A quick reference guide on the most important aspects of a web design project, whether starting from scratch or revamping an existing website.
- Cost: “If you thought hiring a professional is expensive, wait till you hire an amateur”. This statement could not be more true these days. With the increased availability of offshore companies offering websites at extremely low prices, it’s getting harder and harder to say no to. However, 99% of these projects end up in wasted time, effort, and money. Consider a website project as an investment – the more you pay the more secure and better your investment is.
- Wireframes and mockups belong to the past. Modern web design is based on agile methodologies. A wireframe will not show you the user interactions, dynamic effects, responsive elements. Agile methodology ensures a quick process to get a look’nfeel up and running so that real discussions can take place. Quick iterations based on feedback on actual designs and content ensures that the project evolves in real time while everyone can see the actual progress.
- Why WordPress: there are numerous reasons why but the main ones are flexibility in design, easy to learn how to manage, great for SEO, low costs, huge community of developers and freelancers available that means constant evolution of the platform.
- Why Wix & SquareSpace are not good enough: limitations in design, limitations in plugins and themes available, smaller communities in terms of knowledgeable people
- Shopify is only good if you have the budget. Monthly fees (especially those for a full blown eShop), plus costs for plugins make this platform a second choice, when budget is a consideration.
- Custom coding: even bigger budgets: A custom coded website should only be considered if it is being build for a large corporation, that is building a specialized function, around a market validated idea.
- The importance of an MVP (Most Viable or Most Valuable Product). This refers to startup projects or projects where the idea of the website is new and invalidated. In these cases rather than staring out with a ‘full’ website, start out with a sub-part of it. Review how your users perceive the idea, how they feel about and if necessary pivot your idea. Then expand to the full site when you get a better understanding of what the public wants.
- SEO is changing. This actually started back in 2009, but recently Google announced that yes they are smarter than just counting how many keywords your site has. In fact we now know that Google is smarter than anyone (!). Good SEO means users found what they were looking for. So give them a professional looking site, easy to navigate, moder/visual elements and Google will reward you for it. And sure don’t forget to mention your keyword in the copy.
- Images & Photography: only use professionally-taken photos. Never use your mobile phone photos, even if you think you are a good photographer or you have the latest Samsung/iPhone. Users are smart and can tell the difference between professional photography and cheap, amateur taken ones. Since the visual element of a site is one of the most important aspects, make sure to invest accordingly. In the absence of a professional photographer opt for a premium stock photo service, such as shutterstock.com. Read more here.
- Hosting. There are many providers and almost all have a different way of doing things. GoDaddy is one of the biggest companies out there, and even though it had bad reputation years ago, right now is one of the best: great pricing, with sales throughout the year, latest technologies (this is very important these days), easy upgrade/downgrade resources any time, live chat support+phone.
- Domains. Always opt for a .com domain. There are very few occasions where a not .com domain is ok. Very few and if you are not in a very specific niche, it’s worth changing your name for the new web design project, rather than going for a .org, or .net or similar.
- Email. There are many types of email and email providers. Consider business gmail first. The cost may be a bit higher than the rest but long term is a great investment.
- SSL. A must these days, don’t forget to buy along with your hosting package and domain. Getting everything on the same provider is extremely helpful for long term management.
- Maintenance. Another must these days. The advent of malware, viruses, hack attacks etc you need to have someone on call for these type of problems, which will come.
- Use of themes and plugins. A highly misunderstood topic. Using a premium theme does not make your website look like someone’s else. A theme allows your developer/agency to develop a site much faster without having to re-invent the wheel in terms of functionalities and integrations. Asking your developer to code a theme from scratch is like asking your interior decorator to design new furniture from scratch. Read more here.
- Traffic and PPC. A very important aspect of a ‘successful web design project’. Key things to remember: PPC is required. Google is expensive, Facebook is not. For both you need the help of an expert in order to get the most out of.
- Backlinks. Also very important, but you don’t need an expert. Just google for business and local directories and register your site. For more advanced backlinks ask a PR expert. There is no site that wouldn’t post a link to your site for the right amount of $$.
- Social Media. Still king, but don’t get too connected. People go on Facebook for fun, not to see your home move service offers – especially twice a day. Keep things light and participate, engage not just post sales and offers.
- Blogging. Extremely important. Valuable content will consistently outperform any channel/source of traffic to your site. Create valuable content and people will come to your site. Then you can tell them about your services.
- Email Capture and newsletter. Even if you don’t have the time/resources to send newsletters, start the list/capture form. Within a few months or years or whenever you are ready, you will be grateful for having a ready made list to send offers to.
The list is based on our experience having build close to 300 websites in the last 3 years. Please feel free to ask any question or to comment on any item – we’d be glad to hear your opinions.