Redesigning your business website: The Do's & Don'ts
If you have already gone through the experience of building a business website, whether on your own or by hiring a professional web designer then you may have experienced the frustration that so many have encountered.
The truth is that most companies or individuals setting to the task of building a website can be overwhelmed with the abundance of options available. Not knowing where to start, what technologies to use and trouble deciding on a look and feel can leave you feeling dazed and confused.
In actuality, an effective business website does not need to be flashy or complicated, on the contrary, the key to usability is simplicity. When setting to the task of building a business website you need to remember, your visitors come first, unless you are going to be the only one using the website then having one built that tickles your fancy or that you feel is "cool" is not the way to go.
Remember the reason why you are building a website in the first place. In most cases you are building a business website for a number of reasons.
Reasons why companies and businesses create websites
- To provide information to potential and existing customers and clients
- To use as a marketing and sales tool
- To streamline business work-flow
- To present a portfolio or sample of work
- To sell products or information
With the exception of using the website to streamline or assist the business with day to day activities when you build a website you are building it for others. Start your brainstorming by deciding how the website will best meet the needs of your audience and everything else will fall into place.
What to avoid when building a business website
DON'T use flash for creating navigation links or inner pages of your website. If you want to "wow" your visitors with some animation that is fine, however using flash to build a navigation menu is a big no no. Some "not so nice" web design companies may try and convince you that it will make your website "cool" or "stand out from the competition".
Avoid it like the plague, a flash navigation means you're stuck, you will need to pay specialist any and everytime you need to edit your navigation (one of the reasons why they try and convince you that you need a flash navigation). In addition you are seriously damaging your search engine optimization potential.
Although you may have spent a pretty penny on building your "cool" business website your competition will eat your lunch because the truth is that a plain HTML website with easily indexable pages and navigation links that allows the user (you) to quickly and easily add/edit pages and links will easily outrank your website.
DON'T add music quite possibly one of the most annoying experiences on the web today is visiting a wesite that immediately begins playing music or sound effects while visitors are trying to read content or navigate throughout the website.
If you need to have music have it put into a player and have the default be with music turned off. If your visitors are interested in hearing the music or effects then they will turn it on. Again, your business website is not for you and I can't emphasize enough how annoying it is to go to a website and have it start playing audio unexpectedly. Usually the first thing a visitor does is try to figure out how to stop the music.
DON'T overkill although you may have a ton of money it is never a good idea to go overboard and hire a team of programmers to build you a 10-20 page custom business website using their own coding style. Odds are that they will put it together in a way that is unfriendly to you in order to keep collecting funds. The best option for any website (unless you are building a groupon or your own search engine) is to just use a standard framework and then hire specialists to customize it.
DON'T go crazy with colors don't start randomly adding all kinds of colors to the website just cause. A professional website uses 1 color scheme for each thematically different area of the website (most websites utilize 1 theme). Colors can be used effectively to seperate information on the website. Dark colored backgrounds are a big no no when it comes to ecommerce websites because of the fact that ecommerce website owners may have to use product images as provided by various manufacturers, vendors and distributors, you never know what color the background of the product images may be.
What to do when building a business website
DO place contact information, contrary to popular belief placing an email address on a website does not automatically mean that you will get tons of spam. Although using a contact form with a captcha is advisable, there is nothing wrong with placing an office directory online which includes emails. In most cases a spam blocker will significantly reduce the amount of spam you may get.
Do use plain HTML or a popular CMS, although they are free and easy to setup with most standard hosting plans a content management system such as drupal, joomla or wordpress is a great solution when it comes to web design. In most cases you can save a ton of money by purchasing standard hosting and a template that closely matches the look and feel of your business and hiring a freelancer (with experience working with your framework) to make the necessary changes.
In some cases you will have more flexibility by just building your website with good old HTML, CSS some images and minimal code for forms or other basic items such as an image gallery or audio player. Some frameworks such as drupal, though they are extremely powerful and versatile are a bit complicated and there will be a learning curve.
Do use Linux although you may be tempted to go with a windows server because you use a windows computer at home and at work, Linux operating systems are much more secure, faster and there are more features available. Don't worry, you won't need to know any Linux, it is just the language that is used in conjunction with Apache and Mysql that makes website as powerful and as dynamic as they are.
Most businesses choose a system based on Linux, Apache and Mysql because of the better performance, lower cost, security and flexibility
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