13 Things You Need to Know Before Designing Your Own Website
Saving money by investing a little elbow grease into your brand is admirable. But let’s be real: doing something yourself requires that you actually have some idea of what to do.
Websites are often one of those DIY projects that business owners take on. And with WordPress website builders becoming more powerful and easier to use, it makes sense that folks would at least try taking a stab at building their own site.
If you find yourself in that boat today, we’ve got a few tips to empower the DIYer in you.
1. Plan First
Planning a new website should be like planning your perfect wedding day. Start by writing down ideas and making lists. The more you can get jotted down, the more things will start coming together.
Figure out your wants and needs. Know who you’re trying to target and find out which words and phrases you should be using by doing some keyword research. Have a look at other sites in your industry. What do they do well? Are there opportunities they’re missing out on?
Once you have your plan, start structuring the content of your website. Think about the pages you need and what content you wish to showcase on each page. Remember context when structuring individual pages. What frame of mind is the viewer in on section of the page? What do they expect to see or do next? Also, try and keep your menu as simple as possible. Not every single page needs to be housed in the main menu.
3. Get to the Point
That being said, try and get to the point as fast as possible! Don’t fill your pages with unnecessary information or fluff (“hot air” so-to-speak). Having the right amount of authenticity is important, but keep your content concise and stick to the bare necessities. If you’re finding it difficult to be brief, design callout text areas. With them, you can take a quote from the body of your page and highlight it in a way that stands out. These callout text areas are for the skimmers of the world…there are a lot of them these days.
4. Tell a Story
Think of your site like a short storybook and consider the flow of your content and pages; make it logical. Introduce concepts, use analogies, supplement key content with nice visuals. You want it to be easy to find information and simple to navigate.
5. Define Page Goals
Don’t forget to give each page a defined purpose. Ask yourself, what is this page for? Am I trying to get the user somewhere? To buy something? To contact me? Whatever the purpose is, a strategically placed and highly visible call-to-action should be included. Be careful with the number of calls-to-action you’re putting on a page also. Too many options isn’t good. Some help on creating them here.
6. Be Helpful
Don’t make users dig for the answers to their questions, lend a helping hand when applicable. Use both internal and external linking to help them along the way when you think you may have raised a question on one of your pages. There’s nothing wrong with linking to a quality external website, just remember to set them to open in a new tab.
7. Have a Mobile Mindset
We all know mobile is huge and that there are an increasing number of mobile-only web users. Make sure you test each page, button, link and function on a mobile device. Look at every page element and ask yourself “Do mobile users want to see this?”. If the answer is “no”, get rid of it…at least on mobile-only views. If you can, test them on both Android and iPhone.
8. Don’t Overdose on Plugins
Plugins are one of the greatest things about WordPress because they allow you to do things that would otherwise require loads of complicated coding. Newcomers may be tempted to download every other plugin they see, but remember that each plugin is an added moving part inside your website. Too many of them could lead to complications. On top of that, not all plugins are made equally. Be sure to research each one before you install and activate. When was it last updated? How long has it been available? How credible is the plugin author?
9. Optimize your Images
Remember to use compression plugins or some other image optimization software to decrease the size of images on your site. It’ll result in faster page load times for users and takes just seconds to do. We recommend either WP Smush Pro or TinyPNG, depending on your situation.
10. Toughen Up
Cybersecurity is, and will remain, a big concern for web users and admins alike. Help users browse your site confidently by adding an SSL certificate, blocking spammers, and enforcing strong passwords. Run malware scans and make sure you’ve got a reliable backup plan in place.
11. Invest in Support
More than likely, there will come a point in your website’s lifetime when you need a little help. Be sure you’ve got a contact that can point you in the right direction, provide insight and help troubleshoot technical problems. Keep them close by… there’s nothing more frustrating than needing help in a pinch and having none. We provide hosting through WP Engine – their support is amazing in-and-of-itself. On top of the support they provide, we throw in personalized support, ongoing maintenance and some other goodies for our clients.
12. Use Google Analytics
Once your site is up and running, don’t stop improving it. Check out your Google Analytics and see which pages have a high bounce rate. Analyze and make changes and track some more. User behavior is always changing so it’s important to experiment with labels and positioning to make sure your providing the optimal content.
13. Track Your Ranking
You should have a list of keywords that you’re trying to rank for online. Take that list and plug them into a service like SERP Watcher. This will allow you to keep track of how you’re ranking for specific searches in specific regions and languages. Here’s an example of a report we use for one of our clients.Whatever you do, don’t devalue your web presence.Click To Tweet
If you lack design skills or know nothing about user experience, find a good web designer and invest in your brand. Give yourself a realistic budget and get a quote from a designer who comes highly recommended or has great reviews.
About the Author
My professional experience with the web reaches back more than 8 years. During this time, I've been developing sites for individuals and businesses, working on a team of digital experience analysts as well as providing qualitative and quantitative research surrounding web and mobile technology.Jonathan