How do you start developing a website that will represent you and your organization in a rapidly growing online marketplace? There are so many options to consider! But which choice is right for you? Do you select from one of dozens of do-it-yourself online website builders, hire a friend or consult a professional website design and development company?
Below are some tips to help you select which option is the best choice for you.
Option #1 – Website Builders
There are many website builder options available that offer a variety of features. The features they promote may be:
- Low Cost or FREE Tools and Services
Investigate this before signing up. Some services are free for a 15 or 30 day trial. Others provide a limited free version but once you start to develop your site, you discover that in order to accomplish what you need, you will require a paid plan. Still others actually allow you to build a free site but add additional fees for hosting and options to remove their branding and links back to their website. Ultimately, nothing is really free. Make sure you know what you will be required to pay before you sign up.
- You Can Do-It-Yourself, It Requires Only a Little Time and No Additional Knowledge or Skills
Often what this means is that the service offers some pre-built widgets and graphics that you will be able to drag and drop onto a page to create your site. This may be all you need, but make sure you understand how the service works and what you are actually getting. A few things to look for:
- Often these services provide an inclusive package with website building tools, domain, hosting and email, but when you build a site with the service, you are developing your site within their software and when you decide to move your site to another service, you will not be able to.
- The tools and widgets you have to select from are limited. If they meet your needs, you will be happy but if you want to do something different or customized, it may not be possible.
- The software is intended to allow users to easily create a website by combining pre-developed bits of code. But good website design requires a specialized set of skills in addition to the ability to write code. Spend some time looking at websites developed by professional designers and ask yourself — do you know what technologies are driving the current online design trends that you like? Do you want a responsive site? A mobile site? An app? A more customized look and feel than the builder offers? Do you know how to organize your site for accessibility? Optimized user experience? Analytics? ROI? Will your design skills meet the professional standards you will require? You will not be required to write the code to create your website but you will need to spend some time learning about the features and details required to make your site look professional and work for you.
Option #2 – Website Design and Development Company
There are many Professional Design and Development options available. The services of a website design and development company are never FREE but the services they can offer you are usually worth the investment :
- Based on your individual requirements for your website, they will provide you with a quote that defines the costs and services you will be required to pay for.
- Many designers and website companies do provide options for a full range of services, domain, hosting, design, custom code, graphics and editing, email, as well as a variety of maintenance and service plan options that are provided in a more personalized and customized format. Make sure you ask the company what services they provide.
- You will not be locked into a specific or limited software choice. Based on your needs, the correct software, code and design options are selected specifically for your project.
- You will be working with professionals. They are specialists in their fields and will advise and assist you as you make decisions and develop your website. They will recommend and provide the appropriate options based on your project needs for accessibility, responsive/mobile choices, SEO, social media, data management and a wide range of website development options that may be required for your project.
- A professional webdesign and development company will ensure that your completed site has a custom, professional look, feel and function.
Once visitors arrive on your website, you want to make sure that they find what they need and interact with your content in a predictable way. Referencing eye tracking research may help guide some of the decisions you make as you plan your website content and layout. Here are a few useful takeaways from eye tracking results:
- Put your most valuable content above the fold – this is the most viewed portion of the page
- Put calls to action at the bottom of the page – people do scroll down and the bottom of the page is the second most viewed portion of the page. This is typically where you want to place your ‘call to action’.
- People read big, bold headlines first – research indicates that big headlines are the first thing visitors see when they land on a page. Big text headlines, particularly the first two words in the headline is seen before any other page content including images.
- Chunks of information are best – it is easier to scan and absorb smaller digestible portions of text.
- You need a lot of white space – white space is useful as it facilitates eye movement throughout the rest of the space.
- The left side of your page is important – eye tracking studies indicate that users spend most of their time on the left side of the page.
- Get rid of banners – eye tracking studies indicate that people ignore banners. This behaviour has been referred to as “Banner Blindness”.
- Pictures of people are good – a page that has a picture of a person’s face creates a positive physiological reaction, encourages interaction and reduces page bounce rates.
Eye Tracking: measures where people look on a web page and for how long.
Necessity (or at least a desire to enhance quality of life) is the Mother of Invention. If you enjoy a cup of coffee while you work, you will be able to relate to the inspiration for deploying the world’s very first webcam.
The first webcam was created in 1991 at the University of Cambridge so that people in various parts of the building could avoid unproductive trips to the coffee maker by viewing live greyscale images of the coffee pot status on their desktops.
Equally amazing though is the speed at which the World Wide Web has evolved to become what we experience today. Take a look at the first ever website published on August 6, 1991 (http://www.w3.org/History/19921103-hypertext/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html)