Having gathered the right equipment and software, registered a good domain name, and found a reliable hosting, the next step is to actually create a web site. You may want to do this yourself, or you may think about getting someone else to do it for you, but whichever approach you take you want to end up with a good site which people will want to come back to. To achieve this you need to observe some basic rules of web site design, keep it clear, keep it simple, keep it informative.
A web site is the shop window for an online business operation, it will probably be the point of first contact between your company and potential customers. Like a high street shop window your web site needs to offer the casual passer some enticement to stay awhile, to enter, and look around. This means that your web site must not only be interesting and attractive, it must also be appropriate to the products you are trying to sell and the type of customer you are trying to attract.
This means that whilst a jazzy, graphics heavy site with flashy multimedia effects may be suitable for selling to a teenage market, it will not be suitable for a site selling products to a business market, where a more sober design would be appropriate. User-friendliness is thus an important design consideration and one which is unfortunately all too often forgotten in the web site designers enthusiasm to show off his or her skills in the latest multimedia and interactive techniques.
By and large when specifying the design of a web site it is better to err on the side of simplicity. Emphasis should be laid upon clarity and ease of reading, upon logical structure, upon easy navigation, and above all upon the quality of the information contained on each page.
Information is a very important element in the creation of any web site, lots of good quality information will attract people to your site, and more importantly will encourage them to stay, and perhaps even return. Never overdo the sales pitch, that will quickly drive visitors away. Take a very gentle approach to sales, put the emphasis upon building trust between yourself and the site visitors, give them good quality free information, or offer something entertaining, such as an online game, and get them to return, not once but many times.
Another factor which will drive visitors away from your site is slow loading time, in general a page should load in no more than ten seconds, even with a slow internet connection, this means that the total size of a web page, complete with all its graphics should be no more than about 40K. This is another reason for sticking to simple clean page design with a minimum amount of graphics content.
Seven points for good web site design:
1 – Quality free information or entertainment is more important than fancy design.
2 – Do not attempt to use the heavy sales pitch, instead build trust, and get repeat visitors.
3 – Make sure the site is clear, logical, and easy to navigate.
4 – Make sure the site is appropriate to the products and the customers.
5 – Make sure that pages load quickly, and easily on all browsers and systems.
6 – Make full use of the typographical and page layout features of HTML.
7 – When the site is loaded on the server test thoroughly, correct any faults, and don’t be afraid to make changes.
Web site construction.
Before actually getting a web site constructed it is a good idea to take some time to work out how you want the site to look and feel. Look at as many of your competitor’s web sites as possible, analyse what they are doing right and what is wrong with their site, think how you would improve it. Make notes of these observations and ideas, they will be useful when you come to getting the site built.
The next stage is to think carefully about the structure of the site, how the pages are divided up and how a visitor will move between those pages. Write down a list of pages, starting with the home page, this will be the main entry point for your visitors, and note the proposed contents of each page, remembering to keep the text on any page to under 1500 words, and the number of images to two or three.
With this list of pages in front of you, you then need to draw a diagram of the site structure, in otherwords the logical linkage between each page. You will probably end up with a tree structure, with the home page at the base and other pages branching out from it, with each of those pages having other pages branching from them.
Armed with a list of site design ideas, a list of proposed pages, and a diagram of the proposed structure of the site, the next step is to actually build the site. There are two main options here, do it yourself, or get a commercial web site design house to do it.
I would strongly recommend that everyone who sets up a web site learns a little bit about creating a web page and building a web site, there are some excellent introductory books available. If nothing else it will help you understand the possibilities and limitations of a web site, as well as the terminology, and thus allow you to interact knowledgeably with programmers and designers.
If you decide to have a web design company do the job then be prepared to pay about £60 per page, or about £30-40 if you are employing a freelance designer. Before employing anyone, however, check their portfolio of previous clients, look at the quality of their work, and if possible talk to some of their other customers. There are unfortunately a lot of charlatans in the web site design business.
A lower cost alternative to having the whole site constructed by a web design company could be to get them to install a CMS system like WordPress, into which you can simply paste the contents. This approach will require some knowledge of WordPress or similr CMS on your part but does give you a lot more control over site construction and contents, in particular it allows you to change pages, add pages, and even alter the site structure without going back to the design house and paying a lot more money.
Remember that at this stage there is no need to incorporate full online buisness facilities into your site, that can easily be bolted on at a later date. What you are creating is a shop window, a site which says ‘this is our company, this is what we do, and this is where you can contact us’. But it should also be aimed at building the trust of visitors, and encouraging them to come back to the site at regular intervals by giving them something useful and interesting.