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Building a Successful Website
Building a Successful Website

In the best of all worlds there needs to be a balance of both design and development. Many companies focus on Web Design and not enough on Web Development. They focus on "looking good", but forget about looking beyond the appearance to what is going to work well on the Internet.

Yes, I do both design and development, and while this article is not intended as the ultimate answer to everything you need to know about websites, I do hope you will find a wealth of information about building a successful website.

There are three questions to keep in mind when building a website:
1. Can people find "you";
2. Is your website "sticky"; and
3. What is the response from your website?

All other things "to do" and "not do" tend to relate to these three questions.
Can people find "you"?

Not only can people find you, can they easily find what they want to find, and find what you want them to find: you?

It is important to get the best possible domain name for your web address.

This brings in marketing. You should personaly promote your website. Tell people, show people, advertise your website and include your address on every paper, card, or brochure. Anything and everything should have your web address. Vint Serf sports a tshirt that reads "IP on everything". That may be a rather common statement but it makes the point, you are your best advertiser.

Begin by making your website "search engine optimized" (SEO), and get your website listed with search engines. I was taught to "make it right to start with" and you don't have to pay someone to make your web site search engine optimize later. SEO is a very complex set of web development practices that help search engines catalogue your website and list it in the search results.

Start out making your website fit whatever size of screen your user is using. Some users will be using phones, tablets, or monitors. You want your website to automatically adapt to the size of screen your visitor is using. The phrase commonly used today is "responsive web design" which simply means, your website will respond and adapt to fit whatever type and size screen your visitor is using.

Can people easily find what they are looking for? And are they able to find what you want them to find? Is the navigation simple, easy to use, and natural? Can a person quickly find how to get from point "A" to "B" without spending a lot of time searching for how to get there?

Keep in mind, what is your visitor's purpose for visiting your website? Why are they there? If you do not know why people will visit your website, be surprised if they do. Generally, people have a reason for going somewhere on the Internet. You need to answer the real question, why will someone visit your website and will they find what they are looking for.

Also keep in mind, what is your purpose for having a website. Just having a website should not be reason enough for having a website. How will you know if your website is successful if you don't know why you have a website and what you want it to accomplish.

And remember your website is an online relationship between you and your visitor. So don't neglect to tell them "about" you. This is one of the places I look to get a feel for a website's credibility. Can I trust this website? Does the person or company have a good reputation for quality and service? Can I trust them?
Is your website "sticky"?

You need a competitive edge. You don't want your website to look "just like everyone else's", and you don't want it to look so outlandish that no one knows what to think or do about it.

You need to think "outside-the-box" but not too far away from the box.

Cookie-cutter websites are a dime a dozen and people become accustomed to "the same ol' websites with the same ol' things" but what you want is to earn their time, and their attention. You want them to stay and look around a while to see what they can find in addition to why they came to your website in the first place.

"Sticky" is when people hang around for a while, or come back later because they found a good website, good content, something they want, or something they are interested in.

Some things that can hinder your website being sticky are if the web page: 1. takes too long to load; or 2. is cluttered and hard to read; or 3. doesn't have enough worthwhile content. Each of these can cause visitors to loose interest in your website.

Content brings in the topic of copyright and trademark enfringement. There are legal issues, and security/liability issues to consider when making a website. If you don't own it, didn't create it, or the content belongs to someone else, it is a good idea to not put it on your website.

Be careful to not include too many graphics. Pages that are heavy in graphics (pictures) may load slow and negatively affect how a web visitor or search engine experience a website. Gratuitous technology, gaudy sparkling fonts, spinners, popups, auto-loading videos, and ads that distract from or obscure your content can cause users to abandon the site prematurely.

You want a professional looking website.

Free websites are reportedly "easy to make" but they are often difficult if not impossible to find on search engines. And another negative about a "free" website is, the host company makes their money by posting ads on your web pages. Hopefully those ads are not for your competition, or to a website with values that conflict with your own. Do you really want a free website?

In addition to "free" websites may not be very professional, some hosts can actually be less than reputable. Remember, these companies are making money off the fact you are hosting with them, so they may be reluctant to let your website go, if you decide to go somewhere else. I have known more than one time when a host would not let go of the content or the web name. Generally, they can own the content and the domain name. Wherever you host, make certain you own both.

Building a website takes time, and generally cost money. It takes time to learn and use even the simplest programs for making a website. Even the simplest planning takes time. For more complicated websites a team of people with specialized skills may be required. And the larger or more complex a website is the higher the cost. Time and cost all depend on what you want, what you expect and how much can you afford.

After a website is complete the website also takes time to manage and maintain. Few things on the Internet can be more frustrating than looking for information about an event, to find the information on the event website is for last year, and nothing about the upcoming even.

If I go to a company website and there is a banner ad that is three months out-of-date, that website looses credability to me.

Remember, a "sticky" website is one that gets people to stick around long enough to respond the way you want, and they want to respond.
What is the response from your website?

You need to make your website easy for people to find, and for search engines to find and place your website in the search results where people can find you (ready). You need to make your website sticky to gain people's interest and get them to stick around a while (aim). And now you need to ask people to respond, to contact you or do whatever it is you want your website for (fire). "Ready, Aim, Fire" - ask people to respond.

This is where you really need to understand what you want to accomplish; this is a time when you can think outside the box, and anticipate not only what your website visitor wants to accomplish but also what you want from them.

You want people to contact you. Do you have an physical address? Do you have a phone number? Do you have an email address, and does the email address have the same extension as your website, or is it a free email service? These are ways for people to contact you.

Is there some way you can get people to interact with you, online in real-time? or over time? Do you have a contact form, or chat support? Do you have surveys, or a discussion forum for visitors to take part in? You want people to do something while they are on your website, you want them to participate. Give them the opportunity of doing so.

Do you sell products? If so, do you have a reputable and secure shopping cart?

People are concerned with how you use their information. Is their personal information secure? Let people know how you use, and don't use their information.

The response from your website is where you finish the sale, where you get the client to contact you, or decide to do business with you. But finishing the sale is not the end of the transaction. Now you need to let the person know you have heard them, that you have received their request, and you let them know you are responding to their need.
If you ship products to a customer, do you let them know their order has been received, shipped and follow up after their purchase has arrived to evaluate their satisfaction? Does your customer's response offer you an opportunity to create an ongoing relationship such as notifying them of specials they might be interested in.

Websites and emails can be made to automatically respond to people's request or orders. Let your website do some of the work for you, and then follow up with the person to make certain their needs have been met.
Thank you for reading this article through to this point. I hope you have found something helpful, and I hope you will contact me or participate in this forum.

To participate in the forum, simply register online and after being approved by the moderator post your comments.

If you are looking for a new website, I hope you will contact me by phone or email. I will be glad to help.

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