Website Best Practices

This short description of best practices was written for beginners in mind.  There is an infinite number of areas where websites can be optimized but for simplicity’s sake, we are going to start with the basics.  After all, want to get you up and running with a website that looks good and serves its purpose.

When designing a website, there are several things to ask yourself.  Who are the users of your website?  What will they be looking for when they come to your site?  How can I make it ridiculously easy to connect the visitors to my website with the content they need?

Who are the users of your website?

  • Age, sex, education-level, and any other demographics of the customer you are serving will determine the content and appearance of your website.
  • You want the visitors to your website to be able to understand clearly the message you wish to convey in words not easily misunderstood.  If there is a simpler way to say it, then do so.
  • Are your visitors urban or rural?  High-speed internet connections are not very common in the country so if you are serving an area like West Texas or Montana, you may want to optimize your website for low internet speeds.
  • Are you in a Spanish-speaking area?  Don’t waste money on expensive translating services for your website.  Let Google Translate do the work for you for free!  (Click here to see this page in Spanish!)

When people arrive at your website, what are they looking for?

  • Why is Bob visiting your website today?  Does he need a car seat safety class?  Does he need to buy tires for his truck?
  • Just like supermarkets clearly organize aisles so you know exactly where to go to buy cereal, you should clearly organize your website navigation so that Bob knows where to click to get tires and where to click to get his car seat safety class.
  • If Bob can’t find his tires right away on your site, he is going to search on Google, Yahoo, or Bing.

How can I tell how effective my website is?

  • Google Analytics.  Sign up for a free account and add the code hey give you to the bottom of all of your pages.
  • This will tell you who is coming to your website, what pages they are visiting, which pages aren’t being seen, and which pages are bing left right away.
  • Help!  I don’t know how to use Google Analytics!  No problem.  Check out their free online training.

What are some things I should absolutely keep in mind?

  • When designing your website, you should test it in the following browsers:  Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Chrome, and Safari.  This will make sure your site looks good to nearly everyone who visits.  Not everyone will be visiting your website on the same operating system using the same browser on the same type of computer.
  • Do not prompt visitors to open your website in a specific browser at a certain desktop resolution.  Example: “This site is best viewed using Internet Explorer 6 at an 800×600 resolution.”
  • You should provide contact information, a mission statement, and any other relevant information about the organization.  If your company’s name is “Yards of Fun” you might want to clearly indicate that you sell three-foot lengths of silly string or inflatable castles for front yard parties.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Ask people to give you feedback on your site.  Don’t be offended if you get constructive feedback, be grateful.

Keep in mind that every website will evolve over time based on feedback you gather from visitors, either by way of Google Analytics or by surveys.  Even the very simple-looking page at www.google.com has become very advanced over time running thousands of scripts in the background.  Don’t be afraid to take the first step forward in creating and maintaining a website.

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