Know What You Want
“Website design and development” is the creative and technical process of building a website.
A website is a unique interface that connects people to a brand. If we’re talking about an eCommerce store, the site would also provide a convenient and obvious way for customers to buy or order products and services.
Before building a website, you should evaluate your business processes. If you’re a seller, think about your product or service and the specific customer base you’re targeting.
A very common approach for our clients is to request multiple concepts (mock-ups) at the beginning of their web development project. They believe that this will give them a sense of control over the site’s look and feel. Inevitably though, there will be elements from each design that they like, leading to the “picking and choosing” of various elements from each mock-up. Here’s the problem: elements from different designs are not necessarily compatible or even easily combined, and they don’t always present a cohesive or attractive design. This can lead to an inconsistent and possibly amateurish-look. This is jokingly called a “Frankenstein” approach.
So we use a collaborative approach with our clients instead, to shape the design as it’s created.
It’s very important that all parties have a clear understanding of the project goals and the expectations of the website, and it’s target audience. Knowing these will guide the decisions that will be made during the development of the site.
In the same manner, if you’re creating the website yourself, you need to be clear on why you need a website, what its goals are, how you will measure its productivity, who your target audience is, and why.
Producing a quality product takes time. Take that time to explore these questions and answer them honestly.
There are a few other topics to think about before developing your site. Here are a few of them:
Your Domain Name
When thinking about your domain name choice, remember that a good domain name is memorable, reflects your brand, and is nearly impossible to misspell. These qualities are important. Combining Search Engine Optimization (SEO) with brand-identity in your domain name can increase the likelihood of your site appearing higher in a list of search engine results.
Your Site’s Design
Design is subjective. “Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder”, am I right? So…. having said that, we all need to remember that there is no such thing as the “perfect” design. The desire to achieve perfection leads to “tweak” after “tweak” in order to get it “right”. This isn’t a wise use of your budget or time. You may personally like it, but the site may not achieve your goals or be as user-friendly or effective as it could be. It’s important that the site looks great, yes, but it’s equally as important for it to function properly, be user-friendly, be mobile-responsive and achieve its’ goals.
Your Site’s Security
Websites that conduct online monetary transactions, such as e-commerce sites, need certain security measures to protect customer information. To reduce browser-based threats, SSL certificates should be used on the site. All businesses should conduct on-going security checks on their site, or have them performed by a security service.
It’s necessary to have high quality, original content on your site, not only for user engagement but for SEO. Content affects your site’s ranking in search engine results. Each web page should have at least 150 words and should include links to credible online resources and other pages within your website. Your content should be written to echo your brand. Use a free plagiarism detection tool to ensure that there isn’t accidental plagiarism in your content. (Google penalizes plagiarism, and they may remove your site from search engine results.)
Everything on a website is considered to be intellectual property and is protected under copyright law. If you plan to use stock photos, they may still be copyright-protected. Using copyrighted images can result in stiff penalties. When using stock images, make sure you have written permission to use them and that you pay any relevant fees.
Your Site’s Style
Think about whether you prefer an uncluttered, muted, minimalistic look with lots of white space, or whether you’d rather have a bright and bold design. Look at several sites within your niche to get ideas.
Your Site’s Goals
Determine what you want your website to do. Once you know exactly what you want to achieve with your site, it will be much easier to design a site that delivers those results.
A goal of “Being #1 on Google” or “getting more traffic” should not be the main goal. That kind of SEO takes time, effort and dedication. SEO is an ongoing process, best done by professionals who do it for a living.
Knowing your site’s goals will help provide value for your business.
Do you need this project done in a rush? Is there a specific date you have in mind for its’ launch? Make sure your timeline is realistic considering your skill level, knowledge, and experience in creating websites and promoting them.
Maintenance: who will maintain your site?
A website is kind of like a car; it requires ongoing care and support. Your site may function beautifully today and not so well next year. There are ongoing costs for keeping your site fresh and functional, and there are also costs to you for NOT doing it: like diminished readership, fewer sales, low search-engine rankings, lost clients and customers, high bounce rates, malware, legal issues, broken links, 404 errors, and website repairs that will cost you time and/or money.
If you plan to update the site yourself and do not want to get into the code to do it, then you need a CMS (Content Management System). A CMS handles lots of the technical aspects of a website, like allowing non-developers to easily upload and manage their content.
A CMS can also be used for creating an online community, allowing visitors to create accounts and have their own pages.
Do you need a CMS? Ask yourself these questions:
- What kind of website will it be? Will it be a personal blog? Or a portfolio site with contact information? A store?
- What’s your budget? WordPress is free, though you’ll still need to purchase your own domain name, hosting, and any commercial “plugins” or templates that you need.
- How many users, contributors, or admins are you going to have? How many people are going to contribute to your site? Do they need individualized permissions? WordPress allows you to define different kinds of contributors.
- What are your site-updating needs? Will your site be mostly text and images, or will you need to support multimedia or interactive components like a shopping cart? How much control do you need over the look of your site?
The more complex your needs, the more you might benefit from a maintenance plan with us, or if you prefer the doing the maintenance and updating yourself, using the WordPress CMS would be a good solution.
Your Hosting Provider
A Hosting Provider is a company that provides storage space for your site on their server, for a fee. It’s basically where your websites “lives”.
The kind of hosting you’ll need is determined by these factors: will the site be static (unchanging) or dynamic (interacting with users or changing frequently)? Does the site require room to grow? (By the way, using a personal computer for hosting is very risky, not recommended, and it requires a costly static IP address.)
- Traditional Hosting: With this kind of hosting, the server is housed in a data center, managed by the hosting company, and requires a subscription to different standardized packages that suit current or future site needs. There’s a risk of paying for more resources than are actually needed, or paying for fewer resources than what will be needed in the future.
- Shared Hosting: Still traditional, but your website shares server resources with other websites, depending on the servers’ capacity. How much your site gets depends on the hosting package you purchase. Because resources are shared, bandwidth can vary, causing slower page loading, or 404 “page not found” errors. You might be charged “over-usage” fees when the site uses more resources than the package provides, and you’ll be required to upgrade your hosting package, moving the site to a different server and setting it up from scratch; re-uploading all files, photos etc., and the site being down 24-48 hours during transition.
- Dedicated Hosting: Still traditional, but all server resources are used for only your website. Much more power, but much more expensive. There’s still the risk of paying for more resources than your site requires, or of not buying enough resources for what site will require later. Administration costs can go up too, and “over-usage” fees still apply.
- Virtual Private/Dedicated Hosting: Still traditional, but resources are shared among sites, but significantly fewer sites. “Over-usage” fees still apply when the site uses more resources than the package provides, and you’ll be required to upgrade the hosting package. Again, this means moving the site to a different (dedicated) server, and setting it up from scratch; re-uploading all files, photos, etc., and the site being down 24-48 hours during the transition.
- Cloud Hosting: Very flexible and highly scalable. Cloud hosting uses multiple servers that are housed in data-centers around the world. The servers combine as a total “pool” of resources which scale up and down according to website needs, creating a virtual server. Resource allocation is not fixed: you only pay for what is used.
Choosing the best hosting solution comes down to what’s “right” for the business right now while projecting into the next three years of growth.
Your Color Scheme
Color schemes are important because color has the ability to evoke various emotional responses. It’s vital to consider your company’s niche, target audience, brand, and to incorporate some very basic color theory. Which colors will your target audience respond to? What colors will best convey your brand?
The Website’s Integration with Your Social Media
Social media provides a way for customers to promote your brand, provide reviews, and stay current about you or your company. Written and visual content, including product images and video, can easily be shared on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. by simply including the relevant buttons on your site.
Do You Want to Rent or Own Your Website?
By contracting with us to design and code your site, you will OWN your site. Many people don’t even realize that there is an issue of “ownership” to be considered.
When you own your site, you possess the “source code” that was used to develop the site. Without these documents, it would not be possible for you or another developer to edit the pages, or troubleshoot issues in the future. To maintain control over your site, you need to have these source files.
When you contract with Image and Aspect, you always get your source files at the end of the project.
You’re renting your site when you use a “hosted platform” package-solution, (D-I-Y) which is considered to be “Software as a Service” (SaaS), and it has lower up-front investment cost. Examples: Wix and Shopify.
Owning requires a custom solution, and there’s a higher up-front investment for this dedicated development. Owning allows for customization and integration with 3rd party services, provides greater flexibility and room for expansion.
Before diving in and creating your website, take the time to explore the answers to some basic questions. Figure out what you want your website to do and how you want it to look and function.
Take the time to read, research, and learn. Draw or sketch your ideas for the site, or create mockups. Take my advice: doing these things will save you a lot of frustration, stress and lost time.
Or you could just call me. 🙂
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About the author
I developed Image and Aspect because I believe that professionals need to have an impactful web presence. One that showcases their unique talents, skills, and abilities as well as their values and style. A presence that focuses on social engagement and connection.
I’m passionate about what I do; I like helping fellow humans, I like having all kinds of social connection with others, and I want to give back, to make the world a better place.
I do much of the designing and coding myself, and I also have a wonderful network of professionals that may contribute as well; photographers, copywriters, branding experts.
I love designing and coding beautiful, elegant and responsive web creations. I ALSO teach and help others who want to learn how to do it themselves.
‘Tips and Snips’ is my blog, and it’s full of information and inspiration to help transform any online persona from “meh” to AMAZING! Sign-up HERE to get blog posts right to your in-box every Friday! I write about Design, Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, Branding, Vlogging, Color Theory, HTML5, CSS3, Bootstrap, WordPress, Social Media…anything you’d want to know to get yourself noticed online.
Diane M. Metcalf, M.S.