The idea of designing your own website
may seem challenging if you've never done it before ... but it doesn't have to be. Even with new trends and shifting goals for 2015, the array of tools and resources available online makes it easy for any business to develop its own muscular online presence.
Will just any website do?
Obviously, the answer is no. Between ongoing changes to search engine algorithms, the steady evolution of SEO, and your need for a flexible website that can accommodate any electronic device, you can't possibly create a successful website overnight.
Sure, you could use a website builder and have an online presence in little more than an hour. However, the chances that your target audience will find you online -- if it doesn't know enough to type in your domain precisely -- are bound to be minuscule.
Choose a domain and hosting provider
The choice of domain is a decision that requires considerable care, because it will be your brand's online hallmark. Brainstorm multiple domain names, from your firm's legal title to a keyword or phrase that represents your brand, before making a choice.
While there are ways to get around the consequences of choosing a subpar domain name, it's preferable to land a great name from the beginning to properly claim your online real estate. Some hosting providers will give you a free domain name, but you shouldn't get reeled in by specials.
Research the hosting provider's plan to ensure it is scalable and can meet your needs over time.
Identify your target audience
First, identify your target audience
. While this may seem obvious, your online target audience may not be exactly the same as your customers in the offline world.
For example, B2B companies ultimately want to reach the CEO or CFO, but may have to appeal to a lower-level staff member who's more likely to conduct an online search. Also, your website may need to appeal to multiple buyers.
Have a clear understanding of what your target audience is apt to be seeking before you design your website.
Determine the site's purpose
Are you selling a product or service via your website? Is your goal to inform and engage your audience?
Regardless of your site's goals, they must be documented prior to plunging into web design. Some companies may need a secure, e-commerce-capable site, while others require a basic but informative and engaging digital presence. Identify and list your website's goals before moving forward.
Sketch the user's experience
From attention-grabbing text to clear calls to action, a website's design elements must benefit users
while achieving your business goals. A proven method of planning the user experience involves brainstorming with wireframes or a simple sketch.
Step into your audience member's shoes and jot down attractive, distracting, or unnecessary design elements. If you're able to mimic the buyer's journey, you can identify what makes sense (and what doesn't) for your site.
Create a site map to outline the main sections of your website and ask yourself, "Does this benefit the user, and will it help us reach our business goals?"
Select a development platform or professional
Between website builders who offer an out-of-the-box solution to site design and professional developers capable of creating a 100% customized web presence, it can be tough to decide which site development option will best meet your needs. Typically, you face the following choices:
- Website builder. A convenient solution for those who lack coding knowledge or web expertise, a site builder can have your website up and running in no time. However, the end result is unlikely to be as functional or visually appealing compared to a custom site.
- WordPress. Requiring little skill to use, WordPress has become the most popular platform on which to build an initial website. Though it may take longer to launch than a site builder would, WordPress furnishes a variety options for web designers without requiring a significant investment. Similar platforms, such as Drupal, are also an option.
- Professional developer. The most expensive of these three choices, hiring a professional developer is a good move if you're seeking a custom website and are not pressed by a tight deadline. Because custom site development can take months, newer businesses often select a more cost-effective alternative.
Whichever option you choose, you should confirm it will provide you with the desired end result as outlined by earlier planning.
Plan visual elements
Imagery is a huge part of web design and can determine whether a visitor returns to your site. What will grab people's attention once your site loads, and where will the visitor's eye be directed?
Does the visitor's journey dovetail with the site's goals? Are navigational features intuitive? How images, menus, logos, and other visual elements work together will drive your site's overall success.
Incorporate SEO best practices
Before publishing a new website, review current SEO best practices and incorporate them into your site. As search engine algorithms change, today's recommendations may be tomorrow's pitfalls; that's why staying abreast of SEO news is crucial for web designers.
Consider the following must-have SEO elements:
- Relevant content
- Responsive capability
- Social integration
- Meta titles, descriptions, and tags
- Fast load time
Use these tips to create a powerful website designed to attract customers, increase online visibility, and improve conversion rates online.
Do you have any website design tips to share?
January 2, 2015
Jayson DeMers is the founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based content marketing & social media agency. You can contact him on LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter.