Website Design for Beginners
Creating a new website design for beginners is a bigger challenge than most people realize. On the surface it seems like a simple undertaking, but as most people quickly learn, there are many decisions that have to be made. This can be a daunting task for those who are not familiar with what goes into the development and maintenance of a website. To make matters worse, there are many unscrupulous businesses out there preying on those unfamiliar with the landscape.
This guide is designed to give you an idea of what to consider in the development of a website and what to look out for when signing a contract. We’ll introduce you to some of the technical topics to be aware of so that you can make the best decisions for your web design.
What Will The Website Be Used For?
The first question that must be addressed is: what will the website be used for? The answer to this question will have a significant impact on the type and cost of the site you need. Here are some of the more common reasons for building a site:
Building Your Brand
A website is terrific marketing vehicle allowing for a rich variety of media to be presented to the site visitor. Choice of colors, fonts, images and multimedia all combine to present a “look and feel” for a business. In addition, a website presents an endless opportunity to convey what your business does, what it stands for and what your value proposition is. Today’s consumers are looking for businesses they can trust while getting the best value for their dollar.
Sell Products or Services
You may want to sell your products or services through your website – either exclusively or in addition to traditional sales channels. Ecommerce is very common in websites today. While there are many security concerns, the convenience of eCommerce seems to outweigh the concerns of most users. Work with your web designer to ensure security has been considered for your site.
Ecommerce sites are more complex than an information only site because of the added security requirements, transaction processing (credit card etc…) and shopping cart functions. There are several eCommerce platforms available including BigCommerce and Shopify, as well as shopping cart plugins like Woocommerce for WordPress websites. It is reasonable to expect to pay more for a well designed eCommerce website than a simple branding site.
If you plan to sell products, you will need to consider how to reach your audience. Are people searching for your product on Google? Ranking well will have enormous impact on sales and you may need to consider SEO or paid advertising.
Provide Customer Service and Support
Providing online customer support is very common today with most consumers starting their support journey online. A smooth and efficient customer experience can work wonders for building brand and customer loyalty. This function is often found with other website functions such as eCommerce, but is mentioned here because the value of quality customer support is often overlooked.
Save Time and Money
In addition to the traditional website function including eCommerce and branding, a website platform presents an opportunity to automate many administration functions that are part of a business. Accepting online applications, registrations, implementing surveys and processing employee timesheets are just a few examples of what is possible. Automating low value-add tasks allows a business to focus their time and effort on the more important tasks that contribute to business growth. Techeffex provides Applications Development functions using the latest programming and database functions.
Website Design for Beginners Step 1: Decide what the website will be used for
What Will You Have on Your Site?
After deciding what the site will be used for, you will get a better sense of what kind of content you want or need. The pages you need for your site will depend on what kind of business your site is for. To get some ideas, go on the internet and look at other sites that are in the same line of business as you. Decide what type of presentation you find appealing. Here are some common pages that can be found on most websites:
The Home Page is typically the first page a visitor sees so it should make a good first impression. You should be able to link to any of the major information areas on you site from here. Eye catching graphics can be a good idea but don’t get carried away with too much animation or slow loading graphics. Many visitors will leave if it takes too long to get the information they are looking for.
About Us pages are used to give some background or history on the business and is a good opportunity to convey a sense of what the business owner’s philosophies are. You don’t want to get too wordy as the visitors have a short attention span.
A Contact Us page is essential if you need to interact with the site visitor. This page should be easy to find and contain any relevant contact information including address, phone and fax. If you want your visitors to have the option of contacting you using email, provide a simple form for them to fill out. This eliminates exposing your email address to spammers while allowing a convenient option for your visitors.
A Portfolio page is used to display samples of the work you have done. Often in the form of digital images, this is a great opportunity to show off your products or services. Be careful to use high quality images – poor photo quality can sometimes have a negative effect.
A services page is where you document what you do. If the visitor has made it this far, it usually means they are interested in what you are selling. If you can describe all your services on one page that’s fine, but don’t short change yourself. You can add links to other pages describing your services in greater detail. Remember, at this stage you have the visitor’s attention so don’t hold back.
Website Design for Beginners Step 2: Decide what information you need on the website
What Should You Look for in a Contract?
Price is an obvious element of any contract but with web design one has to be extra careful as to what is included in the price. Typical pricing for web design averages around $70/hour or $100/page. Of course, these rates will vary depending on the complexity of your site. Other considerations:
- Is your site hosted by the developer? Many website developers charge low rates for development and make it up on hosting fees. As a reference, the WordPress monthly hosting fee with Techeffex Web Hosting starts at $9.99/mo for the Basic WordPress package which is suitable for most small business informational websites. Shopify and BigCommerce start around $30/mo.
- Do you own the code? “Free” website services like Wix and Squarespace provide an array of design templates that allow a site owner to get a basic site up and running fairly quickly. The downside is if you want to move to another host, you can’t copy or move the design. Most website developers will stipulate that the client owns the code, but it’s worth making sure.
- Support. Web designers should guarantee their code to be bug-free for at least a year. Most will guarantee the code forever as long as no one else modifies it.
- Updates. Does the price provide for any modifications down the road? Normally specified in terms of update support hours with 2-3 hours being the norm. This allows an additional page or two to be added should it become necessary. Many websites are being designed with a Content Management System (CMS) allowing the site owner to make modifications through an easy to use interface. Also, platforms like WordPress routinely get security and functional updates several times a month. It’s important to stay on top of updates and this should be discussed with your developer.
Scheduling a web design can be difficult because a website tends to be more art than science. For example, you may start out thinking blue is the best color but once you see it on the screen you may decide red is better, or maybe brown, or yellow etc…
It is still reasonable to expect the developer to adhere to certain milestones, particularly in the absence of any changes. If your site is expected to be over 10 pages, ask for some form of schedule or milestones so you can track the website developer’s progress. Just be aware that if you keep changing requirements, it will delay the project. That’s not necessarily bad; you want to get a site you’ll be happy with. On the other hand, you don’t want to get bogged down with details that will be lost on your site visitors.
Most developers will want a portion of the cost up front and have the balance paid at the completion of some milestone(s). Never pay the whole cost up front. If a developer asks for this – walk away. It is reasonable to pay as much as 50% up front, but no more. Larger, more complex sites will typically have multiple payment milestones. Most small business sites will have the up front fee and the balance paid on completion.
Website Design for Beginners Step 3: Pay attention to the details in any contract. Never pay the whole cost up front.
Website design for beginners can be a bit overwhelming. There is a lot to learn and a lot to consider. You will want to find a web developer who is easy to talk to, can explain the issues and is available. A good web designer knows you will have a lot of questions and will make time to ensure you are comfortable with the process.
This guide introduces some of the concepts involved in getting a web presence established. Your next step is to find a web designer that will develop a great site for you and be there to help you as your internet needs grow.