I started my career in web design and development in 2000, the year when the dot com bubble burst, and I am still learning every day. I have had my share of success and failures (which I hate to admit). With my team of graphic designers, developers and programmers, we have built dozens of online stores, hundreds of websites and blogs for all kinds of businesses and organizations, from artists to major corporations and international organizations.
If your website is over 2 years old, then it’s time for makeover to keep up and leverage with changing online landscape. The growth of social networking, gamification of the user interface to engage the visitor and mobile access have lead to new perspectives on website design. Google tools, search engine optimization and analytics are other aspects that impact website development.
Create a working document for all the features desired, to clarify your thinking and provide direction at various stages of the project. If you decide to outsource the project, share a copy of your marked-up copy of this document with your website designer. Print it out!
Your Website’s WHY
Start your website with clarity on its purpose. List down all the features that it’s expected to have, and decide on ONE main purpose. From the organization’s perspective, what must the site do in order to be successful?
Some common website purposes can be:
• Online branding. These are usually brochureware sites to help potential clients, customers, and partners learn about your company. You want people to know who you are, what you do, where to find you, and how to contact you.
• Product Information and store locator to provide information on products and services at dealer locations.
• Ecommerce sites are online stores to sell products and services.
• Customer Service and Online Helpdesk is a great place for troubleshooting guides, FAQs and more. A 24×7 channel to connect with your customers and their support need.
WHO will build?
Once the chief purpose of the site is clear, it is best to outsource the design and development of the website to the experts. It’s faster and better. Just concentrate on the sites content, after all you know your organization best. Develop your site around Content Management Systems (CMS) so that updates can be managed in-house with minimal training.
Website design done right is complex and requires a number of different skill sets. Some of these skills include:
• Website layout and architecture.
• User Interface design
• Content navigation design.
• Cross browser accessibility
• Mobile friendly site design
• Data management and reports.
• Application programming.
• Integration with social media etc.
Start with a clean, uncluttered design, and incorporate features to fulfill the website’s purpose. ‘Content is definitely KING’ and as visitor attention online is so short, simple and crisp content with relevant images is the key.
• Content. Plan and organize the content into clear section and subsections.
• Search locates content, product or services based on keyword.
• Contact details Post complete contact details and numbers to increase trust, not merely an anonymous contact form.
• Mobile sites have seen tremendous growth in Smartphone usage.
• Helpdesk for customers to communicate with you and at the same time develop a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page.
• Blog is an interactive place holder for news, opinions and showcase expertise. Not only does this keep fresh content on the site but it increase search engine rankings.
• Call to action is a clear, simple and compelling offer that persuades them to take the action you want.
• Social Media Integration with a uniform design and message strategy for social media networks and set up Facebook pages and Twitter accounts.
• Google analytics to monitor and measure performance of your site.
• SEO or Search Engine Optimization to help the search engines recognize and index appropriately the actual content of your webpage.
The internet is a treasure trove of information on website design, usability, trends and more. Check out websites of well known companies to get a feel of layout and features that you would like for your site. Some research and reading online will go a long way in clarifying thoughts and requirements. Discuss the same with your team and your website developer for an effective website.