Designing a Website

High quality web design doesn’t happen by accident, it takes careful planning and consideration. A thorough and well thought-out plan will give you the platform you need to provide your site with the intuitive and elegant design it deserves.

This Guide Contains:

Web Design: Basic Considerations

website goal

What is your website’s goal or purpose?

The first thing to consider is your website's goal - what you hope that it will achieve. For example, your goal could be to:

  • Gain subscriptions by engaging readers with interesting articles
  • Promote and/or sell products or services
  • Present additional information about a person or business
  • Provide entertainment

Clarifying the website’s main goal in your own mind will enable you to create a design which complements this aim. For example if you are trying to gain subscriptions, your focus would hopefully be on ensuring that your best content is as well-presented and accessible as possible.

Who is your Target Audience?

target audienceYour target audience is also a major factor to consider. Making the website appealing to the kinds of people who visit it most often is an often-overlooked yet crucial aspect of the design process. Take the time to properly evaluate your preliminary designs, and seek feedback from people who fit the profile of your target audience – you will be amazed at what they say!

User Experience (UX)

The importance of ensuring that your website is user-friendly and easy to navigate cannot be understated. With the level of competition 99% of websites have, few visitors will persist with a site that is confusing and difficult to navigate no matter how good the content is.

user experienceEnsure that your main pages are easily accessible from the home page, ideally via the navigation menu bar and clear call to actions (CTAs). If your website has too much content to accomplish this, try using drop down menus to provide more links and add a site map.

For the rest of your pages, create a ‘scent of information’ to lead your visitor towards their target. It was once believed that visitors should be able to access any page on your site within three clicks; this has largely been debunked. If you like having rules to follow, try following this advice instead:

“Every click or interaction should take the user closer to their goal while eliminating as much of the non-destination as possible.”

Building Websites: The First Design

Designing Website

Once you know what your website is supposed to achieve and who your target audience are, draw up a basic website layout on a piece of paper. Include as much detail as possible, such as navigation menus, logo placement, call to action (CTA) buttons and colors.

Complete this process for the following pages, keeping any changes subtle in order to preserve a level of design consistency throughout the site:

  • Home
  • About Us page
  • Contact page
  • Content page – such as an article or products/services page

Once you are finished, you will have four sheets of paper bearing your new website’s design. This will make it much easier for you to create your site exactly the way you want it to look later.

Stuck for Ideas?

Try browsing around websites offering similar services to yours, to get an idea of the level of the competition. This will also give you ideas for features and design elements that you can use in your own site.

Alternatively, these web hosting plans include design templates, either for free or at very reasonable prices. Kick-start your site by getting one today:

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Web Hosting: Getting Your Website Online

web hosting

At this stage, it is a good idea to consider the end result of the design process – getting your website online. In order to do this, you will need some form of Web Hosting solution. The type of hosting solution you will need depends on the size of your website and the number of visitors you are expecting to receive. Here’s how you can find your ideal hosting service right here on Web Hosting Search:

 

15 Dos and Don’ts of Creating a Website

Do

Structure pages logically and write reusable code

Completing tasks the right way from the beginning will pay dividends, especially in the long run. Structure content and site navigation logically, both visually and behind the scenes. View each content item as an opportunity to lead readers to the next.

Choose a design that complements your site

A scheme should achieve three purposes: attractiveness, readability and branding. Choose timeless colors and typography that have look good together. If the site is informational in nature, emphasize readability above all else.

Provide internal search

An integrated search engine is a powerful tool that makes it a simple task for a visitors to find what they are looking for on your website. It is a User Experience (UX) essential.

Make pages scannable

Understand the nature of online readers. The Internet provides fast access to distilled information, and your site should mirror that. The focal points of your content should be brief, easy to find and understand.

Be concise

Clear, concise content makes it easier for the visitor to get what they came for. A visitor who doesn’t have their patience sapped by unnecessarily lengthy prose is less likely to leave your site.

Use good SEO practice

Integrate keywords into your content by making subtle, effective word and phrase substitutions. Use alt tags to tell Google and the visually impaired what each picture represents.

Optimize Load Times

Readers are not patient. The optimal load speed for any page is less than 2 seconds, on computers and connections of varying speeds. Keeping image sizes to a minimum and streamlining your code

Engage the Reader

Engagement is the key to visitor loyalty. Engaging content is a start, but you can involve your audience much more effectively by using comments sections, forums and social media.

 

Don't

Overcomplicate

Remember the KISS principle — keep it simple, stupid! If you must lead visitors through complex processes, do so in small steps that are easy to complete.

Ignore Mobile Visitors

Build a site that is accessible to everyone, regardless of their screen size and device capabilities. Over 50% of web surfers are using mobile devices – ignore this market at your peril.

Write Large Blocks of Text

Avoid the dreaded Wall of Text; content should be well segmented by images and creative formatting, making it easier for the reader to digest.

Create SEO Filler

Always take a content-first approach to SEO. Keyword-rich filler articles do not earn your site loyal readers, and are highly susceptible to changes in search engine algorithms.

Annoy the Reader

Do not waste your readers’ time with popup windows, window resizing, unsolicited redirection, hidden or automated navigation and so on. Any benefit derived from these strategies will be fleeting at best.

Overuse Advertisements

The content-to-advert ratio should be no less than 70:30 in favour of content, and ideally higher. As a startup, consider avoiding ads altogether, and then slowly integrating them as the website becomes established.

Misrepresent Yourself

For the small business, the beauty of the Internet is that you can foster whatever business image you desire. Do not waste that opportunity. Keep it professional, and if you’re not sure how, check your competitors.

Build Your Own Website

If you are using WordPress, check out our step-by-step WordPress tutorial which will get you a slick and professional website up and running in less than 90 minutes.

joomla wordpress drupalThis stage will vary, depending on whether you are:

  • Using a Content Management System (CMS) such as WordPress, Joomla or Drupal
  • Using a drag-and-drop website builder such as those included in most web hosting plans
  • Coding the site from scratch

Using your paper design as a guide, create a skeleton of your website by adding empty placeholder pages and content sections, followed by key navigation elements such as a search bar, menu and footer. Remember, you can always go back and fix little problems after you've finished with the main construction of the site.

Once you are happy with your website’s layout, you can get on with adding your content. Take your time on this; the content is the most essential aspect of any website – particularly if you want it to rank highly in search engine results. As a general rule, try to make content rich, original and engaging, with important keywords included in the main text.

Test Your Website

Once you are at a stage where you are happy with the design and content, test out as many buttons, pages and functions to catch as many issues as possible before launching. Write down every issue that you encounter during testing, including and specific error messages that come up.

Cross-browser Compatibility

cross browser compatibilityTest this by opening your website in the latest version of all of the popular browsers:

  • Google Chrome
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Apple Safari
  • Internet Explorer
  • Opera

Do this to verify that your website looks and functions as it should regardless of the web browser your visitor is using. If you are coding from scratch, remember that different browsers parse (understand) website code in different ways. This makes it very important that you use universally accepted coding protocols. If you are using a modern CMS or website builder, this will likely be taken care of for you – but it is still wise to check.

Mobile Friendly Web Design

mobile responsive web designYou will also want to test your website out on browsers meant for mobile devices. Over 50% of Internet browsing is now done on smartphones, so it is essential to ensure that your website looks good and functions well on mobile devices.

Many web developers also make mobile versions of their sites after their main site has been established and completed. Another popular method is to make the design mobile responsive – meaning the site senses the screen size the visitor is viewing the page on, and adjusts its elements accordingly.

Fixing Errors

You should expect to encounter some issues after your first test. The whole point of the testing process is to ensure that the website looks good and functions properly before putting it out on the Internet. If your visitors are the first to encounter these issues, it can reflect badly on your website or business.

Don’t be discouraged!

test your websiteYou may have a whole list of issues and not know where to start. If so, relax! Even highly experienced web developers often need help resolving certain issues. If you don’t know any web designers, helpful articles and forums can be found all over the Internet.

Content errors are also very common. Before you launch your website, individually check each page for typos, grammatical errors and broken images to ensure that everything is as it should be.

3, 2, 1… Lift off!

After everything has been fixed, it’s finally time to launch your website! Continue adding high quality content and useful features to keep your site fresh and relevant, and monitor it website regularly to catch any issues or feedback.

Check out these other articles for some ideas of what to do next:

Written 2016-05-27 (Updated 2016-10-12)
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Written by Alex Tester


Alex is a native English speaker with a BA (Hons) degree from Anglia Ruskin University in the UK. He is passionate about creating engaging content for Web Hosting Search, and does all he can to ensure that what you see on the page is helpful and gets you where you want to go.

Share your thoughts

Alex,  23 August, 2016

Hi Susan, thanks for commenting!

If the internal search offered by Google and Bing (Yahoo) aren't to your satisfaction, you could try getting a search engine script coded in the language of your choice, for example by using open source options such as ElasticSearch or Solr.

The process of adding it to your site is likely to be a lot more complicated however, so it may be a better option to go with an established search provider after all.

Best of luck!

Susan,  9 August, 2016

I agree that a site search engine is a valuable tool. Especially if it is ad-free. Few hosting services provide this feature.The only one I found that is ad-free and free is yahoo. Google ad-free site search is very expensive. This was a few years ago when I checked. Are there any other webhosting services that provide a decent internal site search engine?

Thanks,
S

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