5 Tips for Creating an Exceptional Website

Last Edited January 25, 2018 by Garenne Bigby in UX

5 tips for creating a great website

Creating a successful website is more than just gathering information and publishing it onto the internet. It is about curating content that is high quality so that it is valuable to your readers, and providing a good experience for the audience. There are some clear do's and don'ts for creating a website, but a great website will be thoughtfully created from the ground up. The main thing to remember is that a great website is created with the audience in mind, and won't turn dirty tricks just to rank well in search results.

Determine if You Really Need a Website

Having a website is just one possible way to make your presence known on the internet. Other facets include social media pages like Twitter and Facebook, and pages on review sites like Yelp that allow customers to review the business. Before you embark on the process of making a website, you should clearly know the benefits as well as the cost of each type of internet presence. All types of web presences will allow for customer interactions and reviews, reaching out to new and existing customers, are able to be used on both desktops and mobile, and will be able to showcase all of your accumulated credentials. One cost that all types of web presences share are the ongoing maintenance like removing spam, responding to comments, and the fight against hackers.

On a website specifically, you will have full control over the site, including things like the layout and domain name. You can have multiple pages to hold your content, but a typical website is more difficult to set up and takes significantly longer. There is also the fee if you choose to have it traditionally hosted.

Other types of presence on the web like social media are normally free or are available at a low cost. Their setup is pretty quick and painless, but this is because they offer only limited control over the customizing options like layouts, domain names, and other functionalities.

You should by thinking about all of these things and determining exactly what it is that you want to accomplish with your online presence. If you simply want people to be able to find you or contact you, a business listing on a directory could be your answer. If you are looking to run a shop, a blog, and provide information about what it is that you do, a whole website would be a better option. Will you be able to maintain an entire website, or do you have the resources to make it happen? If you have decided that you have a clear idea of your needs, resources, and interests that will be dedicated to a website, keep reading to find out how to set your new website up.

Set Up a New Website

To begin, you will need to choose your domain name and then register it via a domain name registrar. After this, choose a service to host your website. The domain name is what your website's address is, so you will need to choose a good one. It needs to describe what your brand is— ponder what the content on your website will be. The domain name is one of, if not the, first thing that someone will notice about a website, and it needs to give a clear idea as to what your website is all about—within a glance.

Keeping it short and simple will allow it to be easily remembered. The longer it is, the more likely that it will be forgotten or bring on confusion when trying to recall it.

A domain name is meant to stay with a website for a long time, so aim to use one that can be adaptable if your content changes over time. For instance if you are creating vegetarian recipes but might ultimately incorporate recipes for meat eaters, juliesrecipes.com would be better than juliesvegetarianrecipes.com.

A domain name registrar provides domain names to be used by the public. The hosting provider will essentially rent out space on the servers that store websites, making them accessible to those who are surfing the web. Some companies are able to act as both domain name registrars and hosting services, making them a one stop shop for the initial steps of creating a website. There will likely be bundle options available, so you should research what you need thoroughly before you make a selection—but how will you know when you have found a reliable host?

Consider their uptime. This is the amount of time that the servers belonging to your hosting provider are running. It is possible for a host to go down at some point, but you will want to go with a provider that has very little downtime so that visitors will be able to view your website more often than not.

Bandwidth is another very important aspect of a website host. The bandwidth will show how much data that your site will be able to send out into the internet, thus determining how much traffic your website can handle. Some hosts limit the amount of bandwidth that is available to a website, while others offer unlimited.

You should get to know what kind of security and safeguards should be in place to protect your website from external attacks. Discover if support is offered when an issue with security comes about, like if your website becomes infected by malware or is hacked. Does the host offer customer support in the event that something goes wrong with the website?

Prices for hosting providers span a large range of prices, from free to hundreds of dollars. You will need to find your own personal balance of what you are willing to pay versus what services you need to get in return.

If price is an issue for you, there are several ways to create a website for free—Blogger and Google Sites do provide domain names as well as hosting for free. In the United States, if you have a small business you can go to the Get Your Business Online page to register a free website for one year. Do know that those who provide free websites generally offer less control over the website.

The platform of the host should be easy enough for you to use if you are creating the website by yourself, and should incorporate advanced settings if you need them or will be employing someone to create the website.

What type of additional services and features does the host employ? At the very least, it should offer the things that your website needs, like email accounts.

Once you have decided on a domain name as well as hosting provider, there might be extra technical steps that need to be taken with the domain name and host. The hosting provider can usually help at this time, and after the name and host are linked, you are all set to continue.

Identify Your Audience

Before you take the time to create your content, you need to identify the target audience for your website. The target audience is made up of the people that you want to visit your website. To use an example for juliesrecipes.com, you will probably want people that are interested in cooking and recipes. Once the target audience has been identified, you should curate content that is useful to them.

If you choose, you can use Google Trends to learn about trends and related keywords that your target audience might be using to search. A search of “recipes” will show variations of the term as well as related terms that users have searched for in addition to “recipes”. You will also be able to see when these searches were performed and where they come from. It will show trends over time that are associated with the search terms. When you understand terms and related terms in regards to your content, you are then able to create content that is more relevant to the audience, and ideally bringing more users to the website.

Once you have outlined the plans for your website, show your family and friends to get their feedback. Ask them to tell you what they think of your website through the eyes of a potential visitor. You might also find it useful to conduct surveys and usability tests. The questions that you ask should be able to give you insight about your website; is there missing information? What would the user expect to find on the site? Doing this allows you to see what others see, and often times it provides better insight so that you can relate to the audience better. Once your audience has been clearly defined, you will need to create content with them in mind.

Create Valuable Content

The secret to creating a successful website is to curate the best possible experience for your target audience, using high quality, original content. If individuals find your website useful and unique, they will likely come back to it or link the content on their own website or blog. This helps to attract more people to your website.

As you start to create content, there are some things that you should make sure your website is:

  • Credible. Use citations, original research, reviews, link, and testimonials to show that your website is credible. Boost your website's reputation by providing an author biography and testimonials from real customers. 
  • Useful and informative. The content that you should provide should be information that is useful to your target audience. 
  • More valuable and useful than other websites. When you are writing your content, it should provide more value/ a different perspective than the other articles of the same topic on the internet. 
  • Engaging. Bring life to your content by adding images that are relevant. Visitors should not be distracted by errors in spelling, grammar, or facts. Also, too many advertisements may also be distracting to visitors. 
  • High Quality. The content that you provide should be high quality, specific, and unique. It should not be curated in a way that will provide users a good experience, no in a way that caters to ranking well on search engines. This means that it should not be mass produced, or even distributed out on a large number of other websites. This will ensure that the content stays unique to your site, so visitors will know that they can find what they need.

Things that could make visitors leave your website are: spam, errors like broken links, wrong information, excessive ads, and grammar and spelling mistakes.

When putting together a website, you should work to make yourself familiar with Google's Webmaster Guidelines. This set of rules outline the practices that might negatively impact the performance of the website within Google's search results pages. If the content that you create violates any of these guidelines, Google informs you through the Search Console.

Organize Your Site Structure

You should work to make sure that your website is easy for users to navigate quickly so that they can identify the content that they are looking for. This also helps search engines to crawl the website easily as well as understand the content that is to be considered important.

The navigation bar should have a structure that is logical and clear. All websites have a page that is considered the root (or home) page. In general, this is the page that is the most visited page of all navigation. From this main page, your job is to aid visitors in finding other pages on the website by putting together the navigation bar. A perfectly designed navigation bar will call out important parts of the website, is clear about where links go, and will follow a logical structure. A navigational bar that is organized and intuitive will include links for “Home”, “Contact Us”, and “News”. This navigational bar can be either at the top of each page or down one side of each page. Wherever it is, should be consistent on all pages.

Garenne Bigby
Author: Garenne BigbyWebsite: http://garennebigby.com
Founder @dynomapper
Garenne Bigby is freelance Chicago developer and founder of DYNO Mapper with over 10 years experience in both agency and freelance roles in design, development, user experience, SEO, and information architecture.

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