You can’t afford a web designer – I get it. I’m a little upset with your choice, but understand your situation. Being a small business owner myself, I do many marketing things on my own rather than pay someone hundreds or even thousands of dollars because I simply can’t afford it.
However, if you’re going to build your own website, there are a few things you MUST (and I repeat) MUST include on your website.
Raise your right hand and repeat after me: I (state your name), do solemnly swear that if I decide to attempt the unchartered waters of the internet by building my own website, I will adhere to the following basic guidelines.
You can put your right hand down now (medical clause).
Take copious notes…..
1. A logo.
If you don’t have one, get one. Every business needs a logo if you’re going to have a website. Logos quickly communicate your company’s personality and ethos to users.
2. Clear Navigation.
The homepage is like a beacon. It’s the “light” to go to when someoneis lost on your site, or can’t find what they need. Make the navigation clear, simple and to the point. Horizontal navigation is easier on the eyes than vertical.
Copy and content is extremely important on any page within your website for SEO and accessibility reasons. Keep things clean and clutter free. Consult a professional, if necessary, to help write good content with keyword rich phrases and hyperlinks most commonly searched upon based on your company’s product and/or service. Your objective is to be found thru search engines and this is one of the key aspects in attaining your online goal. (Note to self: You need SEO experience to understand how to get noticed online. If you feel that putting your own website up is enough to gain yourself internet traffic, you are unfortunately mistaken).
4. The Web Visitor’s Objective.
What do you want them to do? If it’s to buy a product or service, then provide a CTA (or call to action) area to make that area ‘pop’ so the visitor will want to click on it. Do you have a special offer? Have a section which you can regularly change out with seasonal or weekly offers showing an image and the offer itself (i.e. 20% off all leather furniture thru August 22, 2012).
People are drawn to visually expressive pictures representing what your site is about. So, if you have a website about pet products, don’t put pictures of Kim Kardashian on there…….wait – on the other hand….
6. The Fold.
Your most important stuff (and this means the stuff you want people to see right away), should be above the fold. So, don’t put your hot new offer at the bottom of the page where someone would have to scroll down to see it. Here’s a little clue: Most people are lazy when it comes to searching online. They don’t scroll on web pages. If they can’t find what they want in 5 – 7 seconds they’ll go to the other 2,356,402 results they have at the ready. You’ve seen them before, right? Those web pages that can scroll on, and on, and on…….and on to the point where you need a splint for your forefinger. Some don’t believe in the fold anymore. I still do, so I’m posting it on my blog. So there!
The design on your homepage should remain consistent throughout the remainder of your website. Don’t make your home page black and then change up the design on the contact page to pink with purple stripes. People will think they’ve left your site and traveled into Toys R Us land.
There is alot more to building an effective website. A lot more.