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8 Tips for a great website

Lots of people focus on getting a website build for the cheapest possible price. There is plenty of competition who will always go lower. They tend to churn out cookie cutter sites that all look very similar. There is no time for support with such low margins

What you are aiming for should be more than just a website. For many people, your website is the first thing they see of your business. What they see forms their perceptions.

80% of Australian businesses have a website. You need to stand out from the crowd.

Make a plan

Most websites evolve over time. They grow and have extra features added. This often happens on an ad hoc basis.

Imagine a site that starts with a few pages and then gets a photo gallery. Later on a blog gets added. The next extension is an online shop. The next feature is a search box but search indexes the pages and blog posts but not the shop. The site still works but none of the parts really talk to each other. Does any of that sound familiar?

I've seen businesses start with website builders. DIY tools can help you get a great looking site up and running very quickly. Businesses can often outgrow them and find they no longer fit their needs. The next step is getting a new site built. This can take time. In some cases, it is almost impossible to export your old site to the new one. Page builders have an interest in keeping you.

If you have an idea of what you might want in a year or five years, you leave room for that expansion. Planning how your site might evolve can save you time, money and pulling out your hair.

Be Original

Always start with original content. It is easier to stand out from the crowd. Start with writing your content. You know best what image you want to project. Having said that, it is always a good idea to have somebody else look over your copy.

We've all seen the stock image with attractive people with headsets to illustrate support. We've all seen the businessmen in suits shaking hands. Big glass buildings anybody? Stock images can be overdone. Find images that are different to everybody else.

Hiring a professional photographer can be money well spent.

Be Authentic

Your business has a personality. The tone of the site should reflect that persona. The tone can be set by the colours and images you choose. It is also in the copy on your site

Get images that sum up your business. In a crowded place, people get good at spotting fakes.

What Do Your Customers Want?

It's a simple question but one that is often overlooked. Put yourself in your customer's shoes and tell them what you can do.

I you were a customer, what would you want your website to say?

Responsive Sites Matter

Now roughly 60% of visits come from mobile devices such as phones or tablets. Mobile users will often behave differently to desktop users. Your site is competing with many other distractions, so it is import to make your site as easy to use as possible.

A minimal design can look plain and boring on a desktop, but they often work wonders on a mobile device.

Look at your text size. Can your read your site on a phone?

Speed

You typically only have around 3 seconds to capture the attention of users, so it's important to make it count.

Sites that are heavy on graphics, image sliders and movies can take time to download. If your site is dependent on these, then it might be worth reviewing them.

Wordpress and Drupal sites often use plugins and modules to increase their functionality. These plugins come with a cost. The may load more stylesheets and JavaScript. They will almost certainly mean more queries to the database.

There are some tricks to dealing with this. One is to put your site on a diet. Check and see if you really need that plugin, slider or movie.

HTML5 has a tag called . You can load one picture for small screens, another for medium and another for large screens. It is not that well used yet but will get more popular.

Lazy loading is another technique. JavaScript is used to query the database and load content as you scroll down the page.

Review And Revisit

Keeping content up to date and relevant is a lot of work but it does help keep up the search engine rankings. Googlebot loves fresh content.

A site will get crawled and indexed by a search engine. It will come back. If there are no changes, it will be longer before it comes back. The more often you add fresh, content, the more often you will get visited.

Quality

Don't be tempted post any old rubbish. Search engines value quality. There is an arms race between search engines and those wanting to game the engines to increase rankings.

An old technique was stuffing metatags with popular terms that had nothing to do with the website content. Search engines now place very little weight on meta keywords, choosing instead to extract the keywords from your text. Another old technique was writing content to repeat your keywords over and over. Search engines are wide to that one too.

It is far better to not worry about the latest search algorithm. Just concentrate on high quality content. That's ultimately what the builders of search engines are aiming for.

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