“If you want a website, start with the behind-the-scenes basics before you begin the actual design process,” advises Christopher Merrill, Christopher Merrill Web Design, www.christophermerrill.com.
Host, Domain Name and Registration
- “Avoid choosing a cheap service. The best approach is to use the same service for both hosting and registration. And, check their support services.
- Two services will be necessary for your website (and all websites for that matter):
- Domain Name Registration. This gives you ownership of your domain name (e.g., sallychapralis.com, christophermerrill.com).
- A Hosting Account. This is where your website files reside. All websites exist on a server somewhere (an actual machine that holds your files, photos, etc.). Your domain name is set to point to your server so that your site comes up when someone types in your name.
- Make sure expiration dates for both of these are the same so that you will only have to keep track of one date when you need to renew these services.
- If you have multiple websites, use the same service. Christopher recommends GoDaddy.
- Check your credit card’s expiration date. Or, if you have changed your credit card, be sure to update your hosting and registration information.
- Have you changed your email but did not change it with your hosting/registration services. If so, you will not receive notice when it’s time to renew.
- Choose an auto-renew option to avoid lapses.
- If your contact information is not current with your domain name and hosting accounts, you also might lose the right to your domain name. Or, it could be bought out from under you. Then it will cost you a considerable amount to buy it back. If nothing else, always make sure your domain name is up to date, since this will be the most difficult (if not impossible) thing to replace if you let it lapse.”
Website Before Design
Before the website process begins, remember that “you want to reach your intended audience when they search (using Google, Bing, etc.) for services and products you provide. This means implementing keyword-rich word combinations throughout the site, in tags and in text. Look for two and three-word combinations that your intended audience would be likely to type into search engines when they are looking for what you do.”
After this, the design process begins.
► A Logo. It’s your visual identity, but it’s not your “brand” (what we trust you for). It’s usually a graphic symbol that reminds us of your purpose. “Keep it simple,” Christopher says. “Ideally, the design process starts with your logo.”
► Contact Information, on every page
- “While one website page will be dedicated to Contact Information, contact information should be easy to find on all pages, usually in the upper right hand corner and at the bottom of each page. Redundancy is a good thing.
- If possible and appropriate, include your business address and even a Google Place, Facebook Place or a relevant ‘app’.
- Focus on SEO (Search Engine Optimization).”
► Create unique title tags and Meta descriptions on each page that will attract people who are looking for your services or products.
- “A title tag is an HTML code that causes that title to appear in the title bar at the very top of each page you view in your web browser. If you have several tabs open, the title will appear in that tab. These words will not actually appear on your web page unless you have also included them in your text.
- The Meta description is what shows up below your page title (or on each page of your site) when your site comes up after searches in search engines. See Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide for SEO parameters.”
Website Design – Do’s and Don’ts
Christopher advises that you “avoid thinking too far outside the box. ‘I want my website to look like nothing anyone has ever seen,’ is something clients often say they want, but this is a dangerous trap. If users are not able to navigate your site easily on the first try, they will leave your site and go to another site where navigation is user-friendly.” Your design should be simple and engaging with links to our social media. But, Christopher says, “Keep it simple.” For more information, see Christopher’s resources below for “What Makes Good Web Design,” as well as “Top Ten Web Design Mistakes.”
Try to find pictures and images that can help you define who you are and that can be used in your site’s design.
Do update your site regularly for higher rankings. Updates can include news releases about your business or about your field. Regular blog posts also bring followers to your site. Make sure your blog resides on your server.
If you have a business, you must have a website.
Your website should look professional…whether you’re a sole entrepreneur or an organization employing dozens of employees. Remember, your website is an important part of your marketing strategy.
Above all, Christopher adds, “be patient. Invest time and energy into establishing your web presence. It will take many steps and a good deal of consideration to launch a website that will accurately reflect your products and services and bring in your audience. Do not rush the process.”
Note: For more information, see Christopher’s resources: “What Makes Good Web Design” as well as “Top Ten Web Design Mistakes.”
What Makes Good Web Design video:
Top Ten Web Design Mistakes: