Learning by Example
It doesn't matter if you are a novice trying to learn the basics of website design, a professional with many years of experience or just a business owner that wants to know what works best at their website, this video series will show you what works and what doesn't at websites that are already online.
Owners of Reviewed Websites
I get it, it's not fun to hear criticism about anything we do, but my intent is not to be insulting. Instead I want to provide constructive criticism so you can fix issues that you may not know about. Think about it this way, when someone hires me as a consultant, I basically put their website through the same critical evaluation. They pay lots of money for it, but you're getting the same advice free. In the end, you can just ignore my opinions and observations or you can use them to make your website better.
Basic Website Design Advice
There are a lot of options when it comes to putting a new website online. You can hire a professional website designer or you can do it yourself with some of the new services that are available. With that in mind, here are a few tips for those that want to go solo...
Register your domain name at a registrar that offers a good balance of cost and features. I use Namecheap because they have a custom app that allows me to manage my domain names and their fees are as good as anywhere that I have seen.
Modify the DNS information of your domain name so it points at the service that you will be using to host your website. At the new hosting service, configure your domain name to route specific names to your email account. For every website that I create, I set up these default email addresses... info@DOMAIN.com, feedback@DOMAIN.com, email@DOMAIN.com, YourName@DOMAIN.com. You could use a universal selector to configure your domain name email, but it’s not as versatile and you end up with too much spam.
Now find an online service that allows you to build a website yourself such as Wix or WordPress and follow their instructions to build your website. Each one will have different methods for adding content and making aesthetic changes. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend which service is best because I write custom code for each website that I build. Based on popularity alone, WordPress is a safe choice.
Create a Google Analytics account and install the necessary analytics code in the header of each page at your website.
Create a Google My Business account and carefully adjust the settings according to their instructions. You should update your Google My Business listing regularly by adding photos and posting comments to improve your website traffic.
When I create the Google Analytics and Google My Business accounts, I also create a Google Search Console account. To a lesser degree, sometimes I’ll create a Google Tag Manager account as well based on the website requirements. All Google services combine to play an important role in understanding and maximizing your website traffic.
The META title and META description in the head section of each page of your website plays a very important roll in getting your website listed in the search engines. They should both be concise and unique for each page. The META keywords are supposedly ignored by Google, but I still provide accurate META keywords for each page just in case other directories might use that information to index the website.
Keyword density in the content is an important factor for search engine placement. Too much or too little can be bad. Just write naturally about important topics and the keyword density tends to take care of itself.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Ideally, you should take the photos that you plan to use at your website. However, there are free stock photography resources that can help too. I tend to use PixelBay.com the most, but looking for the right image can be very time consuming.
When you decide on an image you’re going to use, make sure the image is properly sized and optimized using a program such as Photoshop. You should also make several different sizes of each image to load on different size devices. It might be okay to have your visitors download a 700k image on their WiFi connection at home, but you certainly don’t want them to download an image that big on their much slower mobile device connection.
You use media queries to load the right image for the proper device. The service you’re using to build your website should have specific instructions on how to use media queries.
Typical mistakes to avoid when you’re building your own website include too much animation (use no animations when in doubt), navigation that’s not consistent and concise, too many fonts (use only one when in doubt), colors that don’t compliment each other and websites that drastically change their appearance on different size windows.
There’s a lot to think about when you’re building your website and if it’s for your business, there’s a lot at stake. Hopefully these tips will start you off in the right direction.