You’ve built your shiny new business and now you need a shiny new website. You are not alone. More and more small businesses are seeing the need to establish their presence online. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 80 percent of American households have Internet access, and growing. While generating a generic website is not difficult, creating an effective website does require a lot of effort. Follow these five easy tips for building the best website for your business or personal needs.
1. Generate Exceptional Content
Perhaps you’ve heard the webmaster’s creed, “Content is king.” It’s true. To be effective, your website must have something to offer, and you must offer it well. Good spelling, good grammar and a means of coherently communicating your content wins every time. In general, most web readers prefer a casual, conversational style to the formal voice found in weighty textbooks or encyclopedias. How you publish content is important, as well. Web readers tend to shy away from 1,000-word text-heavy articles, preferring shorter content with brief paragraphs, lists or images and videos.
Additionally, stick with your niche. For examples, if you specialize in budget travel, write content that relates to budget travel, and skip the long dialogues on the current political climate or how to make money online. The more relevant content you publish to your niche website, the more clout and relevance you earn in the search engines and among readers.
2. Create a User-Friendly Site
You may publish the most scintillating stories in cyberspace, but if your website isn’t user-friendly, most readers will pass your content by in a matter of moments. Statistics show that website readers do not read — rather, they scan the page for interesting content for a few seconds before moving along. Create a website that invites visitors to linger. Incorporate navigation menus with succinct titles. Place anchors or fixed-point buttons or tabs to direct readers to special sections. Utilize “breadcrumbs,” a textual, linear navigation map that shows the trail the reader has taken throughout your website. Create a special site map page where readers can locate information quickly. Avoid popup windows, auto-play media and web pages that force readers to or from other web pages. Finally, include a biographical snippet, an “about us” page or a map with the physical location of your business. These tools connect your readers with you or your business and encourage reader input and recollection of your site.
3. Know Your Audience
Part of creating an effective website is building a rapport with your audience. Your website design and content should reflect the audience to whom you address. For example, big, bright, primary-colored buttons are very cute on a parenting website or elementary teacher’s journal but are ill-suited for a technology or auto business site. Your website should never patronize or insult your readers. Tailor your web design and all content—including photos and advertisements—to your audience.
4. Design With Style
If your website contains a lot of information, such as an educational or resource site, consider a magazine-style theme. This type of theme displays a great deal of content on the home page, giving your readers instant access to a variety of content. Beware, however, of over-stuffing your home page with too much content. Flooding your home page with hoards of articles, links, videos and images will confuse your readers and drive them away. A good rule of thumb is to maintain content in “threes.” Organize your content in neat categories, listing three at a time with a tantalizing link that leads visitors to additional content. On the other hand, if your website is more streamlined, such as a photo gallery or personal journal, consider a simpler, more creative theme.
Symmetry and balance are other important design features. As Aristotle once said, “Beauty depends on size as well as symmetry.” People are generally attracted to symmetrical, balanced designs. If your website isn’t precisely symmetrical, make the layout balanced. A large block of data on one side should be tempered with several smaller blocks on the other side.
For most websites, a simple design with light touches of creativity works best. Don’t be afraid of colors, but keep the color scheme classy. Select a color scheme that enhances your content, niche and audience. For example, your metal rock band website may look great in black and hot pink, but your medical reference website needs calmer colors. And you should always avoid the following things: crazy fonts, dark backgrounds, flashing banners or buttons and auto-generated music and video.
5. Call the Experts
For some businesses, their website can make or break their reputation. A hokey, aged Microsoft FrontPage website that hasn’t been updated since 1998 or a confused mass of borders and blinking buttons is not very appealing to visitors and may even repel customers. If you think you need some assistance building a website or producing sufficient content, consult a professional web designer or content supplier. Many professionals offer a free consultation and estimate, giving you valuable information and a glimpse into the web design world.
While these are only five of the best tips for building an effective website, additional advice abounds. What components do you look for and admire about the websites you visit? What tips can you offer for a start-up site?