Author: Gavin Kilgallon
Internet Dreams Studio
Creating a new website for your business does not need to be a frustrating or difficult experience. The design and development process for the majority of websites follow a similar format. This article will outline the research you should take before kick starting the project and the stages you should go through once you start the process.
Choosing A Domain Name
One of the first areas to research will be your domain name, ideally this should be your business name or represent the services or products you want to provide. It is important to select a domain name that is easy to spell and remember, keep it short and as memorable as possible.
Another area you need to consider is the domain extension, this is the text after the domain name. Gone are the days where there were just a few, there are now over 280 to select from. It is usually best practice to select an extension that is relevant for your business, for example, ‘co.uk’ will indicate that your business is based in the United Kingdom. There are numerous extensions available that cover geographical areas, business niches, organisational type etc. For more information on UK domains and what is available, Nominet is a good reference point and the official registry for UK domain names.
Whilst thinking about your domain name also start to consider who you are going to host your website with. A reliable hosting provider will ensure that your website is always accessible. Key areas that you need to consider are:
- Uptime guarantee (preferably at least 99.99%);
- Bandwidth and storage (the number of page views and data a hosting provider can handle);
- Customer support – 24/7, email, phone;
- Security and backups solutions;
- Performance such as loading times;
- Country of hosting;
- Scalability for future website growth and projects;
- Clear pricing plans;
Research And Planning
Understanding the main purpose of your website will be is one of the key requirements. This usually falls under one of the following areas:
- Increase exposure
- Quality lead generation
- Increase sales
Defining your core objectives is essential in order to be able to set key performance indicators and measure the websites return on investment.
Creating an accurate site map with a clear navigational structure is vital for the UX (User Experience) and effectiveness of your website. Understanding and determining what sections, sub sections and pages your website will have and the path you want site visitors to take will help ensure success. It’s always recommended that you look at your competitor’s websites, note down their structures and any elements that you like or dislike. Once you have this, try to create a site map for your own website.
Using software such as Moqups for wireframing can help you visualize and further understand the layout required and any potential UX problems. You can sign up for just a month which starts at US$19. If you are using an external agency, ask them for advice to help determine your site map.
Once you know the sitemap, it’s always a good idea to start creating text that will populate it. Leaving this towards the end of the development process often leads to deployment delays or poor content. Site content is not only crucial in creating a professional impression of your business, it also plays a key role in search engine rankings and user experience. You can either employ the services of a copywriting agency or write the content inhouse. From experience, we would recommend writing content yourself as no one understands your business better then you do. Some useful pointers when creating content include:
- Keep it short and to the point, don’t write for the sake of it;
- Keep it relevant to your target audience, help them find the information they are looking for quickly;
- Keep style and layout constant throughout to enhance the UX;
- Include keywords to aid your search engine rankings;
- Showcase your USPs and benefits;
- Showcase examples / case studies where possible;
- Make use of interesting headlines;
- Use internal linking to aid UX and SEO;
Build It Yourself Or Use A Web Design Agency?
When it comes to the design and development of your website, there are two main options. You can use a web building platform such as Wix, that allows you to create your own website based off set templates, or you can use a web design agency that will build you a bespoke solution. Both options have their merits and it will generally come down to your budget. If you are looking for a quick, simple, basic website and have a limited budget then Wix or a similar platform would probable best suit your needs. If you require a more bespoke, professional solution built specifically for your business then you would tend to use a professional design agency.
If you are going down the web design agency route, you will want to investigate the following areas thoroughly:
- Look at their website!
- Look at their showcase and examine their websites? Do they have a diverse portfolio, do their sites all look the same?
- What is their area of specialty, have they built websites in your industry sector?
- Do they have any reviews / testimonials?
- How long have they been running?
- Do they outsource their work?
- Do they push one technology / solution?
- What is their design process, payment structure and costs?
- What after service do they provide?
You also want to consider if you need to constantly update your website? If the answer is yes, then you may want to look at incorporating a content management system (CMS). There are numerous solutions out there that are extremely user friendly, requiring no technical knowledge. One of the main platforms used is WordPress, there are also numerous other platforms such as Magento, ProcessWire, Drupal. From our experience, we would generally recommend platforms such as WordPress or ProcessWire for small and less complex projects. If you require more bespoke, complex and scalable platform we would recommend a bespoke CMS build using a development framework like Laravel. A CMS can provide a simple solution that allows you to update text, links, SEO, images, products, media (photos and video), documents (PDF, Word etc.) all through a simple password protected area.
Search Engine Optimisation
Search engine optimisation (SEO) refers to the ability to attract traffic to your website through organic search engine listing on Google, Bing, Yahoo etc. There are numerous factors that determine your rankings and no one precisely understands what these are as Google will not publish their algorithms. From extensive research, SEO experts are pretty certain the following factors combine to influence your rankings:
- Website content and relevance (optimised);
- Incoming links from relevant and reputable websites;
- Domain age (older domains tend to have higher authority);
- Mobile friendliness;
- Page speed loading times;
- Secure website;
- Social media;
- Website build such as title tags, heading tags etc.;
- Internal and external links;
One of the best ways to improve you SEO is to research competitors that are doing well on Google. Simply type in a search term and look at your top 5 rivals. There are numerous SEO tools to help you do this, ahrefs, Moz, Semrush are some of the best. They often provide a free trial and are usually quite intuitive. They will provide a wealth of information to help you with your SEO including:
- Referring domains;
- Keyword listings;
- Top pages;
- Outgoing links;
- Anchor text (keywords that link to a website);
- Pay Per Click advertising information;
- Broken links;
- Site audits etc.;
SEO is an ongoing process, you need to constantly review your rankings, read the latest SEO articles and look out for any sudden movements in your rankings.
Your website is your shop window to the World. It requires a well thought-out and structured approach to ensure success. It’s an investment both financially and resource wise that can pay massive dividends if you approach it with the right mindset. Ensuring that you get it right first time will save you time and money later on.
More about the author
Gavin Kilgallon is a Director at Internet Dreams Studio, providing web design and development services for businesses and individuals throughout London and the UK. If you have any questions or would like further information, feel free to call or email me anytime.