Top 5 Tips for Building a Website
There’s no one right way to build a website. Whether you’re creating a personal blog cataloging your traveling adventures or an eCommerce store to sell custom hats and t-shirts, the path to building a great website is different for everyone.
That said, there are some essential tips that everyone should follow in the process. No matter the industry, audience, or brand, the keys to a great website are the same—good design, consistency, responsiveness, coding knowledge, and more. Before beginning on your next site, whether it’s your very first or you’re a seasoned pro, keep these five tips in mind to build a site that everyone will visit and love.
1. Good Web Design
Writers will argue that good content makes a website great, but the truth is that no one will bother to read good content when it’s housed with bad design. While web design trends come and go, the cardinal rules will always stay the same. Follow these, and the result will produce a clean, presentable website:
- Keep It Simple: Cramming too much content into one page will ruin the aesthetic appeal of your site. Make good use of whitespace and follow the key principle that “less is more.”
- Make Navigation Intuitive: Moving through your website should be easy and without explanation. Make sure your design leads viewers through a positive experience and doesn’t leave them scratching heads wondering where to click next.
- Stay Consistent: One set of fonts, colors, and design style throughout the whole website. Don’t create “microbrands” throughout a site that should portray one, consistent brand.
- Be Careful With Colors: Your color palette shouldn’t be taken lightly during the initial design phases of your website. Color can make or break a website and should display strong contrast with your background for clear visibility.
2. Check Your Competitors
There’s no shame in borrowing the best practices of your closest competitors, and it’s probably more widespread than you think. Look through the websites of others in your industry and take note of what’s working and what’s not. Look for anything from web design and navigation to content and calls to action. Get the best idea of what others are actually doing when they visit those websites. Some key points to look out for:
Use a site like Compete.com to see how many hits your competitors’ websites are getting and look closer at the ones getting the most traffic.
What is their biggest call to action? Are they selling something online or focusing on directing visitors to a physical location?
Does their website speak to their brand? You don’t have to copy colors and themes, but mimicking a good relationship between brand and design could be useful.
3. Seek Out Feedback
The saying goes that every person is their own worst critic, but sometimes the opposite is true when it comes to web design. Look for constructive feedback from both those in your industry and outside of it. Sometimes colleagues will tell you a site works great because they already understand the business, but a new customer will be completely dumbfounded at the approach. Welcome any and all feedback and grow a thick skin as negative feedback will be the most productive in perfecting your website.
4. Responsive Design
Mobile use (smartphones and tablets) now accounts for more than half of website traffic in 2016, so if your site isn’t responsive to those platforms—it’s a death sentence. But at the same time, it’s important to understand what visitors are looking for when using your website on a phone vs. a computer. Mobile visits are perfect for quick information—location, hours of operation, critical updates, etc.—while computer visits look for richer content and will spend more time on one site compared to mobile.
The first place you should focus on for mobile compatibility is your home page, where pertinent information will be readily available, whereas blogs and other long-form content can cater more to desktop users.
5. Learn the Coding Basics
You don’t need to be a coding guru in 2016 thanks to website builders doing the heavy lifting, but a little basic knowledge will get you a long way in customization and design. Most builders have fields for custom codes, and it helps to know the foundations of HTML and other popular languages when you just need to tweak that one little detail to get your web design just right. Free sites like Code Academy are ideal for learning the basics and even beyond if you feel especially drawn to a specific coding language.