If you were to ask around to the business owners that you know, you are likely to hear horror stories of web design gone wrong: designs that were never finished, expensive sites that just didn’t perform.
These Dos and Don’ts for Building a Website will help you stay on track for your next website design project.
Do it all Yourself.
There are numerous great platforms now that allow the business owner to create their website themselves, often in “just 5 minutes.” However, you should be aware that websites that you do yourself often look like it. So while you want to retain the ability to update your site yourself, creating a professional looking website will likely require the technical services of a professional.
A basic website isn’t that difficult to design (honestly). You likely know people — friends, family, even your child — who can do the actual design work. But creating an effective website is about a lot more than just the pretty packaging. You want to hire a web designer who will help you to create a website that functions for your business, one that actually does what you need it to do. And this is where using an experienced web designer is going to save you in the long run by letting you skip a whole lot of trial and error.
Don’t Allow Integrated Hosting.
Some web designers will insist that they host your website on their server. This is what is known as Integrated Hosting as the hosting is often included in the web design package. While this can look like a good deal, it often isn’t in the long run. If you want to make changes to your site, or god-forbid, change designers, you may have a fight on your hands. It is best, then, to host your site on your own account. Shared hosting at companies are inexpensive and allow you to retain complete control of your site. The one I recommend is Canvas Dreams.
Unless you are in the business of creating music for sale, don’t be tempted to add music to your site. This was a very popular way to personalize your site in the 90’s and when done now, it just makes you look dated. Plus, it is annoying to your site visitors and increases your site-load time. All in all, nothing that you’d want for your site.
Believe Baseless Promises.
Many web design firms will promise you specific search engine rankings. Don’t believe them. The algorithms that the big search engines use — especially Google — change all of the time. Any tricks that these folks are using to “game” search engine rankings will likely cease to work by the time your site is launched. That is just the nature of this game. So, instead of falling for pie-in-the-sky promises, look for a web designer who can help you build quality content for your site. This will always remain the best route to great search engine rankings.
Use a lot of Flash.
Flash programming looks cool on your website and flash videos can be fun to make. But Flash is not readable to search engines so anything that you put inside a flash video is worthless to your search engine rankings. Plus, flash, like music, can be annoying to some of your web visitors. So, if you must use flash, use it sparingly and know exactly what it is you are trying to accomplish with it.
Put Your Site’s Aesthetics Ahead of Function.
Many websites are beautiful to look at, but they never actually bring in any business. This is because beauty in and of itself will never sell. In order to sell things online, you must meet the needs of your customers. Period. If you ignore their needs in favor of making something pretty, your customers will go elsewhere.
Some web designers will try to sell you the moon, meaning, they will offer you a big package full of a lot of great bells and whistles. Be wary of this type of proposal. These extra features may sound great, but if you cannot fully implement them within 3-6 months, you are wasting your money that you can use elsewhere. Instead, plan on adding features and benefits as your business needs them and can invest in them.
Know What You Want Your Site to do AND Why.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when you are designing your website is not know what it is you actually want it to do. A website can DO many things, but your business may not need it to do them all. Be clear on what role you want your site to play in your overall marketing plans.
Look For a Web Designer Who Asks a lot of Questions.
It may feel a bit intimidating to be asked a lot of questions about your business, but no web designer is really going to be able to set up the “right” site for your business without knowing what that business IS. So, be wary of designers who try to sell you a one-size-fits-all design, or prospose a solution for you that doesn’t come from a thorough examination of your business. Websites can do a lot of things; but the best website for your business is the one that suits it best.
Be Prepared to Write the Copy.
Your web designer is going to be primarily concerned with the box your site goes in — creating the look and feel of the pages of your website. But your website doesn’t actually accomplish anything until there are WORDS in it. The words are the copy and this is your primary responsibility as the business owner. Your web designer should help you to understand what copy needs to be written and why. In an ideal world, your designer will partner with you to create the copy, helping to edit what you write, or re-purpose copy that you have written for other uses in your business.
Sign a Contract.
Signing a contract is in your best interest. It protects you in the event your designer doesn’t deliver what you have paid for. And unfortunately, this situation happens in this industry more than it should and as a result, any desinger who balks at signing a contract should be avoided at all costs. There are plenty around who will provide you a contract upfront, without you even needing to ask, so just avoid those that don’t use contracts (and if you hire one against our advice and it comes back to bite you, don’t say we didn’t warn you).
Choose a Platform That You Can Update Easily.
Static website pages lose search engine ranking, so you want to update the contents of your site regularly. When you have to involve your web designer in each update, the process can become expensive and cumbersome. There are now dozens of platforms that you can use for the basis of your website that all allow you — the business owner or one of your employees — to make updates easily, so make sure your web designer uses one of them for your site.
This list should give you a good starting point for your next web design project. The best web designer for your business is the one that understands your business the best and can support you to create a site tailored to what your business needs.