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A business website has several key purposes. It introduces your business to prospective customers. It helps you generate leads if you capture visitors’ email addresses. A professional website also helps you build authority and credibility in your industry.
There are now many ways to build a website, whether you do it yourself or hire a web designer. Let’s look at some of the most important guidelines for building and managing your website. Many of these tips are equally applicable if you’re designing a new website from scratch or looking to upgrade or redesign a site you already have.
Preliminary Website Design Tips
Before you start thinking about appearance, content, navigation, and other design factors, you need to cover the fundamentals. For example, your domain and web hosting can affect your site’s performance and the features you can access. You also have to make sure visitors quickly recognize who you are and what you offer.
Brand Yourself With the Right Domain Name
Your domain is your online brand name so it should be relevant, easy to remember, and not too long or difficult to spell. Don’t be tempted by website services where you use third-party hosting. Your own domain is important for branding and SEO purposes.
Choose the Best Web Hosting Solution
Your choice of a web host and the particular hosting plan you get can affect your website’s performance. It’s also good to choose a hosting plan that lets you scale your business. If you want to maximize control over your website as well as security, consider using a dedicated server or VPS (virtual private server) hosting rather than shared hosting.
Tell Everyone Who You Are
Visitors should have a clear understanding of what you offer immediately upon landing on your site for the first time. This includes:
- The name of your site. This may be the same as your domain or a variation of it.
- A description or tagline such as “Serving the Capital Region’s insurance needs for 30 years.”
- Compelling images such as your logo, a photo of your business, products, or location.
- Key information. Be sure to include your NAP details (name, address, phone number), which are important to relay to customers and may also affect your local SEO. If your business has a brick and mortar location, you’ll also include your hours of operation.
Essential Web Design Qualities
An effective website needs to fulfill certain objectives. You should consider what you want your website to accomplish and identify the right tools and features. The following are characteristics of many leading business websites:
Navigation is a key element of modern web design. Visitors should be able to easily find what they’re looking for. Menus should be clearly displayed and accurately labeled. Place calls-to-action in prominent spots. It’s good to keep essential information on the top half of the page (or above the fold), as this is what visitors see first and not everyone will scroll down.
As more and more people use smartphones and tablets, web design needs to be mobile-friendly. In fact, many web designers and developers now advocate a mobile-first strategy, which caters to mobile users. Test all pages and functions on your site on multiple devices to make sure they work well for everyone. In particular, make sure that menus, images, contact forms, and any calls-to-action work well on mobile devices.
High-Quality Visual Content
Content is just as important as ever. What’s changing is that visitors now often gravitate towards the most visually interesting items such as photos, videos, memes, and infographics. One study revealed that between 2018 and 2019 alone, businesses increased the amount of visual content from 63.5% to 74%.
This doesn’t mean you should only post visual content. Depending on your business, you may need to share technical or complicated information that requires lots of text. However, you should always mix in images, videos, and other visual elements to keep your visitors interested.
Choosing a Web Design Solution
You have a few choices when designing your website:
DIY Website Builders
There are several options for building your own website without the need to do any coding.
- Use the website builder supplied by your web host. These usually make it easy to build a site with drag-and-drop steps.
- Build a site with WordPress. All leading web hosts let you install WordPress, select a theme, and choose your settings in a few clicks. This is distinct from WordPress.com, which is the same company but a third-party hosting solution.
- Use a website builder such as Squarespace, Wix, or Weebly. These and other website building services offer various plans and make it easy to add all kinds of features, including templates for various businesses, e-commerce, checkouts, SSL certificates for security, and lots more.
If you’re going to use any of these web design solutions, it’s important to customize your site so it’s not too similar to other businesses in your industry. Remember that when it comes to free and low-cost website builders, many business owners are using the same templates. You can, however, set your site apart by inserting unique photos and your own content.
Hiring a Web Designer
There are some benefits to outsourcing your web design. You can have experts handle the project while you focus on other aspects of running your business. Depending on your needs, you could hire a full or part-time in-house designer. For small and mid-size businesses, however, it’s generally simpler to contract with a freelance web designer or agency on a per-project basis.
Either way, it’s naturally more expensive to hire help than to design your own site. However, you’ll also the ability to build a more distinctive site and have a lot more control over every detail. The end result will likely be more professional and functional. What should you consider when choosing a web designer?
- Experience — Web designers should be able to display a portfolio of their work. You not only want to see that they produce professional quality work but also that it’s compatible with your brand’s image. It’s best to find a designer with experience in your niche or industry.
- Timeline — How long will the work take? It’s important to have clear communication with web designers so you know what to expect.
- Cost — While price shouldn’t be your only or even your main consideration, your budget is definitely a factor. Be sure you understand the terms. For example, do they charge by the hour or by the project? Thumbtack, one of many freelancer services, provides a helpful guide for understanding and estimating the cost of web design.
- Communication and Support — If you’re working with an agency, you should have a dedicated team member to contact for updates and questions. It’s important to work with an agency that listens to your ideas and helps you create your own unique design. They should also be available to answer your questions.
- Maintenance and Ongoing Services — Do you want to hire someone to design your site as a one-off project or do you want help with ongoing maintenance, content management, e-commerce, social media, or other tasks?
Find the Best Web Design Solution for You
Your website can have a major impact on how customers and prospects see you. In many cases, it will be their first impression of your business. The design should reflect your professionalism as well as your unique vision. Whether you design your own website or outsource it, make sure you plan it carefully so that it can show the world who you are and what you have to offer.