Parallax, animation, background videos… In a constantly evolving and developing field, it’s very easy to get preoccupied with the most recent innovations in web design. However, the latest trends don’t usually suit everyone and often begin to look out of date very quickly (remember the bevel and emboss phase?!) With global internet usage predicted to pass a zettabyte (one trillion gigabytes) this year, your website is undoubtedly one of your most valuable marketing tools, so how do you keep the focus on producing a website that will work effectively for you, and avoid being blindsided by the latest fashions? Follow these simple steps to stay on-track.
• What does your website need to achieve?
Why do you want a website? Is it an informative brochure site, or an online shopping tool? Do you want to generate leads, or make a direct sale? Before anything else, you need to think about why you want people to visit your website and what you want them to do when they get there.
• Know your audience
Understanding your audience is fundamental to successful marketing, and your website is no different. Who do you want to talk to, and what information will they be looking for on your website? Once you know this, make sure you write your content to suit their needs and expectations. Don’t bore them with reams of information that they already know – get to the point and write it in their language. The more professional your website is, the more effective it will be.
• Plan the user experience
If steps one and two are covered, the user experience should naturally follow on. When somebody visits your website, how are you going to get them to where they want to go, and how can you make this a rewarding experience for them? If your audience want to look at your products, make them easy to find and present them in their best light. If you want to steer your visitors to something new, make it obvious. The key is to keep it simple. Use animation if it’s relevant and enhances the experience, but don’t if it over-complicates the message or adds no value. Decide what the most important messages are and make them clear. If you try to shout about everything at once, your visitors won’t know where to look on the page and are unlikely to stay there for long. And don’t forget about your mobile audience – your website needs to be just as easy to use on mobile, tablet and desktop devices.
• Choose a good hosting package
With so many hosting offers out there, it can be difficult to choose between them and often tempting to go with the cheapest option you can find. This isn’t always the right choice to make, as the cheapest packages are unlikely to provide the support or hardware that may be necessary to ensure your website runs smoothly. Do your research – what technologies does your website need to run and how busy is your website likely to be? This will determine what hardware it will need to support it. How secure does it need to be (are you taking payments online)? What level of support do you require? How much of an issue would it be if your hosting went down for a couple of hours? It’s also worth looking at a hosting provider’s specialties and reading the customer reviews before making a choice.
• Track, track, track!
So you’ve gone to the effort and expense of making a brand new website and it’s now live – make sure you monitor its success! Keeping track of where your visitors are clicking, monitoring how long they stay on a page and knowing where they have come from is crucial in assessing how effectively your website is working for you. Good websites are continually evolving, and even simple analytics can provide an invaluable insight into your visitors’ behaviour patterns, yet tracking is still so often overlooked. There are many free options out there, so at the very least you should make sure that the basics are covered.
If you’ve stuck to these principles, the chances are you have a decent website that speaks to your audience and will work hard for you. Now get it out there and reap the rewards!