and ‘your’. The ratio should be stacked in favour of ‘you’ – your clients.
Be wary of where you get your images from. We’ve spoken about this before, but still see people caught out. Most reputable designers should be able to help you in finding licensed royalty-free images.
6 – Keep the menu simple
Think about what you really need. Do you need a page for every single service you offer or might offer in the future should a client ask for it? Are you trying to be all things to all people?
Don’t go overboard on multiple pages and menu options. Most people searching the web are looking for their answers quickly. They don’t want to read through pages and pages of lists of potential things you can do for them.
Equally don’t try to game the search engines with duplicate web pages. These early SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) tricks might have worked well a long time ago. These days the likes of Google are far too savvy to fool with these tricks. If anything, they’re likely to hurt your ranking. SEO is something of a dark art, but the fundamental rule is that you simply have to work hard on your site to get it to the top of those search engines. There is no silver bullet or easy answer.
Include keywords within the copy, but don’t try and ram them all in anywhere you can. For more advice on improving your search engine ranking, you can take a look at this previous blog.
Websites are the front door to your business. Your own employees will be watching them like hawks. Potential employees will go there before coming to interview. Clients will likely check them (and your LinkedIn) before speaking to you. It pays to ensure your website is the best it can possibly be – don’t leave it to chance.
And if you need any help with any of the above, we have a great designer we work with as well as extensive copywriting experience, get in touch today.