Welcome to the second part of this post about designing a website like a pro. If you are coming back, thank you for bearing with me and I hope you enjoy this instalment just as much as the first one.

In the first part of this article, I highlighted the importance of not simply considering your website as a succession of pages but more as a chance to build a rapport with each of your visitors.

Since we all prefer to buy from people we know and trust it is essential to define who your typical customer is and build your site structure and content accordingly.

Your domain, Your brand

As your content is taking shape and if you have not done so already, I would strongly recommend you register a domain name (e.g. www.mybusiness.co.uk).

As your domain will – or at least should – be on every piece of your stationery and is the quickest way to your website, it is a crucial part of your company branding. The latter should reflect the nature of your business, its personality and, of course, be easy to remember.

Right design, right impression

Once your content is in place, or nearing completion and your domain secured, it is time to deal with the creative aspect of your website.

Unless you have a strong understanding of modern design and web building techniques, I would strongly recommend that you get a professional design whether bespoke or off-the-shelf.

Off-the-shelf solutions, whether online or not, are numerous and with prices starting from free. However the various designs they provide are sold many times over and you could end up having the same website as another company down the road.

Starting at a few hundred pounds, bespoke designs will give your business a stronger online footing by making sure your presence truly reflects the unique identity of your company.

As your business grows, the dialogue initiated with the designer could develop into a real partnership, especially if you wish to adopt a consistent image through other online marketing channels like email or advertising.

Beside their visual aspect, either approach should give you the assurance of seamless accessibility – a legal requirement in the UK and Europe – and search engine friendliness by using proper meta-tag declaration and external style sheets.

Without dwelling on technicalities, proper meta-tags will help search engines define what your website is all about. This, used in conjunction with other factors like page title, actual content and inbound links, will contribute to your position in the search results.

Style sheets on the other hand, are documents separate from your web pages that define the look and feel of your website. This separation allows for easier access to bare bone content by those who may be hindered by graphical or animated elements but also facilitate design updates.

Putting it all together

With content and design finalised, it is now time to put it all together. Depending on which type of design you went for, integration will range from very easy to technically advanced.

On a difficulty scale from zero to ten, we like to think that web agencies like ours offer the easiest form of integration. Time and adequate training are often issues for those wishing to build their website and this is where professional assistance can prove invaluable.

If you decided to buy an off-the-shelf template, then you should check with your supplier if they have any tie-in hosting offer. If they do, then my advice would be to go along with it as this will most certainly help you “go live” quicker.

If this is not the case or if your project requirements are so specific they cannot be accommodated easily then the DIY option is for you.

Building your website yourself

If none of the previous options seem a good match and you are aiming to put your website together by yourself, then my first piece of advice is to keep it simple.

A website is a constantly – or at least frequently – evolving thing. Based on my experience it is better to have something online quickly to start attracting traffic and which you refine as you go along, than something very complex taking months to develop and that you end up changing anyway once live.

Secondly, I would recommend that you set a solid foundation to build your site on. This includes a good web page editor to assemble it, but also a web server to test it in a near “live” environment.

Starting with the latter, most operating systems (Windows, Mac OS, Linux) now ship with some form of web server although not usually installed by default. Windows comes with Internet Information Server (IIS for short) whereas Mac and Linux use Apache.

More advanced requirements like databases or server-side languages would require you to take some action at this point, but because of the broad spectrum they cover – most of which is beyond the scope of this post – I will stay fairly basic here. However if you have any query or need help, please drop me a line.

Concerning web editors, you are simply spoilt for choice with software prices starting from free to hundreds of pounds. Current industry heavy-weights include Adobe® Dreamweaver® and Microsoft® Expression® but beyond the bells and whistles again keep it simple and pick a platform you feel comfortable working with.

Once both pieces of software are in place and configured, most basic websites will only require you to import a template, images and style sheets to get started.

Make sure all web pages utilise the template as their source as this will simplify maintenance and do make regular backups of your work. If you follow the steps on how to create a sitemap in part one, then you should have a pretty good idea of the number of pages you need and their hierarchy.

Finally, as you come to test your website make sure that you do not restrict yourself to your favourite browser. All modern ones adhere – at least to a certain extent – to a quality standard called W3C. The most compliant ones include Mozilla Firefox® and Apple Safari and I would strongly recommend you make sure your website work with these first and then fix any glitch you may have with Internet Explorer using conditional style sheets.

Ready, Steady, Launch…

Is your website now complete? Thoroughly tested and ready to launch? Then all you need to do is to get hold of those FTP details your hosting provider gave you and push your website live!

I hope you enjoyed this post and I look forward reading your comments.

David PHILIPPE



Adobe and Dreamweaver are registered trademarks of Adobe Systems Incorporated
Microsoft and Expression are registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation
Firefox is a registered trademark of Mozilla Corporation
Apple and Safari are trademarks of Apple Inc.

Posted: 27/11/2009 06:02:39 by | with 0 comments


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