Essential Website Design

Websites are the new business card. If people can’t find you on the Web, it’s almost as if you don’t exist.

Why Not Just Linked-In or Facebook?

Facebook and other social networks are important but not enough.  They are not under your control. They all look alike. They change without notice. Very few people use them for anything other connecting with friends or railing against the government.

Social media can be important depending on your area of expertise or interest but an independent site is easier to find and control. It will always contain the information you choose, is private, and more easily found by search engines like Google.

A Simple Website Is Enough

Websites do not have to be complicated or cost a million dollars. Very few people need all the bells and whistles, and most of the bells and whistles are counter-productive anyway. They make it harder for people to understand who you are and what you do.

People who will be interested in you, not just entertainment, will be interested in content.

Most people need a site that says simply and sufficiently:

  • Who you are
  • What you have done, including  information about your professional interests, projects, products, or services
  • A sign-up for following your site
  • Contact information

Optional but recommended:

  • Page(s) of information or advice that will encourage engagement and introduce your work more fully.
  • A newsletter or blog for subscribers in which you offer periodic comments or information related to the purpose of your website.

Visitors to professional websites are interested in content. A simple, clean design with intuitive navigation will engage visitors and impress them with the ease of relating to you and your services.

Good website design doesn’t require  fireworks or the Rockettes to be attractive and useful.

A website not only brings you recognition and business, it gives you credibility.

What I Do and How I do It

I do attractive, straightforward, inexpensive websites that clearly communicate information and are optimized for all viewing devices — phones, tablets, laptops, desktops. I use WordPress because it is a fabulous program. It is open source, which means it is free. It is relatively easy to learn so you can take over your website, if you wish, and manage it yourself.

Websites are hosted by companies that maintain huge computers connected to the internet. They are faster, more accessible, and definitely more secure than if you put a website on your own computer and allowed the world to visit — not a good idea.

I use Bluehost because they are consistently rated the most reliable provider, they have great tech support, and their site is straightforward to use.  In the end, their fees are the most reasonable. Many other hosts will charge a pittance up front but then charge for every add-on and try to sell you new products and services you don’t need.

If your site is already set up on another host, I will look at the “back-end” to see how easy it is to use. I won’t to start a site for you if I don’t understand their system—it takes too much time and I would have to charge additional fees.

Domain Names

I can register a domain name—your website address— for you if you don’t have one or you can register it yourself. If I register it under my name, I will transfer it to you at anytime, at no cost.

When Will My Website Be Ready?

I like to work in “real time” and interact with you as the site develops. Unless you already have a site, we will put up the site right away and develop the design and content as we go. This means the home page would be quickly. If this is a new site, you won’t have visitors yet so only we would see the changes.

If you are uncomfortable with a publicly changing site, I can develop the site off-line and move it when it is completed.

How Much Does It Cost?

The Nitty Gritty gives more information about my fees but they are very low. I believe everyone who is working in their own business, has a passion for a subject, a cause they want to promote, or an idea they want to share with the world should have a website. I like working with people to help explain and present themselves.

Most people don’t need a $3,000 website which is the starting price for many designers. Business sites may cost $300,000. By limiting the technology I use and focusing on text and simple images I can work for a lower fee, still enjoy my work, and be of service to you.

What Do You Need to Have in Good Website Design?

Content

People who are interested in your services, products, or causes are interested in content. Your site needs to be attractive but most importantly it needs to be clearly written with good design. The most important pages will likely be:

  • A Home Page: The first page a visitor will see. It needs to say what the site is about. It has to be interesting and attractive but most users don’t like to be presented with a flash page, a video or image that takes a lot of time to download and says nothing.
  • The About Page: The most visited page on most websites. People  first want to understand  the purpose of your site, and then they want to know about you. No sales pitch or euphemisms. All straight talk.
  • Qualifications: For some sites this information may be a part of the About page but for some more detailed  information will be expected. This may include publications, work experience, products, etc.
  • Information: One or more pages that provide information about the subject and purpose of your site. Informative pages give visitors a better sense of  you and your interests. Useful information ensures that visitors will be more likely to come back.
  • Contact Page: A list of all the ways you can be contacted including a contact form. A form is particularly useful if you don’t want to list your phone number or email address. Your social media pages can also be listed here.

Search Engine Registration

Registration and confirmation with major search engines Google and Bing, and with Alexa, a website ranking service. This includes the information for the new Google box, the square of about information on the right hand side of the search results page.

Search Engine Optimization

A website is of little value if no one can find it. SEO means “search engine optimization.” Search engines need to use certain structures so search engines can properly index them. Both SEO optimization and continued update of content are important to being found in searches and to having higher placement in search results.

It is also possible to have a private password protected site for employees only, family and friends, a club, etc.,  that is not listed with search engines. Organizations often have these for members only. Or you may want a special site for your clients.

Statistics

Statistics on visitors: what countries they are from, what browsers they use, how long they stay, what words they searched to find you, which pages they visit, etc. The number of visitors each day in the current month compared to other months in other years.

This can be very helpful and encouraging. Or tell you do change your pitch  or do more outreach.

Security

Security of Websites is an increasing problem. Hackers are targeting sites that have almost no traffic. They will try to break into the site and use your account to post their own information or send spam to other sites. Regular security updates, firewalls, and blocking of blacklisted domains is important.

Backup and Repair

The Website will need to be backed up, optimized, and repaired on a specified schedule. Back ups can be stored on the server or emailed to you, or both.

Protection from Spammers and Sploggers

Spammers and sploggers  are mischief makers that can overload your website by using it for their own activities. If you allow subscriptions to your site, will need to be deleted regularly to protect the site. Removing them also allows you know how many true subscribers you have. This is a free service until you have more than 500 registrations a day.

Broken Link Notification

Links on your site need to be checked regularly. These may be links to other pages on your site or to sites you recommend. Broken links are very frustrating to visitors and an sign that the site is not being maintained. Visitors who find broken links are likely to leave and not return.

Responsive Design

Pages need to automatically adjust  for all size screens, from the smallest to the largest.

Tags, Categories, and Information Architecture

Categories are like subject headings and tags like keywords or items in an index. They are useful for directing readers to information when you have a site with multiple pages and posts. When they are carefully chosen they aid search engines in indexing your site accurately, paying more attention to it, and help potential visitors find the site.

Information architecture is the structure of information on your site. It needs to be intuitive so your readers don’t have to search around for the information they need.

And Other Things

There are thousands of other features available. These make the site sturdy and maximize functioning and use. We can discuss other features you might need. Charges for other features might mean additional charges because they are more time-consuming to install and sometimes require trouble-shooting conflicts with other features.

Maintaining the Site Yourself

For many people WordPress is easy to learn and they maintain the site themselves with minimal training. There are many good websites that introduce, explain, and teach WordPress. There is a support forum and extensive manuals at WordPress.org. And many training videos on Lynda.com and YouTube.

This isn’t for everyone or there wouldn’t be webmasters. With desire and effort, it isn’t impossible. It doesn’t require knowing programming languages, HTML, or CSS.

For information on fees, see The Nitty Gritty.