This is going to be a type of guideline on how to create a truly custom and premium website this article is mainly intended for businesses, however, can apply to even personal or social websites. We're doing all the way from conception, to launch, to after launch.
We'll start with what you should not do.
Now, I've seen this a lot where many companies doing website development for other businesses, claim a custom, premium website design, where they actually provide a pre-made WordPress templated website and maybe do a little moving around of the elements for the user, without even validating the quality of the design or codebase.
This really grinds my gears, so this series is meant to show how to actually create a premium website, which is worth clients paying thousands of USD for and also how to tell if your current website, or the company that you may be looking to build your website is up to par or not.
What you'll need for this series:
Got everything? Great! Let's do this.
I'll start by saying, and I hope this is already obvious to everyone; You shouldn't use the same website design for every industry. It doesn't work, the design of your website should be a product of your industry and your target user base. If your users go to your site to shop and they're bombarded with blogs, pictures, and carousels as far as the eyes can see but not a price tag in sight, you've got a problem on your hands. Study your market, see what's out there and see how that can fit in with your business' website before you go ahead and build one or have one built in a particular way. A website template built for selling cars probably won't do well, selling food.
Look at other websites in your industry, while you're visiting, make note of the things you like, the things you don't, the things you'd like to see improved. One thing you must do is sign up for their services, especially if they're not paid services, you've got to experience what's actually out there and more importantly what your competition may be like before you decide to jump into the game. So give your competitors, both local and international a shot, I mean, they are good enough to be your competitor right? So clearly they are doing something right. Find out what that is a maybe even do it better. When viewing the sites, note the position of the elements, where each product or service offering is placed in relation to the other content on the website, which elements and positions draw your attention the most, what your eyes or attention seems to be gravitating towards, all these little nuances matter in the long run as they contribute to the user experience of your website. You should also ask other people what they like about the website, a second opinion tends to go a long way. Once you've noted all this it's time for the next step.
Find a good technology partner -- that's vague right?
What is a technology partner -- this can be your consultant, your hosting supplier or even your web developer. Whether they be independent contractors (preferably one that is backed by a fallback team) or a company. Why is this important...oh boy it's time to rant. What happens when you higher a tiler to build your new bed? same general work area/path, but vastly different results. In the same way, choosing an unsuitable technology partner can lead to less than optimal results.
So what is there to choosing a technology partner when it comes to websites? Well here's the dreaded answer That Depends., well on what?
Your goal for your website, but since we're talking about a premium experience here, I'll sprinkle it with my own personal bias and perception of Premium.
A partner that knows about website security at the very minimum TLS.
A partner that knows about content distribution and delivery.
A partner that knows about content optimisations.
A partner that knows about SEO optimisations.
A partner that knows that SEO optimisation methods can vary from industry to industry.
A partner that recognises when a system should be stand-alone or shared (yes, a premium website can still have shared hosting).
A partner that understands networking.
A partner that understands page speed optimisations.
A partner that wants to understand your business goals and the goals for your website.
A partner that understands intelligent website design.
If the partner you're considering meets all these requirements, you're good to go!
Now hold on..how are you supposed to know all this? You're the client who's hiring the pro's to do this.
Well here's a cool little trick, look for a previous website that your prospective technology partner (TP) has done recently or previously.
Some Questions To Ask Yourself:
Is the site secured? Do you see the lock on the URL field? (If not, then knock quite a bit of points off, this is essential.)
How do you feel about it?
Does the webpage load fast?
Does it appeal to you?
Is it mobile responsive?
Do the images load fast?
Can you find that site easily on Google?
Do a quick SEO test using one of those online SEO checker tools, if the score is above 70% then it's probably well optimised, 70% might seem like a low number but it's important to remember that these services are far from perfect and often penalise sites for things that won't matter in the long (or short) run. They're to be used as general guidelines, not gospel.
Based on your responses to all the questions, tally up and then you'll have made your decision, you can ask your prospect about these questions I've mentioned and gauge their responses to see if they'll still be a good fit.
One last thing, how do they make you feel? Remember you'll be working with them closely on your website from there on out.
Communication, Sharing and Domain Selection
It's important to communicate very clearly with your TP about what your goals are for the website. This allows a clear picture to be painted on both ends before the project is started so that you can ensure that your site is built from the ground up with that single purpose in mind and is optimally made to achieve that goal. One of the first things you may want to do is secure your website's domain. This could be numerous articles by itself but I'll try to keep it very concise, your domain is your website's address, it's what your user will type in to visit your website, so as you can imagine, the name is very important. Much thought should be put into this, generally you'll want something close to your business' name, however, Moz also provides quite a good article on how to choose your domain name: https://moz.com/blog/goal-based-domain-selection.
You should also share whatever previous research that you've done, what your customers respond to and how much information you intend to handle/for-see handling through your website.
Design and Development
This is what we've been building up to all this time, this is it. Actually building your website, we might get a little technical here. A website's design is more than just it's interface, it's the performance and optimisation, if the design is bad, everything else will suffer as a result, the usability, the appeal, the retention rate, your brand image. So let's treat this like what it really is, a representation of your business, it's values and competencies.
Pulling back on the previous topic, your references, what you've seen out there that you like and also what's being done in your industry. You may be asking, why should I follow the rest of the industry? I want my website to be unique!..hold on there, there is a method to the madness, think about it, why is it that an industry tends to have very similarly structured websites? I'll tell you, it's because it works, they're specifically designed so that information is delivered to the user in the most optimal manner while being easy to navigate as the user would be used to the interface from other sources and can easily adapt. A drastically different interface would cause the user to have to learn a new navigation pattern and this adds a boundary as there is no familiarity. This is not to say that you should always follow the industry, there are times when you've got to shake it up! But don't go re-inventing the wheel, make updates and modifications that still leave some familiarity factor so that the user is not left wondering what to do.
The trend these days is a mix between minimalism and material design, the minimalistic nature of the designs helps them to appear clean and sophisticated whilst the materialistic behaviour gives an air of modern responsiveness. I like this as well, you're not tied to any narrow design style, only in the depth and behaviour of your design.
Next time, we'll touch a little deeper into the technical aspects of a premium website and what it needs to have and why those elements need to be included.