Almost everybody wants a better website. Personally, I want a new website as soon as I release a brand new one. Building a new website can seem like a daunting task – Like you don’t have enough work to do already and then you get charged with managing a project with processes, technology and terms that might be foreign to traditional marketing lingo. But like any other project, it’s a lot easier to accomplish if you’re prepared. Below is a list of ten tips and practices to help you get off on the right foot (Or left, if that’s your preference).
1. Clear objectives. Effective websites are built with goals in mind. What do you want your website to accomplish? Sell, educate, encourage contact, provide timely information, build community, or a combination of a few? Regardless, clear objectives should guide everything your website does and contains.
2. It’s about the visitor. Too often websites are populated with what the company wants to say and not what the visitor needs or is interested in finding out. Position messaging and content based on what will make it easy for a visitor to understand what you can do for them.
3. Communicates who, what and why. Visitors to your home page will make an evaluation of your organization faster than it takes them to decide what pair of socks to put on. Make sure the home page clearly states who you are, what you provide, and why it’s important. The Blogger homepage is a good example of effective communication.
4. Keep it simple. Providing concise and well-written content is critical. Any content taken from existing marketing materials should be chopped in half and then take half of that. Most website visitors skim content and read less than twenty percent of the content on a page. So, keep it short—there is a better chance what is read will be relevant.
5. Prioritized and predictable navigation. Once the main sections have been established, do not deviate from how navigation is presented. Keep things in the same place and in prioritized order so visitors always remember where stuff is accessible through navigation. Main navigation should be prominently displayed whereas sections of tertiary importance should be relegated to the header or footer.
6. Consistent design. Good websites need only use a handful of different page templates and always maintain standard design elements throughout. A good example is the Apple website — Their design is starkly minimalist but elegantly effective. Standardize the use of colours, heading types, fonts, table formats, picture treatments, link styles, form fields, etc. so that they are consistently used throughout the website. Make sure these same design styles are also applied to the content.
7. Makes use of multimedia. The ability to produce and post video, pictures, audio, slideshows, animations, etc. has become affordable for even the sole proprietor. If your website is for a large organization it is likely there is a stable of media assets you can be converting for use on the web to provide a more engaging experience for visitors. The Landing TV website utilizes a free, third party video player that can be easily embedded in any website. Also, providing content in multiple formats addresses the fact that all visitors are not the same; some prefer to read, others like to watch, and some like to listen. Use different media to communicate more effectively.
8. Compliant with web standards. The best way an organization can compete well on search engines, ensure their website behaves as intended, is accessible to the handicapped, and produces as few errors as possible is to ensure it is developed in accordance with accepted web standards as defined by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Different web developers adhere to W3C standards to different degrees, so it’s important to know what your web developer’s standards are.
9. Regularly reviewed. Shift happens, markets change, business models adapt, and products/services evolve; the website should follow. Conducting regular audits and tests of your website is a quick way to assess how current it is and what sections may need updating. A website should be perceived as an evolving entity—it can be easier and more affordable to make incremental changes as opposed to leaving it static for years and then begging for the budget to give it a complete overhaul.
10. Built by a web development expert. Ok this is a plug , but unless you have an experienced web developer on your staff the website, if handled internally, will likely get built by the same people that maintain your computer’s hardware and software (if and when they have time). A website is a communications vehicle not IT inventory. An experienced online agency is your best bet for getting a website that exhibits best practices.
I originally posted this checklist while I was working for the kind folks at zu communications. I’m happy to share it here as well. Did you find the checklist useful? I hope there was at least one tip that made an impression. Do you have any other tips for making the website development process better? I welcome other opinions.
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