Planning a Web Site
As a web developer, and designer, I often have people come to me with great expectations about what the web will do for them, and yet they have very little idea of how the web works. This lack of understanding can lead to false expectations in terms of cost, results, and even the amount of work web site owners need to put in themselves. In this article I'll try to clear up some of the misconceptions, and show how to get the best out of your web site.
If I have a web site the world will flock to it
Not true. Once upon a time this might have been true, but now every man, woman and dog have the same idea. The web is a big place, and people are busy. You need to have some strategy to ensure that people can find your web site, and you also need to ensure that they can find all the information they need quickly and easily once they get there.
If my site doesn't look really fancy people won't visit it
I've seen some web sites that look rather plain, but are very effective for their owners, while I've seen others that look fantastic, but get very few hits. Obviously a visually appealing site is good, but as a site owner, you should be more concerned with providing visitors (and search engines) with information rather than demonstrating your own, or your web designer's artistic abilities. Obviously designs that make your site difficult to read and/or print will put people off, but other than this, you can still have a simple site and achieve great results.
Web Designers are too expensive
Like any other professional web designers need to charge for their time. If you do your homework your before you approach a web designer or developer, they should be able to offer you a better price. If you go to an accountant with a box of receipts and ask them to do your accounts you will get a big bill. If you have everything well organised you will pay much less. If you want to save money, you should go through the following list before you contact a web designer.
- Decide who is the target audience for your web site.
- Work out a basic structure for what sections you want on your web site.
- Gather up any existing logos and photos you want to use on CD or flash drive.
- Decide whether you want to promote your site yourself, or pay your web designer/developer to do it.
- If you have copy that you want to put on your web site, prepare it in advance in electronic form, and make sure to spell check it. It's also a good idea to get someone else to read over it, and check for grammatical errors.
Once it's built I can site back and do nothing
Web sites need maintenance. Over time a site can get stale, and like dry bread, it's not very appetising. The good news is that if you plan well, you should be able to do a lot of the maintenance yourself. You need to keep an eye on how the site is doing in major search engines, and check that links to external sites still work. If you don't do these things yourself, you should budget some time to pay your web designer/developer, or an independent search engine optimiser to do so.
Things that Count
Think of your web site as a target out there on the internet that search engines and end users are trying to hit. If you keep it small, it will be harder to hit. Make it bigger, and it will be easier to find. When I'm talking about size, I mean the number of pages on your site. Having a single very long page is still only one page. The cost of adding pages to your site is negligible particularly if you are using a Content Management System. Splitting up your site into a number of concise pages provides a search engine a bigger cross section to index, and also helps visitors go directly to the information they're looking for. If you offer a range of products or services, having each one on its own page will make each page more relevent in search results for that particular item.
It's who you know not what you know
If you're trying to achieve good search engine rankings, an important factor is the number, and importance of inwards links to your site. Google in particular, tries to rank web pages based on how many other sites link to them, and also the value of the linking sites. If for example, you're in the homestay business, and get a link from a leading tourism site, that will probably be more important than a link from someone's personal blog, but generally every link helps. Links from completely unrelated sites might not be so good though, so beware of link exchange programs with sites that are completely unrelated to yours.