How to design and build a website
Where are you starting from?
If you already have a site, it can offer you a wealth of useful information to guide your choices about your new and improved online presence.
Consider questions like:
- What are your most (and least) popular pages? What does that tell you about the priorities of your website visitors?
- What are the most common user journeys? Where do people arrive, and how do they move through your site? (Remember that journeys don’t have to start at your home page.)
- What pages are converting best? In other words, which ones generate the most sales, leads or enquiries?
- Where does your best-converting traffic come from?
To answer these questions, you’ll probably need to use Google Analytics or a similar tool to analyse how people use your existing site.
Your findings will form an important benchmark for evaluating the performance of your new site, allowing you to work out how much you’ve improved.
What do your customers want?
If you approach your website with the aim of ‘having a website’, the chances are you’ll design it around your own preferences, or those of people within your company. But you won’t be using your website – your customers will.
Spend some time profiling your users. Think about questions like:
Who are your customers?
- Do you know anything about their typical age, background, location and so on?
Are your customers visiting you as part of their work, or for their own individual needs?
Do your customers have any particular accessibility needs?
- Public sector websites need to meet certain accessibility criteria
- Even if you're not public sector, making your website design accessible benefits everyone
What do your customers want to achieve when they come to your website? For example, they might be:
- Looking for information or advice
- Trying to solve a problem
- Making future plans
- Researching a purchase – or looking to buy right now
- Evaluating potential suppliers or checking out the market
What questions do your customers have in mind? For example:
- How do I do X?
- Can I get help with X?
- How much will X cost me?
The simplest way to get answers to these questions is to talk to your existing customers. What were they thinking when they came to your website? Did your site help them with their problems and queries?
Failing that, tools like Google Search Console and Quora will help you explore the sorts of questions people typically ask. And that brings us nicely on to…
Creating your website design
It’s finally time to start designing your website! The planning we’ve just described might seem really heavy and time-consuming – but it’s essential if you want to avoid wasting time and effort at later stages of the project.
Your design should communicate three things:
- Who you are: your brand’s identity and what you stand for?
- What you do: how you help your customers
- Why choose you: reasons why customers should choose you over your competitors.
You can design your site around its content, or you can create content to fit the design. But whichever way you work, you need to ensure that design and content work together to express the three themes described above.
Templates and wireframes can give you a sense of how the design will work before you put time and effort into developing it for real. They’ll help you reach agreement or get approval at an earlier stage. You can also use them to plan content, and make sure it will fit the design.
Testing your website
Now your site is designed and developed, it’s time to test it out.
User testing involves asking people to use your site and finding out what they think. It doesn’t have to be a big, expensive exercise. Just get one or two people you know to navigate through the site with a particular goal in mind. How does their journey unfold? Can they find what they need? Do they get lost or confused?
You’ll also want to do some technical testing, to make sure your site will work on every platform and browser that your visitors might use.
The big day is finally here! It’s time for your new website to go live.
Now’s the time to focus on your websites objectives and measuring conversions, such as sales and leads, in Google Analytics. Start monitoring the traffic you get from key terms, to see if you’re attracting the visitors you want. To give yourself a boost, you could consider PPC (pay-per-click) or social media advertising, where you run online ads to direct relevant visitors to your site from the channels they’re already using.
Remember that Google likes sites that are updated regularly. So don’t sit back and forget about your site now it’s online. Aim to keep things ticking over with news items or blog posts, so visitors have a reason to keep coming back.
And that’s it! There are so many sides to creating a website that we’ve only been able to scratch the surface in this post. Even so, we hope we’ve given you a sense of the tasks and stages involved in designing and developing a site.
If you’re looking for a partner who can help you create a beautiful, hardworking website for your business, talk to us. We’ve built hundreds of sites for clients of every size and type, and we’d love to help you get online. Just get in touch for a quote.
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