As the World Wide Web evolves to a global village, every business that is serious about harnessing the power of the internet to tap into a greater market must meticulously plan for their online presence.
Having an effective web site requires strategy from choosing the designer and aesthetics to the basic ease of use mechanics.Building an effective websites may seem like a daunting task but it need not be. The following points will help you succeed during the planning stage.
Choosing a Web Designer
An effective website that works is a result of experience, skill, and creativity so choosing the right person to help you get going is essential. The designer should have a thorough knowledge of internet technologies and web standards backed up with a great portfolio which should give you a glimpse of their strengths and weaknesses. A good designer will listen to your needs and make helpful suggestions toward key decisions you need to make at the start of the web design process. The designer will help you articulate your goals and ideas and focus them into an effective website that will help you establish your online presence. There are many qualities that one should look for but all in all you should look for an experienced designer, a graphic design expert, competent technical skills, a good portfolio and site management abilities
Type of Web Site
You need to ask yourself what do I want my website to do for me? There are different types of websites, static, dynamic, e-commerce driven and blogs. Static web sites are the most typical web sites on the Internet and are comprised of text, graphics and images. Dynamic web sites on the other hand are database driven and return results depending on end-user request. Dynamic web sites usually use some form of active script to access the database and return results such as ASP, PHP, and Cold Fusion. A popular type of dynamic web site is called a Blog. Blogs are interactive websites which allow for user input via comments section, these are very useful for learning about the needs of your clients and meeting them satisfactorily. Blogs can be developed as entire websites or as plug-ins or a section on a website. Many web sites offer free blogging such as Word Press E-commerce web sites sell products and services. E-commerce sites are often a type of dynamic web site and utilize a database, but not all however. Some e-commerce sites can be setup simply using PayPal or Google Pay.
Now let get into the fun part, your website should be visually appealing to your visitors. Remember that the goal of your website is to inform the visitors not annoy them with flashy graphics and screaming colors, so keep the graphics to a minimum. Use simple and clean layouts throughout the site that will enhance the presentation of your content and that will enable the visitor quickly find the information they are looking for before they get annoyed and move on. Now, balance is the key here and not eliminating graphics altogether. Using bland layouts that are boring will have the same effect as over usage. If you have hired a designer trusting in their judgment and listening to their input will help you steer clear of issues.
The visitor is looking for information and how easy they get it is determined by the presentation. Be clear and concise that one is able to decide if what you are offering is the service or product they are looking for. Use titles and headings in your content to help your visitors scan for the details they are looking for. Keep the content fresh and updated to win the confidence of the visitor. Provide useful content to the visitor that calls them to action, provide solutions to their problems and they will definitely come back for more. Refrain from duplicating your website with your brochure, use a personal language that shows them exactly what they will get from your site. Marketing jargon and vague descriptions is a no-no, you should use a conversational language because your visitors have come for details.
Navigation is a road map with clear landmarks, roads that intersect and even suggested routes. Keep in mind that your visitors don't necessarily come through the homepage since they can come through search engines, bookmarks, links from other websites and so on. Make sure that you carry your navigation element uniformly in your site visitors need to know where they are, where they can go and how to go back to their entry point. If your visitor has to stop and ask for directions then chances are they will never get to where they are going in your site. A consistent navigation on each page will make your site more intuitive and appealing.
Search engine optimization should be addressed from the beginning. Search Engine Optimization or ‘SEO’ is important because it assists your site in being 'found' and ranked by search engines. This is done by optimizing your pages to be indexed by the search engine robots that the big search engines like Google use. A few techniques used are; do a keyword research (words or phrases used by users to look for a service or product) then use the keywords in titles, links and in the content. Use 'alt tags' for images and then make sure you have good quality content.
If you are intending to sell your products and services through your website, then you need to plan this well in advance. E-commerce is a great way of increasing sales and exposing your products and services to a global audience. There are various ways that you can accept payments online these include, bank transfers, credit cards, online checks, and so forth. E-commerce can be full of hidden fees and dangers such as having an unsecured web site that is allowing transaction information to be intercepted. Third party services such as PayPal allow webmasters large and small to setup an e-commerce site quickly and safely. In conclusion if you will keep all these elements in mind during the planning stage of your web site and do adequate research you will find the building process to go far more smoothly.
NOTE: This article was first writtern in 2005