Consider these 10 points before you begin to develop your website and you stand more chance of being successful online...
Planning your Website
I've compiled this countdown to help you find your way through, what can be a maze of information and counter-information. Implement the following 10 points when planning or just before building your website and you'll know you're off to a good start.
Your Domain Name (10)
This is so important in many ways. Try to include at least one word in your domain name that represents the main field of business you are involved in whilst keeping it as short as possible. You're going to have to be imaginative as competition for domain names is fierce. I've helped many businesses devise their domain name and whilst it's not absolutely essential to include your field of business in your domain name it can help with search engine positioning. Always try to have 3 or 4 strong domain names in mind.
Level of Hosting (9)
Appropriate hosting is crucial. There are some great and reasonably priced packages out there but some hosting companies are better at hosting certain types of website than others. E-commerce websites generally demand a higher level of hosting than a blog or catalogue website. Within this we should consider the technology being used to build the site i.e. database requirements, HTML5, CSS3, Jquery etc.
Deciding who your website is aimed at and what you want your site visitors to do when they're on your site is crucial to its success. If the primary objective is to sell products online then go for a solid e-commerce platform and build a blog / information pages around it. Don't try to bolt-on an e-commerce solution to a business website as you will more than likely fall short in terms of functionality and customer relationship management. If the primary objective of the site is to provide information then decide if this is on a local, national or international level - this will give you a good starting point in terms of they way in which you write content for your site.
Logo Design (7)
It is possible that the colour and even the style of your site could be dictated by your logo. So consider making subtle changes to your logo in order to either bring it up to date or be less 'colour reliant' i.e. will it work in different colour schemes or even in black & white? It's particularly important that at least a part of your logo can be recognised at a small size for social media such as Twitter or Facebook.
Layout & Colour (6)
I find the best way to achieve the desired end result is to start with a 'wireframe' layout. This is a black and white representation of the elements required on say, your home page. These elements can be refined and shuffled during on-going consultation. Priorities can be decided and ideas tested before we think about colour or even design. It's a great way of getting to the point of the website whilst assembling the required elements. If we then add colour we can really begin to see the site coming together. Don't get 'hung up' on background images or patterns. This can be really distracting both in terms of the design process and the look of the finished site. Visitors are there to look at your products and services - not to be distracted by your background image.
How big is the site going to be in terms of pages? Although we can add as many pages and blog posts as we like it really is important to consider the basic categories so navigation can be effective. There's nothing worse than finding that the organisation of categories is illogical to the site visitor so this should be very carefully considered. Decide on your top level categories based around the key areas of your business and then build in second and if necessary, third level navigation elements.
Responsive Design (4)
With the advent of so many handheld devices and internet 'on the move' it's vital that your site is easy to navigate and read on smaller devices such as smart phones and tablets. With this comes a series of questions about how we approach design but the bottom line is: Design for mobile first.
Content is King (3)
Well-written and unique website content is the most important factor in so many ways. Your content should appeal to humans first but also bear in mind that search engines need access to clear and factual information about your business and possibly your location in order to index your site properly.
On-Site Optimisation (2)
Both before and during development, we should always have one eye on the effect the design may have on the accessibility of our site by search engines. Let me explain: Be sure to leave enough room for text so that search engines can get a good understanding of what your site is about. So although we like to think we can keep design and content separate there is an important cross-over point.
Social Media (1)
It's everywhere! So before you go live with your site make sure you've linked your social media accounts and included the latest options to allow your site visitors to easily share your content and follow your company pages.