Notes on website design
The hardest parts of website design are not technical at all - you don't have to do the technical things yourself, but, like building your dream house, building your website is not a project you can hand over to builders and walk away from.
The obvious: your website is important
A website is very important to your business. It enables you to reach new prospects, and to project the image of the professional, knowledgeable and helpful business that you are.
You probably know this on a intellectual level, but let's paint a little picture anyway:
A shoddy website, or an perpetual under construction page is the cyber equivalent of presenting your wares to customers or investors with your fly open. They know you know your fly is open - and you know they know that you know...
Politicians can perhaps get away with that, but the rest of us is better advised to zip up without delay.
A shoddy or non existent website is an injury to your public image of professionalism. Best zip up without delay.
The not so obvious: is your website effective?
Assuming you have a site (without beer stains on it - in other words you are not embarrassed by how it looks), then you gained entry to the presentation room. Your fly is a securely closed (superglued-shut).
Showing up won't get you the contract or the investment: your (flawless) presentation must convince your audience to buy your product or invest their money. When you achieve that goal - then your presentation was effective and worth the trouble and the glue.
Same thing for your website:
Your site simply showing up on the web will not grow your business. You have to have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve with your site - and your site must deliver a flawless pitch to achieve that objective. Then, when your audience is completely enthralled by your brilliant product and rapier like wit, don't leave...ask them for their (proverbial) money! (Eight out of ten websites are out of the door while the audience is still fumbling to get their checkbooks)
Otherwise, the entire exercise it is just a waste of time and internet bandwidth.
There are enough websites that are the equivalent of "death by powerpoint" to lobotomize every single intelligent thing on earth twice over. Please do not contribute to that arms race.
The wrong place
Unless you have a clear understanding of the objective of your website you might as well not start. Do you want customers to buy products online, investors to invest money, build perception about your brand, explore new markets, etc? Are you measuring these outcomes?
Without a clear objective you might end at the Wrong Place, aka No Results.
If you suffer from too much time, too little stress and too much money - a instant and sure-fire cure is to start building your site without a clear objective in mind.
Then you start
After the defining the objective, selecting a technical foundation and a framework, the next step is to decide on a look and feel that is consistent with your company's voice and it's personality.
It is often difficult to truly appreciate that you are not building a website for yourself: you are building a site for your customers - and YOU must decide what will look professional, friendly and easy to use to THEM. That is the extent to which you should exercise your personal taste - to guess what The VERY Important People will like: Your customers.
It is not about you.
It is about your customers.
We know from much experience that website visitors prefer to interact with a site that feels familiar. In other words, menus, actions and layouts are like most others. Like all the programs you use on your computer all basically work in the same way? In the main, a website visitor did not come to your web site to be entertained, but rather to consume information and to (hopefully) transact.
Flexible website design using templates
While colors, fonts, menu's, layouts and so on are all relatively easy to change using web design templates (discussed in more detail below), it much more difficult is to decide what information to publish on your site and how to structure it so your web visitor will be able to get to it effortlessly. People do NOT want to be surprised by your navigation structure. Nor the site's buttons, nor it's layout.
In fact, the more familiar your site looks to them the more inclined they will be to start using it.
You have less than 1 second in which to make a good impression.
We use the Joomla CMS (content management system). Like most others CMSs the look and feel of a website is applied in a "template". Essentially a template is like a skin that "folds" over the website's information - it is the look and feel, the navigation, and the personality of your site. A little more about templates:
Web designer overview showlist
website design templates
Like a stencil, a website template is a design framework onto which your content and interactive features are bolted.
The design template, on a stable and flexible content management system, gives the designer (and you!) the ability to easily update content and to bolt on extra features like shopping carts, picture galleries, newsletters and lots of other interactive elements.
The buck stops with you
As is the case with any significant project, discipline and a predictable life cycle helps to prevent cost overruns and misunderstandings. It is very, very, very important to remember that your website is built around the content you provide and your vision of what your site should be.
The role of the website designer is to firstly handle all the technical hurdles for you and secondly to guide you with best practice advice - but you, as the website owner, are as much a part of the project team as the designer. Perhaps even more so.
Heard of the gunslinger called "One Toe Joe"? He was fast on the trigger but slow on the draw.
If you do not have the time and energy to decide on your objectives, get (all) the content you want to publish together and to provide your website designer with input and feedback - then rather go play golf or go fishing and wait for the "lets-get-someone-to-read-my-mind-and-guess-what-i-want-and-market-my-business-better-than-me" urge to go away. Draw first. THEN pull the trigger.
A website is never really "done" in the sense that, as an entrepreneur, your work is never really "done". There is always more to do. Always ways to improve. So, from the very start of the project think in terms of "phases". With iterative refinement you could (should) constantly improve and adjust your website to improve it's performance, stay current with your products and keep it's modern appearance. Your website is the business suit your business is dressed in. It needs to be pressed regularly and changed every once in a while.
So, with an iterative refinement project in mind, the sites we build for our clients roughly follow these steps:
Website design deliverables
Every project (even if it is a phase in a project) should have deliverables - tangible and measurable checkpoints. For our own clients we deliver the list below:
- The Joomla content management system:
Installed, configured and optimized to to streamline web design and web maintenance.
- Custom website template designed and implemented.
Defines your website's layout, look & feel and can be changed easily without re-doing all the content
- Standard web pages:
Landing (home) page, Products/Services page, About us page, Contact us page (with automatic auto email responder). Search module to search all content on your site. Your content posted for each of these pages.
- On the fly editing
You can login and easily update content on your site.
- Implement good web design principles to make your site effective
- website optimized for search engine indexing:
Correct keyword selection so that your site can generate quality leads - typically a four word search phrase.
- Automatic integration with social media website:
Facebook (your own custom page), Twitter and Google plus
- Google Analytics integration
To measure and improve the efficiency of your website
- 16 hours web designer time to add more of your content or more pages
To implement special needs, content or requirements
- Improve your web content, placement and calls to action to improve conversion rate from visitor to a lead
- We use competitive intelligence:
Techniques to keep an eye on your brand and you competitors
- Optional shopping cart (no additional charge)
- Optional slide show:
A great sales aid to feature your product or service (no additional charge)
- Optional Google Maps integration:
If you have a specific geographical service area. (no additional charge)
Cost & timeframe
The project and deliverables as described on these pages are affordable by any small business and if required financing is available.
Our website design projects normally take about two weeks - provided all the content that should be published is ready and we receive prompt feedback on the prototypes we present.
Money back guarantee
We deliver what we promise - or your money back.
Do it yourself?
The Joomla and Wordpress content management systems are both free. Anyone motivated to invest time into learning about website building and internet marketing can build a website. (Contact us for your web hosting requirements and free installation of a content management system if you prefer to DIY)
Please read on for more detail on each of the above, or ask us any question about your unique needs.