Websites have been around since the beginning of the internet, serving as a place for businesses, publishers, organisations and individuals to share information and attract people to visit and buy from them. Since they came into existence, they have evolved to look more aesthetically appealing and act as a more centric piece in the marketing puzzle. Today they act as a link to other platforms and marketing activities while serving as the home base for all efforts to loop back to.
It's not uncommon these days to see businesses set up a social media profile and use this as the primary place for customers to find their information online. On the surface, it seems like a smart idea. No hosting costs, no dealing with web developers, no learning how to put it all together and manage it yourself. It's a win, right?
While there are many places you can set up online, your website is the only place that is controlled by you and designed entirely to support you and your business goals. A site that is designed with nothing but the interests of your business in its code... Now that's a powerful tool.
Designed well, your website can transform your organisation, driving traffic and boosting sales. So, how can you create one? Let's explore in more detail below.
5 Steps for DIY Website Design
There are many ways that you can get a website up and running. For those with the budget, outsourcing is a great option to save time and rest comfortably knowing it is in professional hands. While that is undoubtedly the easiest option, it is of course not open to everyone, and those needing to keep costs down are going to need to look at DIY solution.
While DIY website building is an option to skimp on costs, it should not be looked at as an option to skimp on the necessary steps that make a website effective. The following five steps are essential to creating a website that meets the goals of your business and the needs of your customers.
ResearchThis phase should include thorough research and analysis of both your target audience and your competitors. By studying competing brands, you can analyse their key messaging, promotional tactics, social efforts and various other factors to gauge what their customers (also your customers) respond well to. Tools like SpyFu and Alexa make competitor research easier than it's ever been before.
Studying your audience then helps you to learn about the personas of the people you want to connect with. With all of this information in mind, you can begin to craft a website that is competitive and designed to communicate with precisely the people who will purchase from you.
WireframeThe wireframe is a visual guide that helps you to map out the framework of your website. Wireframes are a valuable tool as they allow you to identify and arrange the elements you want on your website into a framework and layout that can then be put into the design.
User experience is the key focus in this stage. Wireframes help to take the focus away from the aesthetics or visual design to instead concentrate on what the user experience should be like. What do you want to provide the user? How do you want their experience to feel? How will one get from one page to another? What is the journey you want your visitors to take? This should all be gathered and put into the wireframe before delving into the aesthetic design of the site.
Build and DesignWhen the analysis is done, the goals are established, and the wireframe has been created to give you direction, it's time to bring the design to life. This phase is pretty self-explanatory. Here you would work on building out the features in the wireframe into a visually beautiful website using the DIY tools provided by your builder of choice.
The design should incorporate the branding of the business, considering colours that compliment the logo, typography, imagery etc.
Testing is extremely important, yet it is often skipped. Testing allows you to test the new website layout with a batch of users. You want to see how they interact. Does it give them the user experience you hoped to design for them? Is it bug-free and functioning as you intended? Does it work as well on the mobile as it does on the desktop?
Controlling the initial test group is the best way to ensure that any glitches, spelling mistakes, poor navigation issues are spotted early and can be fixed before your site goes out to the world.
Once all tests come back with glowing results, it's time to hit the deploy button and publish the new site.
Website Builders for the Web Developer Novice
Lacking the technical skills and confidence to build a website yourself? Never fear. Every year it seems that building a website is getting easier and easier. Great developers across the world are witnessing our skill gaps and regularly putting out new solutions to help even the most novice website builder to craft a thing of true beauty.
Platforms like Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, Webs, Jimdo and a bunch of other website builders are good options for businesses that want to look like a professional website, without having to hire a professional web designer.
There are, of course, limitations with some of these sites but in most cases, they will cover the basic (think online brochure) needs of an organisation until web presence has grown enough to warrant a more tailored website solution.
How to Optimise Your Website
Once the website is secure and standing, there is much that needs to continue to happen to ensure it is well optimised.
Every page on your website is filled with content. This content, both on the page and in the meta descriptions, is essential to keep you ranking with search engines and increasing the performance of your website. All content should be crafted with appropriate keywords used. Any links should be regularly checked to ensure they work. Page titles should not be too long. And meta descriptions should accurately describe what readers can expect to find on the page it is connected to.
Using images for text and large resolution images can slow down your web page loading time, which harms user experience and can cause your web page to be down-ranked. When using images, be sure to reduce resolution, and look for ideal image formats to keep web page loading times as fast as possible.
Setting up Google Analytics is incredibly simple and allows you to gain a thorough understanding of who is visiting your website, where the traffic originates from, which pages perform well or not, and a bunch of other useful insights that can help you to optimise your website for even better results. Once you learn your demographic, you can target them more accurately. Which will increase your website visitors, which will, in turn, improve your SEO.
Once you know your audience and are getting better at marketing to them, you can also begin to track your conversions. Linked to Google Analytics, this helps you to get the full picture of who your website attracts, who converts and what actions produce the best conversion rates.
Mistakes to Avoid
Mistakes are common in website design. There are a lot of moving pieces, and it can be tough to get everything spot on the first go. Thankfully, many have trialled, failed and learnt valuable lessons which we can now share.
Here are some of the most common mistakes, and how to avoid them:
Always Design With the User in Mind
Way too often, companies will develop sites and fail to put themselves in the shoes of the user. Designing from the perspective of someone who knows the business can often lead to critical information being missed. To avoid this, try to assess every page wondering: "if I just stumble on here by accident, would I be able to quickly learn what this business does and why this page is valuable?". If the answer is no, it's time to re-write the content or re-design the page.
Keep It Simple
When you have a big message to spread and lots of goals you want to achieve from your site, it can be awfully tempting to try and cram it all into one little web page. Of course, overcomplicating pages and overwhelming your audience will lead visitors to bounce. If you are trying to have many links, newsletter opt-ins, ads and other actions, make sure that the design is clean and there is a flow to these. If you cannot achieve harmony with all the stuff you want to put on the page, that's a significant indicator that some of it needs to be cut. Keeping it simple will lead to more conversions than overwhelming readers with CTAs.
Don't Forget About Mobile
Today it is common in most industries that more than 50 per cent of your website visitors will come to you via their mobile phone. With this in mind, your site must be designed to be mobile-friendly. Using a responsive site for the design is the best way to make this easy, but even for responsive websites, you must check how text, images, ads and CTAs look on other devices.
Be Picky About Who You Work With
If you end up looking for a designer to help with your site, be sure to assess them correctly. Meet them to discuss your needs and get a feel for whether they seem to understand your goals. Evaluate the quality of their work by assessing their portfolio, or you could even see if you can speak to their previous clients. Requesting speculative design is a bad idea.
DIY Website can be an incredibly rewarding experience, and done correctly, with optimisation in mind, it can lead your business to increase site visitors, engagement and sales, with the main cost being time. It's not for everyone of course, and if you prefer to hire professionals, we'd be happy to help :)