DIY gets technical: building your website
Check out these dos and don'ts for building your business website.
Barclays Online Business Fortnight
Day 1 - Do you need a business website?
Day 2 - Which social platform is right for you?
Day 3 - Keep out of trouble online
Day 4 - Make the most of free online marketing
Day 5 - Get your finances organised with technology
Day 6 - How to ensure your business looks its best online
Day 7 - How to make a name for your business on social media
Day 9 - Is paying for marketing worth the money
Day 10 - Looking after your customers online
Lots more info - How to ensure your business looks its best online
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When it comes to building your site yourself, you need to make sure your site is ready for your customers before it goes lives.
Web design and UX expert Chris Spurr gave us his dos and don'ts to demonstrate how to build a site your customers will love:
Plan user journeys
Making simple sketches of how users will click through your website will really help avoid any nasty pitfalls. When someone lands on the homepage, where could they go next?
Design for people
Your business or marketing objectives are important, but they are never more important than your customers! Design your website around what people want to find, not what you're trying to push. A good way to find out is to look at your competitors' websites to see what they're offering. But the most important thing is to ask! During the planning stage, talk to customers, ask friends, and find out what's most important to them.
Keep it clean, clear and simple
Don't add bells and whistles unnecessarily. People won't spend long on your site if they can't find what they're after quickly, they'll leave.
Think about conventions, they're often conventions for a reason
Functional things like navigation or help buttons should always be in a prominent place and shouldn't move – this is not the time for 'clever' gimmicks – users won't be able to use it. For example, people know to look for a Help button on the top right hand corner of the page or the footer, so it's best you have one in either (or both) of those places.
This broadly means what goes where! Testing this with card sorting exercises on real users is free and can provide excellent insight. This can be as simple as writing your topics, services or products on Post-Its and asking friends or customers to group them as they would expect to find them. Or ask them in which category would they find a particular piece of content. You know the content of your site inside out, so it may seem obvious where to go to find each bit – but watching other people try to find the same content can be very revealing. If you're toying between two sections for something, the correct answer is always where most of your users would expect it to be.
Plain English, please!
When you're doing your user testing – even if it is just with Post-its – make a note of the language used when they were trying to navigate the site. Keep things in plain English – navigation isn't the place to inject brand tone of voice or buzzwords.
Keep menus short
A good rule of thumb is to have a maximum of seven items in any menu. More options can be baffling to the user. While you're at it, keep titles short too – it will make navigation easier for the user, and for you to fit into your design!
Think about accessibility
This means colours, the size of the type, legibility, and the typeface you choose. When it comes to fonts, some work better online than others. Tools such as Typecast are great for testing different typefaces to make sure they look just as good on a smartphone, as they do on a laptop or tablet. Newer typefaces tend to be specifically designed for use onscreen, but if you have your heart set on an older typeface, check if it has been re-designed for use on screen, as many old favourites have.
Build a prototype
Get real users testing your site as soon as possible. There is always a lot more to learn from real users than from just clicking around yourself.
Don't forget to plan the 'unhappy paths'
If your website requires registration/log in, what happens when someone forgets their password? What do your error pages look like and where do they direct people? Do you have error handling on any forms? There is always more than one user journey and occasionally things will go wrong, but making sure there is a slick, professional page waiting for them, which feels like your business, will make it less of an "oops" moment.
Don't forget to make it make sense
Although you're building something technical, remember the people who are using your website aren't web developers so try to avoid technical terms on any customer-facing areas of the site. This could mean writing a 'human' 404 error page. Think about this especially if you're using a site template which might have some language built in.
Get the lowdown on hosting and maintenance for your site now, and look out for our expert tips on building your business' visual identity online during the Online Business Fortnight.
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