Building an effective website
An effective website is essentially about the convergence of two things; your business goals and the needs of your target market. Build something that aligns the two and you’ll end up with an effective website. Broken down like that it sounds simple, but achieving that convergence can be a tricky process and a quick surf around the web will soon demonstrate that it’s easier to get it wrong than to get it right.
You’ll note we used the word ‘effective’ rather than ‘successful’. For a website to be successful people need to be able to find it (which we’ll cover in the next chapter on search), but if you build your site to cater for the right people’s needs you significantly increase the chance that, once they arrive, they’ll become more than just a passing statistic.
First, let’s state here and now that this isn’t a definitive guide to website development. This is a book about digital marketing. In this chapter we’ll be exploring how to approach your website with digital marketing in mind.
Our focus is to maximize the effectiveness of your website with a view to your digital marketing endeavors. What follows is a high-level overview of the important elements to consider when designing your website from a digital marketing perspective. It is not meant to be an exhaustive guide.
Most of the topics we touch on here would warrant an entire book to 42 Understanding digital marketing themselves. In fact, if you surf on over to Amazon you’ll find a swath of titles available in each category. You’ll also find an avalanche of relevant (and of course irrelevant) information on the web.
Here, our aim is to arm you with the high-level knowledge you’ll need to make informed decisions about your website design in a digital marketing context and to communicate exactly what you need to your web design partners when it’s time to construct your digital hub.
The main steps of building your website
Different businesses will follow different processes involving different groups of people when designing, developing and implementing a website, but regardless of the approach you choose to take, how formal or informal the process, there are a number of key stages that generally form part of any web development project:
1- Planning: Establish your goals for the site; analyze the competition; define who your target market is, how they’ll find you online and what they’re going to be looking for when they arrive; map out schedule and decide who’s going to do what and when.
2- Design: Decide on the ‘look and feel’ of the site: colors, graphics, information architecture,1 navigation, etc.
3- Development: Putting it all together, taking the agreed design and constructing the actual pages of the site, crafting the content, links and navigation hierarchy.
4- Testing: Making sure everything works, the way it should before you let it out on to the big bad internet.
5- Deployment: Your new site becomes live on the internet for the whole world to find – or not, as the case may be.
6- Usability and accessibility are central to good web design and yet both are frequently ignored, or at least are not given the weighting they warrant when it comes to making design decisions. They are about making sure that your site content can be accessed by the widest-possible audience and delivering the information and functionality users want in a way they’re comfortable and familiar with.
7- Hosting – your website’s home on the internet. The other bit of housekeeping you’ll need to take care of before your site goes live is hosting. Your finished site will consist of files, applications and possibly a database, all of which sit on a computer that’s permanently connected to the internet. This computer is your web server, and will be running special software that will accept requests from users’ web browsers and deliver your web pages by return. It’s a bit more complicated, but basically that’s what it boils down to.
Unless you belong to a large organization with its own data center that has a permanent connection to the internet backbone, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll host your site in-house. A much more likely scenario is that you’ll arrange a hosting solution through a specialist hosting provider.