We recently built a website for one of our Valparaiso Indiana clients. They heard about us because of our membership in the Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce but also because of our new Business Finder Directory where every JM2 Webdesigners customer receives a Platinum membership free of charge ($180/year value). During the process we thought about what goes into building a professional website solution for our clients. The entire process took around 20 hours to complete and as we dug into what was involved we thought we would share so that others can see what we feel was a great effort by our entire team.
Design and Structure
The first step we have to come up with is how this design is going to be done for our client. We start out with a whiteboard as this allows for making quick designs without using paper as part of our less paper initiative. We have already talked with our client for an hour (typically more) to get a feel of who they are as a company. We strive in learning about their individual personalities but also the culture of the company. Being we feel a website is an employee we want to bring out a personality that is consistent with those in the company as well as showcase their culture as this is what makes up their company as a whole.
From the "employee" persona that we are building we check not only the latest design trends for their respective industry but the internet as a whole. We look both locally as well as nationally for inspiration to make their brand shine in a way that they want. We make certain that we don't jump onto the latest bandwagon of the latest technologies because it is the latest design craze. We choose well balance and proven techniques for converting customers on the website. After all the purpose of a website is to inform and then take those now informed visitors into paying customers.
Every site that we build is never the same as another. Every website though has an overall "look-and-feel" and is called a template. Two chain restaurants are not the same even if they are on opposite ends of the same city. Nor are any two businesses the same even if they are owned by the same owner. This is because each one has different employees that have unique personalities that help drive customers to their location. Each location has their own unique culture and way of interacting with the customer that is different than the other. This is why you will never see two of our sites being exactly the same or built from a pre-defined template.
Being that we don't buy predefined templates we have several graphic designers on staff to handle this. We do this as a sales person or a person that can drag-and-drop onto a framework will can produce a site. We feel that your business needs that extra oomph without increasing the cost of your overall site.
We design the core template so that it is responsive in nature. In web design you can do a responsive web design (RWD) or an adaptive design. With RWD the site will work well on any size device that exists today and has a very good chance of working well on new screen sizes that come out in the future. We stay away from the adaptive designs where a desktop and mobile template are created as this doubles our work effort but also Google has stated that they prefer the same experience for all users for all devices. An adaptive design can do this but takes more effort as well as routinely higher costs.
As we are have grown as a company we further see the need for content. They state that content is "king". Consumers will come to your website and stay because of high-quality and unique content. This is why we have brought onboard content writers who specialize in writing for newspapers and people with a writing background. Not every site needs content written though as many businesses are able to provide this information for us. We never include this in our core pricing package but offer it as an add-on service to our customers that would need this service.
With quality written content you can truly make your site shine not only from a readability standpoint but also from a search engine standpoint to help showcase your business as an expert in the industry you are in.
Part of content is pictures to add some emphasis to the words you are writing. As important as text is pictures can change the entire feeling of a website. By choosing the right pictures you can extend the amount of text within your site without adding more words. Like content this is equally a time consuming process.
Footers can and often are the unsung heroes of a website. Many companies will put in a copyright, a few links, and an address. A footer can be much more than that. You can include brands that you service, mission statements, and information that is informative to your customers.
The little details
When building a site there are many aspects that we see missed by many people. We're going to outline just a few of them below.
When we build any site we test with the last two versions of every major browser. Our current browser test suite is Microsoft Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, Apple Safari, Opera, and Mozilla Firefox. We test the browser in desktop, tablet and mobile sizes.
We mentioned mobile sizes as with a responsive design screen sizes vary and browser windows aren't always maximized. But what about the actual phones and tablets themselves. We test on the latest tablets from Apple and Google as well. For mobile smart phones we test against Apple, Android, and the Windows Phone.
Any site that we build goes through more testing than development. This is to make certain that the experience that your visitors receive is consistent across as many devices as possible.
Favicon & Apple Icons
When you are browsing a website you will notice an icon in the browser. This is called a Favicon and is representative to being a smaller version of your company logo. This is often missed by many and a default icon is shown. When a user saves a page of your website this also goes into either an icon next to the users Favorites or if they save on their desktop an icon is shown. These icons help extend the experience for your users and provide some brand consistency.
Speed, Performance & Image Shrinking
As images are chosen we've seen people upload images so large for the web that they are designed to be printed with the highest quality printers on the planet. This slows down the overall user experience and provides a less than desirable result for your visitors. Other areas that can affect is called minification where files are shrunk to the smallest possible amount. To a visitor of your site they will never see this and will just improve their experience on your site. Another factor for improving a site is caching of the information. This will provide information from your site at a faster rate of delivery, often from multiple secure sources, to provide a responsive experience for your users.
An important aspect of any website design is having analytics. You can use many programs to achieve this. A great source is Google Analtyics as the price is always right (e.g. free). Having analytics you will know who is coming to your website, what time, the type of device (desktop, tablet, or mobile), and many other core items that your business needs.
Every website and everything on your screen is built with pixels. Pixels are the small dots that are on your screen. During all of our testing and evaluating a site before a customer sees their test site we will move items around on the screen. Both as part of our A/B testing but also from a visual aspect. It is not uncommon that we will add a pixel in one spot, remove another somewhere else. Every move changes the feeling a website has for the visitor. This is one of the most challenging but gratifying aspects of a web design.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
One of the most powerful aspects of everything is thinking about the search engines. Building a website and not having it be found organically is a major problem for companies. The adage of if you build it they will come is not necessarily true on the internet. Time and thought had better be done already in the design and structure phase as well as the content phase for the site to be successful on the search engines. This doesn't mean "spamming" your pages with keywords. This can work in the short term but Google and the other search engines are quite smart in what they do when it comes to indexing the Internet and will penalize your business for not following their recommended best practices.
With all of the above you can see there is a lot of items to cover to create a great website. In the above we didn't cover the time we spend after a site is created to train our clients on how they can add, edit, and change content on their website.
If you are interested in learning more about how a fast growing Northwest Indiana company in Valparaiso Indiana can help take your business to the next level, we would love to hear from you. We are reachable through our 800 number at 855-456-2669, email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through our online contact form here.