Updated: January 2, 2016
Think, Organize, Focus
You’d be amazed how many small business owners breeze past this step!
Decide what you wish to accomplish by designing and developing a website. Take the time to organize your ideas and focus on how this site will help your business.
Communicate With Your Web Designer and Developer
Spill the beans. Website objectives influence web design and site structure.
Creating a site prospects can’t find is probably not your goal. Ensuring your site ranks high enough in the search engines to be noticed is called search engine optimization, abbreviated as SEO. Search engine optimization is a collection of techniques that improve search engine rankings and results.
Since most potential visitors will not look past the first two pages when searching Google or their favorite search engine, SEO plays a critical role in meeting your website objectives.
Providing your web designer and developer a clear picture of your firm and its goals is the most important step you can take to help them design and build a website customers will find. Be sure to describe:
- Your business
- Your products or services
- Your target audience
- Your competition
- Your unique selling proposition (why customers should buy from you)
- Your strengths & weaknesses
- Your marketing objectives
Secure a Domain Name
Your domain name serves as your unique Internet address. (Nick-Stone.com is our domain name.) Your website designer can help you acquire a domain name. Be prepared to provide a list of names to research for availability.
Copywriting is an essential component of website creation. It serves two critical roles.
- Copywriting tells the search engines what your site is about, which has a major effect on search results, which in turn drives traffic to your site.
- Effective copywriting compels visitors to take action. Search marketing and search engine optimization professionals refer to the action as a conversion.
Decide what you want your website to convey, how to convey it, and who is going to write the copy. Unless you have an exceptionally skilled writer in-house, consider hiring a professional copywriter experienced in writing searchable website content that will appeal to your target audience.
Before you can write or hire a copywriter, you’ll need something to say. Learn more about web content development.
Web Design – Artistic Balance
As professional designers know, the secret to effective web design is applying balance and judgment to creativity.
The web designer’s creative role is to captivate without overwhelming, setting an appropriate mood to convey your message.
Visitors browse business websites seeking information, not entertainment. When choosing a web designer or design theme, be careful not to obsess about artistic presentation and neglect your business objectives. Overlooking content and business goals in a quest for beauty is the most common mistake first-time website owners make!
The website designer’s role is discussed further in Nick Stone’s “Web Design” article, where you’ll find information to consider when deciding if you should hire a web designer, a front-end web developer, or both.
Programming Gone Bad
When a web page contains programming errors, browsers must “guess” how to display the page. This process slows page loading and undermines consistent page rendering.
Validator to the Rescue!
The W3C provides a free tool available to everyone that will check any web page for errors. The tool is simple to use and takes only a moment. The results provide a list of any programming errors on the page.
Visit our web-development quality-assurance resources page. You’ll find a link to the Validator where you can validate any page on this site or learn more about identifying programming errors on your site.
To use this quality assurance tool, copy the web page URL (everything in the address box) into the top box on the Validator and select the “Validate” button.
Write Computer Code
The computer programming code merges content and design.
What’s the most affordable way to do this? Inexpensive HTML editors will generate the web programming for you. They are called WYSIWYG editors, an abbreviation derived from “What You See Is What You Get.” Building your website in this manner is less expensive, initially, than hiring a professional web developer.
Why do I say “initially”?
Do-it-yourself web editing programs produce programming code that is not search-engine friendly. The technical term for search-friendy HTML code is “semantic HTML.” Web creation tools that are easiest to use tend to generate the least semantic code.
Why is that a problem? If your site is not coded to emphasize your message, search engines will not index your site appropriately. A poorly coded site decreases the likelihood of achieving your website objectives because your site won’t appear prominently enough in search results to attract visitors.
Also, websites built this way can be inaccessible to handicapped visitors.
Recommendation: Hire a professional front-end web developer or code-capable web designer to program (write the code for) your website.
If you hire a graphic design company that also does web design, be sure they plan to subcontract a web developer to code your site.
To learn how standards-compliant website programming gives your website a powerful competitive advantage, see “Why Web Standards.”
Whether you design and build the site yourself or hire an expert, a content management system (CMS) will enable you to publish and edit content without becoming a programmer. For small and many mid-sized businesses, the CMS we recommend is WordPress.
Test, Test, Test
- Each page renders as intended in various browsers, devices, and operating systems
- Custom applications and open source widgets function as intended
- Each page is error free; each page is valid. (see side box “Validator To The Rescue”)
- Compliance with web accessibility guidelines including the Americans With Disabilities Act
When you and your website developer are both satisfied, your site is uploaded to your server or your web host’s server. If you don’t have a web server or a web host, your developer can help you secure one.
Review, Revise, and Refresh
Good ideas continue to arise after the launch. When they do, incorporate them. The best websites evolve, as the best businesses do.
The extent that your developer participates in reviewing and improving your site will vary according to the complexity of your site, your desire to make improvements, your budget, and other variables too numerous to list.
Before you hire a developer, discuss his or her availability to help you, after the launch, in the capacity and extent you choose.