10 Remarkably Simple Tips to Make Super Websites Everytime
- 13 February 2012 by Dean 1 Comments
Everyone who has built a website has at least one regret – something that could have been done differently, something that took much longer than expected, or something that just didn’t work at all – does this have to happen with every website you build?
Learning from your mistakes is the best way to learn, so learn from my mistakes and have an easier time building websites!
This post is a retrospect of the lessons I learnt from working in digital teams planning, creating and marketing websites. Thinking back before that, before any real formal training, if someone told me about these 10 things below I would have saved a lot of time and made far better websites.
1. Spend More Time Planning
Don’t know where the finish line is? Well then you’re going to be running around for a while trying to find it…
The amount of time spent on planning a website is far less than the time wasted on going around in circles while you forever tweak the website. Planning gives you a clear picture of what the outcome will be, which helps you make better decisions.
It also makes for a consistent and coherent website. When you’ve planned everything in a thoughtful manner, the big picture is considered and everything fits. When working without a plan, sites become very piece-meal, messy and often buggy.
Read: How to Plan a Website.
2. Set Realistic Expectations
You have a finite amount of time, energy and money to get the website built with results you want – aim high, but be reasonable.
- Do you really need a member database with login functionality and profile management on your website?
- Are you able to acheive 50,000 visits in the first month – if yes, how do you feasibly get those numbers and what do you do with this traffic?
- Can you really make $10,000 from your website every month – how do you get revenue, what’s your marketing strategy and how do you convert visitors?
Plan for long term growth and create strategies to achieve it. Don’t expect huge numbers in the first few months – build a solid foundation and work on steady monthly increases.
The planning phase helps you set these expectations. You look at all the ideas and then narrow them down to a few that you can actual make happen.
Being realistic should also mean being optimistic. The point is to aim high, but be reasonable about it!
3. Aim For Fast Loading Pages
Internet connection speeds are getting faster, but that doesn’t me you can make your website fatter.
Use less (or smaller) images. With CSS3 now able to make rounded, shadowed and gradient buttons, as well as rounded tabs and more, it’s amazing to discover that the average size of web pages is going up – not down.
The file size of each page has an impact on your SEO (Page Speed score) and the user’s experience. Data from big websites like Amazon show us, that slowing down the page load by even a few split seconds results in more people leaving your page before it loads.
4. Agile Development
Protype, test, refine.
Agile Development is a model for managing development (e.g. programming projects). When working with WordPress themes (or any general site development), develop in agile mode.
The agile method of running projects is quite indepth, but for solo or small team efforts in building websites, you can take away these 3 basic steps:
- Prototype – all the core bits of functionality (forms, feeds, sliders, widgets) are doing what they should. They aren’t necessarily formatted (i.e. designed) perfectly – but they work.
- Test – methodically check each piece of functionality and take notes of what needs fixing.
- Refine – finalise testing by fixing everything and complete the refinement by polishing off the formatting.
This is a good basic model because the tough part of most projects is often getting the functional pieces to work. If you try to force these into some HTML and CSS you generally take longer to get things perfect.
5. Ask Lots of Questions Before Buying a WordPress Theme
Some premium WordPress theme developers make hundreds of thousands of dollars every year. Get your money’s worth when buying from them.
The details page of a premium WordPress theme will tell you about all its fantastic custom features, like “SEO ready WordPress theme” or “9 fancy sliders”. When considering buying a premium WordPress theme, ask lots of questions of the developer and make sure it can handle what you want to do.
6. Don’t Keep Running Past the Finish Line
Browsing the net everyday, we are bombarded with inspiration and ideas… maybe I’ll add that cool thing to my site!
You could tweak forever – make a clear finish line and when you reach it, don’t keep running. This tip has its roots in tip number 1 – plan more.
While it is important to have a great looking and functioning website, you need a defined milestone when you say “OK the site is finished – now I’ll spend my time building links/blogging/getting email subscribers (whatever will make your site a success)”.
That being said, you’ll need to redesign or make a new website one day. I suffer from the “I want to add that cool thing to my website” affliction on a daily basis. There are a few ways I keep track of these ideas:
- Take a screenshot and add a note about what you like and how you can use it.
- Bookmark the page in a dedicated bookmark folder (e.g. inspiration/future website redesign).
- Add it to a tickler or calendar to remind yourself of it later.
- Add it to a “project support” folder/document (I’m a big fan of the Getting Things Done method… readers of this book will know what I’m talking about here).
Everything is at hand to inspire your next project. Then when the next website comes along, so does the chance for increased awesomeness!
7. Words Matter
A great design will get noticed, great website copy will get the user involved.
While you may have a keen interest, or are experienced at making websites, chances are you’re not a seasoned copywriter. The actual content on the page matters more than anything else on your site, so by having powerful marketing copy and concise body content, you’ll have a more effective website.
This has been one of my biggest lessons learnt – I tend to write too many words – but over time I have been reading and practicing how to write better headlines, body content and marketing copy. The practice has paid off – but there is always room for improvement!
8. Social Success is Hard Work
When you go in as an unknown, you need to build trust and reach out before you can get loads of friends.
To be a winner in social networks, it takes time and involvement. You need to be a member of that community, talking to other users, engaging with their content, unselfishly sharing their content and more…
The key at the beginning is to not spread yourself thin – you don’t have to be on every social network all the time.
The strategy I take is focus on one social network at a time. Build an engaged follower base on that social network before launching the next one. When you do launch subsequent profiles on other social networks, you’ve got an existing follower base to help spread the word (and many will join you!).
- Twitter Basics: Become a Master With These Easy To Follow Tips
- Google+ Page Profile Design – Free Template
9. You (Don’t Get Others to) Test Enough
You either don’t test enough, or when you do, you don’t involve others enough.
Testing is important.
Actually, testing is very important…
If you follow the agile approach (tip 4 above) then you’ve done a good job throughout the process of building your site to ensure that everything is working. A dedicated testing phase at the end should be a more complete view of the entire site, including the user experience.
Get others to use and test the site before telling the world about what you’ve made. Show a few people, but one word of advice… don’t react to everything they say. You’re testing with a small sample here. Carefully evaluate the feedback and only change what is necessary.
Do what you’re good at, and use others (or use their work) for the stuff you’re no good at.
Don’t try and do it all yourself. Even for small websites, if your aim is to have it look professional and achieve professional results – get the pro’s to help you or you can use their work.
How do you use their work? Stock assets – such as stock logos, premium WordPress themes and stock icons, photos or illustrations – are industry standard assets which will give your website the professional touch.
Take these 10 tips onboard for your next website project and see how much smoother the process is!
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