Designing a Website – What you need to know

Rules of engagement when designing a website

MEANit-Website-design-Layout-ChecklistWhen it comes to website design, many things will need to be addressed, but remember Rule 1 and Rule 2. The first rule is to remember who you are designing for and what you want that person to be able to do within the website. The second rule is always remember rule 1. This may seem obvious, but it is usually forgotten early on.

Website Plan and Strategy
So, when you are designing, think less about which shade of blue to use and think more about user flow. Write up a simple plan of what you want people to be able to do in the website, then take that and lay it out in a simple wireframe or layout. If you create a wireframe for each page you can plan the flow. Then you can give some direction to the designer who can add the required design elements.
Too many sites look great, a design masterpiece, but deliver no results. These websites are usually the result of the client or the designer or both, over-ruling the developer, who is the only one who understands the technical aspects of a user experience. People get carried away with having welcome messages or their own photos on the home page. Look at us, look at how well we look, see our luxurious office space, feast your eyes on what we are selling today.
Nobody wants to be sold to, but they love to buy, so lets get this right….

Preparation
Small-Business-Website-DesignWork with your chosen Web Design Agency to do some research. Google your services or products and see who ranks well on page 1. Study their website design, find out what works well for them. How do they get ranked so well? Why do visitors stay on these sites? Why do people buy what is on offer? Use these sites as inspiration to plan your website, because you want to compete at this level.

Content
This is the most frequent reason for delay. Before the website development gets started, have all your content prepared and in folders for the developers to access. This includes, photography, videography, written copy, PDFs or audio. And it stands to reason that it should all be good quality. None of your basic free DIY photos from a smartphone or free images from Google, if you are trying to sell a luxury car, boat, house or any aspiration, especially property, holidays, wedding venues etc. Again remember, you are building this website for someone else, so keep asking yourself, what do visitors want to see and in which order. Have your calls to action where they can be seen, but not popping up all over the place annoying the visitors. Lay out the content to avoid clutter or confusion, just as you would with a retail store or showroom. Help people find what they want and answer any questions they may have. Then at the right time, ask them how you can be of service, by having Live Chat or a Contact Form etc. Make it easy for visitors to engage with you.

Website Platform – Which one should you use?
Website Design WordPressUnless you are some big enterprise client, choose something Open Source and easy to use. WordPress is by far the most popular platform. It is the one we recommend. It is also the one most developers recommend. However much like having a cooker, most people cannot produce great meals. So find someone who has a proven track record, with case studies, testimonials and existing clients. Get a reference, make a few calls. There are other good Open Source platforms, but some of these are quite complex and you have the option for custom coding. Plus there are the lightweight options of WIX, Weebly and Squarespace. These are fine for hobbies, but we would not consider them for business websites. No agency worth its salt would use these platforms, but they are the choice of the novice, because they are so easy to use, albeit very limited.

Functionality
Responsive-Website-Design-layoutsThis is the second most common cause of heartache, if, it is not part of the original plan. So, if you want people to be able to access a ‘Member only’ section, plan for it. If you want people to be able to buy something from the website, plan for it. If you want to have a facility to book an appointment or view in a foreign language, plan for it. Plan for things that you think you may want to have at a later date. Plan ahead. Do not expect that it can be added with a simple plugin for a few quid. That is not how it works. Add any functionality to the plan and ensure that the developers understand that it is included.

Time Frame – How long will it take to develop the website?
If everything above has been done, then most websites can be built in one week. That is one week, as long as there is a clearly understood plan and all the content is in place. Getting to this starting point will take a lot longer than you imagine. Getting videos shot and edited, getting the photographer to shoot the photos, writing up the written copy and preparing any PDFs. The developer does not do that part of it. So, how long it takes is down to how quickly you can assemble the content. A good agency will schedule a week for your project development and give you time to get prepared. That could be two weeks, or four or eight – it depends on how you prioritise the gathering of the content.

The end is just the beginning
Truth be told, designing and developing a website, with all your created content, photos and text, is just the start of your journey. Once it is done you need to let people know it is there and what is on offer. This is marketing pure and simple.

Marketing the website
Digital_Marketing_PlanPeople talk about digital marketing and traditional marketing and direct marketing or marketing communications or strategic marketing. But now it is time to use whichever elements suit your project. It will generally be a combination of marketing strategies. The website is just another tool for marketing, albeit a digital one. Just because your website is digital, does not automatically mean that all your marketing should also be digital.
There will be a requirement to be able to apply some digital marketing techniques. This could be getting the search engine optimisation done on the website. Or creating Google Adwords campaigns. Or starting with Facebook Advertising. Perhaps talking to your audience via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or Linkedin.

Traction – How long will it be before you are on page 1 of Google
This is a big variable. It depends on the competition in your area and your sector. It can be a slow burn. The quality of your website construction will be a big factor, its page speed, its security, its quality of engagement for visitors, the quality of the content, the amount of content, the addition of regular new content.

Training – Start by learning how to use your website
marketing-website-design-teamNow that you have this masterpiece, make sure you can drive it. Ensure that you or someone on your team is trained up on how to use the website, to add, edit or delete content, to use the blog, to understand the analytics reports.
Then you can progress to use the digital marketing tools. If you do not have the time or manpower to use these tools proficiently, then engage someone who is competent. If you use someone who is incompetent, you can wade through a lot of money very quickly. Or possibly someone who is not competent, could invest very little and get very little in return. Remember that any investment that delivers good returns is worth it, regardless of the amount. It is always about the returns.

Security – Protect that investment and make it deliver
WordPress website security checklistNow that you have invested all this time and money, you want to protect that investment. Just like buying a property like a shop or office, or even a truck or car, you want to ensure that it performs well and that it is secure, protected and up to date. Talk to your web design agency about ensuring that you are on a weekly or monthly Care Plan or find out what you need to do to maintain your website, to ensure that it continues to perform well. Monitor the performance or have someone do it for you. Treat it like a real shop window, keep it fresh and pay attention to the visitors who drop in.