Your guide to a better website
We’ve transitioned to online banking, online dating, online shopping, online learning, and most recently 100% online working. 30 years since its inception, the progress of the world wide web is staggering.
The changing nature of the internet and website development is inherent in the DNA of online culture and technology. But, what if you aren’t steeped in this? Where does that leave you? How do companies keep up with all the changes and how do you know when to update your site and with what tools? If your website has you pondering these questions, read on, we’ve got you covered.
Table Of Contents
Chapter 1: Website Audit
The first step to knowing what you need for your website or website development, is to dig into what you have. In the same way after several years we go through our closets and get rid of old clothes, reassess what is still relevant, what fits or doesnt, before you start buying new clothes, you need to do with a website. This practice is called the Website Audit. While there are a million different ways you can accomplish this, I am a fan of the old adage KISS – Keep it simple stupid.
Start with the homepage.
This is where most people land when they find you.
Your website or website development audit should really center around SEO and UX/UI. We want to make sure that first and foremost the focus is on getting found and then driving better ROI once people get to you. So an audit centers around a full analysis of factors that impact a website’s visibility for search engines and ease of use for users. But a full website audit is not always necessary.
Ask yourself these top line questions:
1. Is your message still communicating who you are and what you do?
2. Is it clear?
3. Is it succinct?
4. Is your site filled with copy trying to explain concepts?
The Website Experience
1. Do you employ a funnel concept?
2. Are you leading your visitors down a specific path?
3. Do you have clear calls to action?
1. Does it look good?
2. Is the resolution correct, or are things blurry?
3. Are words on top of images rendering them illegible?
4. Does your imagery make sense in the context of what you are selling/saying?
1. Is your website mobile friendly?
2. Does your site adapt to a mobile or tablet environment and scale differently?
If the answer to any of these is “no” you probably need to upgrade your site.
Take a look at your website, do you think it could use some tweaks to bring it up to speed?
There are quite a few options you have when it comes to updating your existing website. The issue you may run into is deciding which option is best for you. There are some easy fixes and some that may take quite some time.
Need help deciding whether your website needs an easy fix or requires a complete redesign?
→Ready To Update Your Website? Here’s How To Bring It Up To Speed
Chapter 2: New Website
If you’re reading this – you may be considering a new website.
Don’t look past the red flags that your website isn’t doing its job. Your site should be your digital shop that generates leads and sales for your business.
The Website Development Process
Is your website not creating traction for your business? Are you questioning what goes into the website development process?
It might be a lot more than you think. There are some common steps most developers and designers take when it comes to creating a new website that looks beautiful and delivers quality leads and sales.
The strategy should serve as the nuts and bolts outline of what you are planning.
- Think overarching: What do you want your site to feel like?
- Think strategic: How do you want your site to be used? (lead generator, ecommerce store, informational…etc)
- Think linearly: Make an outline of all the pages you want and what will go on them, and how different parts will connect to each other.
As part of the strategy process we always start with inspiration. Once you have a rough plan, poking around the interwebs can help you get a feel for what you like, and narrow down how to move forward. As you are looking, think about what pieces and parts you like and why. Specifically, are they serving the strategy you outlined?
Once you have your strategy clear, start creating the content for your pages. Follow your outline and write write write. Then revise and cut and get to a place you feel comfortable with.
PRO TIP: Oftentimes, we write the sub page copy before we create the homepage copy. This allows you to see all the elements going on to your site and think through what would be the most powerful and useful to have featured on the homepage.
→Top 10 Tips for Digital Writing
Note: Content should be agile. You can always change it in real time, very easily, AND SHOULD. You don’t want to prep your site to be filled with stale content. So, don’t get too caught up on things being perfect. It’s best to move to the next step with about 80% of your content in the best spot it can be in at the time, and then revisit it after each step to come (wireframes & design.)
We have a whole chapter devoted to content creation. Click here to skip to this section!
The wireframing process is the layout plan. In practice, it is a skeletal framework of your website. Doing this step first allows you to solidify your plan and the placement of everything before you get too far down the road. Imagine doing all the design and coding etc only to find that you don’t like the layout and can’t easily shift things around to make it work? Ack. Wireframing hedges against this.
We use Adobe XD for our wireframes and site designs. It is widely recognized as an industry standard tool. Not only is it a great tool for showing off our designs and wireframes to clients, they offer UI kits and templates to help inspire your designs and ensure you are accounting for the correct margins and placements.
Once you are happy with your wireframes it’s time to take them up a notch and lay the site design into your file. Hopefully, before you’ve embarked on a new website you have fully fleshed out branding to work from. This should serve as a solid foundation for your design approach. The design process often involves lots of trial and error so make sure to take time to step away from the design throughout the process so you can reflect on it, come back, and make changes.
Get inspired and excited with some of our favorite design approaches.
Website Development and Quality Assurance
Once your designs are ready, it’s time to get them into website development. If you are using Adobe XD, you can save your designs as code ready files that can go straight into your new site.
DOUBLE CHECK PRE LAUNCH CHECKLIST:
Hosting & Domain Set Up (don’t forget to save your log-ins in a safe place!)
Email Configuration to new domain name
Google Analytics Set-up and Installation
Index With Google
set up with google places and maps (if applicable)
Make sure you are tracking all forms in Google Analytics (so you can monitor your leads)
Okay, your website is ready for take off! Remember, this is an agile, growing, ever changing, LIVING site. So check back often, make sure it’s relevant, add to it, and let it grow with your business.
The Good and The Bad of Website Development
So You Have a “Bad” Website. What Happens When Someone Visits It? Maybe you don’t have the prettiest or most effective website possible. You might think that this is no big deal, but trust us, that is far from the truth. Your website is the basis of your internet presence. The set up you choose can greatly impact sales and leads. So say you do have a “bad” website, what does it mean for your business? What are the negative effects that occur when someone visits your website? You may be surprised by the weight your site truly does hold.
Beginning with Design
You might know a thing or two about web design, but when you’re just starting out, web design can seem like a vast, complicated world full of mysteries. Even seasoned pros can use a reminder of some simple tips for beginner web design – it’s easy to get caught up in an assumptive mindset!
We’re here to clear up some myths and misconceptions and identify solutions to common web design problems.
Optimizing Your Website
Once you have a good website, consider how to optimize it. Did you know that Google takes over 200 factors into account when creating rankings for its search results? Seriously!
Are you wondering how to earn a first-page rank when so many huge websites seem to have staked claim on the prime real estate?
Fear not – it can be difficult for small businesses to practice quality SEO, but it’s not impossible. These SEO tips for small businesses can drastically improve your Google rank through the power of content marketing and optimization.
→4 SEO Tips for Small Businesses
Chapter 3: Content Creation
Here’s the big daddy. Truth is, everything above, once it’s done, is fairly hands off for a while. Content though? Never ending.
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “Those who can’t do, teach.”
In today’s world that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Today, those who CAN do, teach – and it’s how they win! The best experts and entrepreneurs market their businesses by putting out valuable content that teaches their audience how to overcome challenges and solve problems.
It’s impossible to become a thought leader and known publicly as an expert without sharing your expertise and teaching those who can benefit and want to learn. Both within their business and externally to clients and the community at large, business owners are winning by teaching what they’re good at and helping others gain value from their knowledge.
Content should be an ongoing exercise for as many people at your company as is possible. Think about all the different expertise that you have on your team and create a content plan.
Identify keywords you want to rank for, things your audience is searching for, and compile them in a spreadsheet. There are a lot of ways to approach this, but one of my favorites is just to start typing a word, like “content marketing”, into Google and see how the search bar fills out the rest based on common searches. Additionally, I find value in the “People also ask” section. When you scroll down the page, Google auto populates common questions related to your search. These can be valuable long tail keywords that your content should answer to help grow your site SEO.
Once you have a spreadsheet of potential keywords you can use a number of different free or paid platforms that help you identify the search volume and how hard or easy it is to rank for those keywords.
Here are some free keyword tools to explore:
Keyword Surfer (a free Chrome extension)
Need to take a step back and better understand keywords? Give this blog a read to get a more basic understanding of keywords, how they work and how to use them to your advantage in the website development process.
Macro to Micro
Once you have narrowed down the Keywords you want to rank for, the content creation can begin! We lean on a macro to micro approach. Start with just one blog/webinar, longer form piece of content a month. Keep it manageable, and look at that long form content as your macro content. Then throughout the month break it into bite sized pieces for social and emails to add more fuel to your marketing fire (this is your micro content).
The content you create should be optimized around the keywords you identified to maximize your reach, and don’t forget to always include a call to action or several throughout your content in blogs, emails, social, and content offers.
Looking for more ideas on what to write about? Dig into the content creation process with some of our favorite tactics for developing topic lists and crafting a content strategy.
Pull it All Together
Once you have your content going, you are getting it into emails, and driving people to your site through sales and digital ads, it’s time to pull it all together. As people start interacting with your content there are several things you want to do to ensure you are nurturing them properly. A focus on qualifying and nurturing people interacting with your content allows you to spend less sales energy on people that aren’t a good fit, and more time investing your energy on potential customers. This is called lead nurturing.
Automated emails can be a huge help in this process. For example, a user who downloads an eBook can receive an automated series of emails persuading them to download a second eBook or view another piece of ungated content. The idea is that by offering them content valuable to them, you can push them further down the funnel. Additionally this works as a way to qualify people. Someone who is interested in two or more pieces of content shows that there is a really good chance what you are offering is a sales fit for them.
This approach is leveraging the Inbound process. It’s important you don’t jump straight from Awareness to sending Decision Stage content about your company. That veers way too close to the old-fashioned method of cold-call sales. This process instead is focused on generating interest and letting people qualify themselves as they learn about your products and services. With content marketing you are looking to position yourself as a thought leader building credibility over time. Then, when they need what you are offering, you are top of mind and have built the trust that makes the sales process smoother.
In short, having a great website is important, but once the engagement starts you have to continue to create opportunities for those interested people to connect with you and learn from you.
Chapter 4: Website Development FAQs
We’ll finish things off with just answering some common questions we get from our web clients. We hope that these responses will be of value to you as you embark on a new website or update an old one.
The short answer: colors are coded differently for digital and print applications, so you can’t just use the same files interchangeably. Learn more about this topic.
Look at the URL of the website. If it begins with “https” instead of “http,” it means the site is secured using an TLS/SSL certificate (the s in https stands for secure). TLS certificates secure all of your data as it is passed from your browser to the website’s server.
It stands for “File Transfer Protocol”. Your website’s files are stored on your web host’s servers, and you can use FTP to access those files from any computer. It’s a quick and easy way to move files such as themes, images and plugin files onto your WordPress website. Any changes that are made are automatically implemented on the server itself.
Bootstrap is a popular front-end open source toolkit that allows you to quickly design and customize responsive mobile-first sites.
Most experts agree that at minimum it takes 3-6 months for a new website to rank on Google.
Timeline is heavily dependent on what resources you already have and your knowledge level on where things go. Timelines are also dependent on functionality. The general rule is custom functionality, custom animations and designs, custom coding, integrating databases, and the like are all things that will take a while when it comes to website development.
To review, focus on first performing a website audit of your current site. Understand your goals and what you’d like your site to be doing. From there, you can move in to creating a new site or revamping your current site with these goals in mind. Don’t forget to optimize along the way and pay special attention to how your audience will use your site, letting that information inform both your design and content. Think about your content as fluid and agile, not static, and revisit it often to ensure relevancy. If you get stuck on all the website lingo, check our website FAQs, they’re here to help, and so are we!