Website Design – Getting Started
Good website design brings together a number of technologies to fuse technical design, interface design and graphic design with tool such as SEO optimization to achieve a purpose or goal that has been set before the website design was started.
How does an individual or small business set these parameters and achieve a great design? By first identifying the true target and objectives of the website design and working from that point backward.
Here is an example based on a project for a Tax Accountant website.
If the True Target of a website design is to Obtain New Clients for a Tax Accountant. Asking a few questions can help you decide how the site should be built and what pages are required. Focus on the final objective must be maintained through the site design.
Question 1: Is the accounting service a local business with local targets to acquire rather than a national business with multiple locations?
If the answer to this is yes, then the site must be optimized for local SEO from the get-go.
Question 2. What is the primary focus that the accountant/client wants to achieve in terms of new business? Determine that, then make that clear right off the bat. Corporate clients? Personal Taxation clients? How about bookkeeping and audit services? Making these decisions at the beginning ensures your web design is targeting the right audience.
If, for example, the answer is corporate small business taxation, then the front page must address those issues and offer information aimed to engage those users who have a similar interest.
Answering the above two questions before starting a website design concept will help bring the focus required to build a successful website.
Trends in web design – Wide + Flat Design
Website design today is driven by both mobile (phone/tablet) design and high-resolution large screen desktop/laptop displays. More and more the internet is mobile. However, these mobile devices have higher and higher resolution displays. The average iPhone and android and new blackberry phones such as the Passport today have much higher resolution than many of the large screen TV’s sold in the past 5 years. This high resolution in a small screen means that information must be managed and presented in a way that is easy to deal with when trying to read and press links with a finger. Using a finger to select a link on a 5-inch screen is not as accurate as mouse on a desktop so the links and the entire mobile user interface must expand and adapt so that the mobile user enjoys the experience.
The same is happening on desktops. The newer iMacs have “retina” resolution screens and 5k screens and Windows has followed suit with even the smallest laptops having very high-resolution screens. This brought about the design of very high quality websites that are wide and detailed oriented with images and graphics that give a grand appearance if built well and look terrible if not upgraded to modern designs with high quality graphics or image content that can handle these high resolution displays.
Mobile friendly website design has become a necessity to satisfy users and Google rewards this design move and even has a website called MFT (Mobile Friendly Test) to test how well your website can adapt to these requirements. If your website design fails this test, Google can and will penalize your site in the search rankings, refusing to show your website to people searching for your product or service from a mobile device!
Website design is now more important than ever and may elevate you in Google’s eyes or penalize you in Google’s results. This is a trend and just the beginning of Google making sure that the results they serve up are the best results possible. Now, for the first time, website design is a part of that selection process that Google uses to determine search results.
Video has become a new and important tool for websites in the last few years. With high performance services available from sites like YouTube and Vimeo hosting HD video on your own site is no longer an issue as you can just link it through from one of those services.
Today’s websites have a plethora of tools to deal with High Quality HD video and as they say “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Or maybe not. Words are still key if you want a good Google ranking and while SEO can be applied to video, it is not worth a thousand words to Google, so Video on a website should be in addition to, not a replacement for proper SEO optimized text. People love video, Google loves written content. Marry the two to get the best of both worlds.
Sliders can be an excellent way to deliver a lot of information quickly without using a lot of space. It can also kill your Google rankings if not done well. One of the measurements Google uses to rank your site is page load speed. Sliders slow this down so this can affect your ranking by Google. Google see the page as loaded once all the slides have been loaded. I do not recommend a front page with a big slider portfolio. It can distract users from the ultimate goal of your web design: funneling the viewer to a page where action is taken.
Siders look good and people who don’t know a lot about website design are attracted to them but more and more today, people who are making money with their website are staying away from them or a least limiting them to 2 or 3 slides. I build them into customer’s websites on a very limited basis and only when necessary and with very few slides.
Full page images
The hottest thing today in website design is the full-page front page. But there are caveats to this design.
1-If it is not to interfere with the sales funnel then there must be one or preferably two links right over the image to take the viewer to an action place.
2- It should not be the only thing on the front page. You should be able to scroll down (preferably also with a down arrow) so that real information other than just a visual impact, is on that front page with real content for your users and Google to read, absorb and initiate action on.
Nothing says to users and Google that you have “nothing to say and no value to add” like not having anything of value to say on your front page.
What to say on your first page
You have a few seconds to help a visitor make up their mind that staying on your website is a choice they should make. That is how quickly someone decides to explore or leave your website as soon as he or she lands on it. Your job is to help them decide by supplying clear and enticing information. If what you do is not pertinent to them they do not want to be there and in reality you should not want them to be their either. Don’t be afraid of turning away those who have no interest in what you do, the focus should be to attract real potential customers.
When someone sees your front page, they should be able to
- Know what you do
- Understand where you do it
- Know whether you can supply this service or product to them or not
- Know how to initiate the process with you.
If your front page does not at least answer all of the above questions to any viewer, including Google, then your front-page website design is both a strategic and tactical failure.
How to identify what you need in your web design
Make a list of the answers to the following questions:
- What do I want my website design to do for me?
- Who do I want to look at my website?
- What is it that I do?
- What is my value proposition?
- How or where do I want people to contact me?
With accurate answers to the above five questions you just told your website designer what the website content should be and how it should be laid out. Here is a rough outline:
- What do I want my website to do for me? – This answer decides if you are a product or service website with or without an E-store
- Who do I want to look at my website? – The answer to this decides what the SEO strategy is that is required for this website design.
- What is it that I do? – The answer to this question tells you what information needs to go on your homepage as well as what goes on a linked “Learn more” page deeper inside the website design.
- What is my value proposition? – The answer to this question tells you what other information needs to go on your homepage as well as what goes on a linked “Learn more” page deeper inside the website that supports your answer to #3 above.
- How or where do I want people to contact me? – This helps design the contact us page, is it email driven, phone driven, or both?
How to tell your Website Designer what you want built.
Having the answers to the above five questions is an excellent start.
A new website design is a business decision that should be driven by fact-based goals. First thing to do is to make sure the person leading the design of your new website understands your business and your goals for the websites. Until you yourself understand your business goals, you cannot help someone else to understand them.
Sit down and list the results you hope to achieve and then list out how to get there. If your website design goal is to drive new clients to your service or products make sure you understand how to make that service or product the focus of your website design.
- Clear focus on the service/product.
- Clear focus on who uses this service or product
- Clearly present your value proposition to users.
Why WordPress for Website Design?
WordPress is one of the world’s most popular website tools. It is a full CMS (Content Management System). WordPress makes it easy to build a website design that can deliver and manage a wide assortment of content including text, images and video. The framework is uniquely optimized for SEO and all search engines.
It is updated regularly, optimized, easy to use, stable and secure. It is an ideal platform on which to build and on which to add other frameworks such as a child theme. These are the very same reasons why so many Fortune 500 corporations use WordPress as a tool for thier own web strategies.
WordPress Themes: selecting a theme for your web design
People new to WordPress look at a theme and think all themes work the same; I’ll just pick the one that looks the best to me. This is a huge mistake for several reasons:
1 Looks can be deceiving, most developers can make a theme look like any other theme but it may require serious css customization to do so.
2 The framework of the theme and how reliable and flexible it is, is much more important than the demo someone built with it is.
3 The ability to offer secure updates and operate reliable is the only real asset a theme for WordPress provides you; if it does not meet this goal then it is worthless no matter how great it appears in the demo.
4 If you have to change the look of the theme by using custom css then it becomes a very expensive proposition to change the look of the theme when this becomes necessary, and it eventually will become necessary.
I recommend you choose only between themes that have many sales. If there has not been a thousand of a theme sold, when WordPress or a major plugin supplier such as Woocommerce change their designs for security or feature updates there is a very real chance the theme you purchased will not be updated to work with the new changes because the budget is not there for the developer to support making them.
Questions to ask when buying a theme:
How is the theme supported?
Does the firm that designed the theme have a stable and permanent support staff? Are they large enough to keep updating the theme each time WordPress updates their core or issue a security update? Your theme supplier may be called upon to update this theme 2 to 6 times a year and if they do not have the sales numbers to support and pay for that you may be left with a theme that no longer works. This may result in a complete and expensive website redesign job you were not planning on doing.
How many sales does the theme have?
I personally would not consider purchasing a theme that does not have a thousand units of sales. The exceptions to this rule being:
- If it is a new theme designed by a firm that has tens of thousands of sales of other themes.
- You have a full time development group to make in-house changes and updates to the theme yourself.
This means I would avoid many of the themes that are available on places like Theme Forest where lone wolf designers can make a theme sell a hundred of them and then stop supporting that theme when they get a real job working for a large theme developer.
Do you have to hire a coder to make the structural changes to your theme?
If you have to hire a developer to change the theme to try and shoe horn the theme to fit your needs, then it’s the wrong theme for your particular purpose unless you have a full time developer on staff.
What happens 2 years from now when you have invested much in your site and the developer disappears?
You are out of luck and it will be very costly to hire an independent programmer to fix it or move you to a new website design.
How long in business
Will the theme designer still be in business when updates are required? The best indication of this is that they are already an established firm with a success record of accomplishment. Do not bet your business website on the hopes of a recent start up. The majority of new start-up firms making themes for WordPress are out of business within 36 months of starting.
Who will update security?
Does the theme developer constantly keep up with WordPress security updates as well as updates from all the 3rd party plugins their theme may call upon?
Who will comply with WP UPDATES?
How are updates rolled out? Do you just click an update button or do you have to learn how to install the new replacement theme via ftp?
What is required to make changes?
Does it require custom css to change the theme or is the theme built with tools that allow you to make diversified changes as to what goes where on a page?
How many people have bought this theme?
Are you one of only 100 or 200 people worldwide to buy this theme or is their 100,000 plus users? One business model means that the developer can afford to continue making updates as WordPress require it, while the other means eventually the developer is just going to give up and cut their losses. One also means there are many other developers who know how to work with your new theme the other means few people have ever heard of it or are willing to help support it.
Design considerations for your website and theme
What is the relationship between design navigation and seo?
Does the manner of navigation that is built into the theme make sense for the type of users you are going after? Is the navigation design flexible and easy to change for your particular business? Google puts strong emphasis on ease of navigation when rating your website for SEO when deciding to send search customers to your site or not.
Where to spend your money if you have a very tight budget.
- Flexible theme structure
- SEO friendly design
- Sexy graphics & features can come later.
Why buying the theme first then hiring the builder is a bad idea:
A good website designer can help you avoid buying a theme that looks good but is actually a weak choice. If you can tell your web designer the look that appeals to you, he/she can then lead you to a theme that can arrive at that look designed within a stable and secure frameworks.
Cart before the Horse
You would not try to build the front facing curb appeal design of your new home before laying the foundation and frameworks. The same goes for a new website.
How to rectify a bad choice in theme design
If you already selected a theme and it proves to be a bad choice, do not continue down the wrong path. Instead, get help to avoid throwing good money after bad. While you have the option of hiring a developer to fix the theme or customize the website or theme so that it does what you want, most often the best path is to move to a better theme choice and be done with this error in choice once and for all.
A good website designer can help you pick a theme that meets your needs from an organization that will be there to support you for as long as your own your website.
Throwing good money after bad
Spending money fixing a poorly designed website is not a good business decision, often it is only a temporary solution until the next series of problems pop up and is just throwing good money after bad.
Your words count
Google and your customers expect you to say something, they expect real information, the site should look good but it had also better add value to customers so that it does not waste their time.
If you have nothing to say it becomes obvious quickly, make sure you can pontificate your value proposition clearly.
How to get the best bang for your website design buck
Know your goals and then choose a website design that meets them now and can add future upgrades and is easy to modify with a strong and large base of developers. Rome was not built in a day and you do not have to build every feature your website could possibly have from the very get-go if you choose the right tools.
What “small” features” can drive the cost of web design up quickly?
It often come as a surprise to some small businesses building their first website that features they consider simple are anything but. “I just want a small e-store website design that customers can make purchases, upload their custom requirements and then get it shipped out to them” is a common request. Yes this is a common feature to build, but it is not free or very simple to do. It requires a secure payment system, an inventory system, a secure upload link, distribution plugins, and distribution calculations for fees, often including destination charges and free shipping minimum calculations plus state or local tax calculations. Common yes, but not quite so simple as some people may have envisioned.
Just because it looks easy on Amazon, does not mean that what goes on behind the scenes does not require some skill and work to implement and fine tune. Then consider that you have to have a user interface to make all these products and their options (size, colour, customizations, you name it) available online in the first place.
Make a realistic list of needs versus wants for your new website design and then build according to your budget. Build what is needed now, ensure that your design can accommodate what you wish for in the future.
What to get now and add later
To start with, it is important that you have a secure website design that is upgradable and flexible and built on a framework that supports strong seo. Adding the proper content that describes your business and your value proposition is the number one priority.
Adding more expansive graphics and features like video etc. can be added to any website later as long as you have chosen a strong framework on which to build the website.
Treat your website design project like any other business process: Set ROI goals, build to your budget, reinvest to move forward.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask us, we love talking about website design! Read our other blog articles regarding website design, SEO and hosting and to see out work please visit our Projects page!