We live in a world where a beautiful website can be created without a full coding course, thanks to the proliferation of site-from-a-box companies à la Squarespace and Wix. While these options are great for beginners, there are still many aspects of site design that these platforms don’t really cover. We’ve outlined some things to consider before you get started:
1) Decide What You Want to Achieve
Your site needs to communicate something to your end user, and it’s important to decide what that is before you start designing. What is the problem your business solves? Do you strive to make the world a better place through a philanthropic business model? Do you offer custom software solutions for B2B clients? Whatever your mission, ensure your site makes it clear.
2) Create Your Navigation
Site navigation needs to be as simple as possible so that end users can reach important pages in the fewest amount of clicks. If you can possibly avoid it, don't use hidden navigation (at least on your desktop site). It’s been shown to make content less discoverable, which means your users will be less satisfied with their site experience. Desktop versions of your site in particular don't really need hamburger menus because there is more room to build traditional navigation across the top of the page.
Put the pages in which people are most likely to be interested within your first level of navigation (the main navigation that is at the top of the page) to make it as easy as possible for users to access them. To this end, make sure your conversion pages (like a store locator or contact form) are also easy to access. Google also requires that you submit a sitemap detailing the architecture of your website in order for Google's bots to crawl and index your site's pages. If this is not submitted, Google essentially doesn't know that your site exists, which means it won't appear in organic search results and your intended audience won't read it!
3) Write Your Content
Website content is more than writing a few lines of pithy text to accompany an image – SEO principles must be kept in mind when creating copy that will rank well in organic search results. Copy needs to contain keywords for which you wish to rank, which requires keyword research. A good rule of thumb is to focus on 1-3 primary keywords per page, although secondary keywords may also be included. Keyword stuffing is no longer necessary, as Google is getting better at picking up on the overall topic contained on each page.
Page content must also be useful to your end user. Is this content that someone else would share or link? Because links to your site factor into your organic search rankings too. It helps to think of the intent of each page when writing your content - if you want a user to learn why your brand of dog food is the best, make hyper-relevant and interesting content around this topic. If you write for intent, then keyword usage should come naturally.
4) Don’t Forget the Alt-Tags
While signs point toward Google's ability to read text embedded in images in the future, it's best to remain on the safe side when it comes to making your graphics searchable. That’s why it’s key to utilize alt-tags for your images. They help Google determine the topic of that page’s content, as well as make your content more accessible to users with disabilities. Use one keyword per alt-tag to avoid stuffing.
5) Optimize for Mobile
While you may get plenty of desktop traffic to your site, mobile optimization is highly important. Because we're searching more and more often on our phones, Google has switched to a mobile-first index, meaning that they'll be using the mobile version of your site's content to determine how you rank in search results.
For websites that feature responsive design (the site design scales to fit any device), there will be no change, so it's a good idea to implement this design practice to minimize any changes to search rankings that could occur. But if your mobile site has less content on it than your desktop site, you'll lose out on getting all of that content indexed and ranked!
6) Test Your Site
Test internally first to catch any bugs, and if possible, perform a small test rollout to a group of your real consumers. It’s a great way to see how actual end users will interact with your site, as well as reveal any additional sticking points your internal team might have missed.
When testing, don’t forget to see how the site performs across a variety of devices (think cell phones, tablets, and desktops), as well as multiple browsers (no, not everyone uses Google Chrome). Sometimes things may look great on your desktop while in your usual browser, but may appear differently elsewhere.
Website creation may not be as cut-and-dry as it initially seems, but these tips will have you well on your way to a site with effective UX and great SEO. If you’d like to learn more about launching or relaunching your website, contact us for a consultation.