Making the Right Choices in the Website Design Process

When considering a new website for a small business it’s easy to get carried away with all the bells and whistles a shiny new site might be able to offer. Its important to remember that the most important aspect of a new website is the message it sends. Are you clear in what you do? Do your products and services sell themselves? These factors are more important than the look of your new site. The content of your site is also very important. If you don’t have good content on your site, then your site won’t rank well and you won’t be found on search engines.

You’re going to develop a website, you say? That sounds pretty darn cool. But the question is: how do you plan on starting out? We’ve got some questions for you before you get started: Do I have time for this? What kind of resources are at my disposal? Am I willing to spend what it takes? Oh, and did we mention research too because that is most certainly a necessity before any big changes happen! It’s important to ensure that all of your information is in order so that your end result is a website that helps rather than hinders your business.

Keeping up with the latest trends can be tough: no matter how much you love digital marketing and the latest tools offered by Facebook and Twitter, there is one thing that internet users will always rely on first when getting in touch with your company, and that is your website. Day in, day out we’re striving to optimize everything around us as best we can which means it can sometimes feel like we’re left playing catch-up when it comes to reflecting our products and services online.

In 2010, Nielsen revealed that the average Australian spends 2 working days every week online. This was closely followed by a rise in wireless and mobile access statistics. We were lucky to have such technology and we became more internet-reliant as the years passed. Luckily, web design strategies haven’t changed much over the years either. When redesigning your website, the aim should be to combine tried and true web principles with the latest trends so that you don’t break with tradition while maintaining a modern, stylish and functional site that serves its purpose first and foremost!

THINK ABOUT THE USER EXPERIENCE AND ARRANGEMENT OF INFORMATION

Simplicity is key. Content-heavy websites such as blogs may require additional navigation to accommodate important pages such as “products” or “services”. Level A menus are more prominent and feature essential links such as “contact us.” They include site content that is essential to the customer’s experience. The B level menu features secondary links that support the customer’s experience, but are not required during the initial visit. If content hit rates (according to Google analytics etc.) indicate that a page is popular, this higher-ranking section will certainly appeal to users, so make it easy to find.

ENGAGE A WEB DEVELOPMENT COMPANY

Badly designed websites with weak or defective code will make it difficult to manage your site, and consequently may also make it more expensive as you’re continually thrown workarounds in the short term. Additionally, poorly designed sites aren’t inviting to potential customers and may frustrate them enough that they decide not to return at all (remember the four second rule!).

Working with a professional web development company is the best way to ensure that your website is easy to use and updated on a regular basis. When choosing a company, make sure it understands you and has worked with businesses similar to you before – this is essential because they know your values and will do their best to incorporate these values into your website. Working with professionals will ensure that you have quality advice and don’t risk compromising in any aspect of your project or potentially produce untrue or misleading information. A great way to manage your company’s Web content is by using a CMS, as it can make sure that the content on your website is updated often and accurately. Many companies will also offer training classes for you, so your team doesn’t have trouble keeping up with the site.

WEB DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY

Take a strategic approach to your new site and look at the following question: Who are you targeting? If you need to have portals for key areas with different audiences (e.g. customers, staff), will you address these with a login area or a special menu system? If yes, there will need to be a focus point for each level of user. What actions do you want the user to take? Again, make it simple and ensure you have the functionality to facilitate that.

WHAT ARE YOU SHOWING

The core products and services that your organization offers will be communicated through the site using dynamic, engaging experiences. It is desirable to display a sense of innovation in how you choose to respond to this element in order to make sure that you are representing your company’s commitment to technology.

CURRENT DESIGN TRENDS

If a blind person visited your site, would they be able to understand what you offer? If a deaf person were browsing your page, could they access your content, or would it be jumbled up? Accessibility means making sure everyone from the elderly to tech novices can use and enjoy your website. Improving web accessibility should not only comply with regulations such as WCAG 2.0 but should also provide benefits to all who visit your site.

In order to make content more accessible, it will be provided in different formats (e.g. providing text alternatives to non-text content). The more usable your website is, the more people will be capable of accessing it. In Australia, the federal government requires all government agencies to become compliant by 2015, in order to adhere to international best-practice standards; this includes both external sites and intranets. Any sites that are working with the federal government or applying for grants of any kind will need to be compliant after this date

The redesign of any website can be a time-consuming and daunting experience, but there are some important steps one can take to help ensure their site will end up the way they want it. Never underestimate the value of getting a professional to assist in your project from the planning stages onward; this will save you lots of headaches down the road!

IMPORTANT QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR DEVELOPER

. No matter how good the deal, it’s better to invest in your own freedom of choice and to support a development environment that is not exclusive or restrictive. Open source software such as Joomla, Word Press and Drupal, can be moved from one place to another if needed – one of our reasons for recommending them!

2. Which schools have you created sites for already? How did that turn out? Is it something that our website could be “inspired” by? Let us know, and also show us your “portfolio” of a few of the other websites you’ve helped bring to life – we’re particularly interested in seeing how you approach designing websites with structured content – university or college sites are ideal, but it’s up to you!

3. What support do you offer? What is the associated cost? Does it cover updating from a previous version? If in doubt, pick up the phone and get your query through to an actual person. Any decent developer worth its salt will have time for questions – others may make promises of future dedicated help lines or ‘dependable’ support staff who never get back to you. Insist on access before you decide!

4. What kinds of project management or account management services are provided by your company and how can they help guide you through this process? You may want to use the expertise of a project manager or PM for short. It is best to work with someone experienced in the industry, who will know what works best for your brand and needs.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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