Things to Consider When Designing and Developing a Website

 Choosing a Domain and Host

Great domain names (take a look at Google and Yahoo, for two) say so much while saying so little. In addition to being memorable, a domain name needs to accurately reflect your brand's voice and be nearly impossible to misspell. Finding the right name for your brand is crucial, because incorporating a combination of SEO, simple spelling, and brand identity into the domain name leads to a higher chance of being located in search engine results. Simply put, businesses that are easily accessed online get more customers.

When comparing hosting packages, it's vital to consider the nature of your website and business. Will the website be media-rich, with loads of pictures, videos, and presentations? Do you have technical support in-house, or do you need reliable, responsive support from your hosting provider? Also think about the amount of traffic your website will receive. Does the hosting company offer scalable solutions? What backup, security, and additional features are offered? Don't forget to research reviews about the company's performance on social media and third party websites before making a final decision.

 Clean Design

One of the most important things to remember during the process of website development is to create a clean, appealing design. A quality design is attractive and easy to read with intuitive navigation. Most importantly, a clean design helps viewers focus on the value of your brand and content instead of distracting graphics and large amounts of text. Often, customers associate website designs with the quality of a particular company or product. Hence, a clean design is vital to providing a positive user experience that encourages customers to return.

 Branding

Branding is important to all businesses, both large and small. The design and placement of your brand's logo contributes to a viewer's overall opinion. Professionally designed logos successfully catch the customer's eye and provide a clear picture of the brand's unique voice. Choose a location on your site that is readily visible to visitors, such as the upper left corner, since this is where the eye naturally begins to scan a website. To further solidify your brand's identity, consider using the same logo on packaging, print advertising, and branded apparel. When a business is consistent with branding, it provides customers with an integrated and memorable brand experience.

 Functionality

When thinking about functionality, there are a few matters to consider. Namely, is the website functional in the literal sense? Are there loading issues or broken links? Are the site's security features adequate for your business's needs? In addition to these operational issues, it's crucial to view your website's features from the user's perspective. Are the contact forms, surveys, and customer feedback sections of your site working properly? One or all of these functional issues can prompt a customer to leave your site.

 Navigation

If a website is confusing and difficult to navigate, your customers may leave and never return. To increase the efficiency and appeal of your site's navigation, conduct an in-depth site review as if you are a new visitor. Note the navigation streams that make sense and those that do not. One way to improve a visitor's ability to navigate your site easily (and help search engines crawl your site) is to add a site map. Furthermore, streamlining navigation by eliminating unnecessary or underperforming pages may decrease load time while improving the quality of your brand's online presence.

 Usability

Websites that are easy to use are more likely to garner customer interest and encourage business. Usability can be increased by displaying product and service information in a clear, concise manner. Make sure your website has all the features a customer would need for the site to be easily accessible. If a viewer is reading your blog and wants to subscribe to an email newsletter, do they have to hunt for the opt-in form? Is your contact information clearly displayed? Does the layout of your website encourage social sharing and further interaction with your brand? These key elements are essential to review when optimizing the usability of your site.

 Clean, SEO-Friendly Code

Whether you're developing new webpages or optimizing existing ones, it's critical to have clean, SEO-friendly code. By taking the time to improve your site's code, you can increase the overall return on investment. SEO-friendly code acts as a guide for search engine spiders by providing a clear picture of your site's content. Certain CMS services, such as WordPress, provide plug-ins designed to simplify the process of cleaning up code and increasing search engine rankings. Since it requires little coding knowledge (if any), WordPress is a great resource for companies struggling to drive traffic to their websites.

 Mobile Sites vs. Responsive Sites

Statistics indicate that the use of mobile devices to conduct online searches has increased significantly in the past two years. In fact, approximately 95% of mobile device users count on their devices to search for local products and services. To effectively reach this growing population of mobile users, businesses need to be sure that their websites are available from any device. For a large company with an existing web presence, it makes sense to develop a separate, mobile-friendly website designed to perform well on any device. On the other hand, a business planning the launch of a website would be better served by choosing a responsive design capable of adapting to any device.

 Integration with Social Media

Integration with social media is no longer a novelty - it's a requirement. As technology makes information sharing more convenient, businesses lacking social media integration fail to take advantage of what has been likened to modern day word-of-mouth advertising. Social media provides a venue in which customers can promote your brand, provide reviews, and stay in-the-know about your company's latest news. Written and visual content, including product images and branded video, are easily distributed on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn with the addition of social sharing buttons on your website.

 Customer Testimonials

Similar to offsite reviews, customer testimonials can be used to promote your business. By featuring customer testimonials on your site, you demonstrate your company's skills, products, and commitment to customers. If you already have a loyal customer base, reach out to a few and solicit online reviews. If they're willing to provide a recorded testimonial, take advantage of this opportunity to create a branded video. The more genuine, detailed testimonials your company receives, the greater your chances of gaining new customers.

 Google+ Author Verification

Though Google stopped accepting page verification requests (not to be confused with Google+ business page verification, which is still active), it remains essential to complete Google+ author verification for your site. Linking site content to specific authors using Google+ profiles allows the search engine to easily distinguish between content created by a human and content of a lesser quality. Completing the Google+ author verification steps also ensures that the author's byline and photo appear in SERPs. When looking for relevant content, customers greeted with the promise of information provided by a real person are more likely to click on the link. As a bonus, claiming your brand's byline in SERPs makes it easier for customers and peers to connect with it.

 Tracking

Between Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools and bing Webmaster Tools, web developers have the mechanisms necessary to accurately and efficiently calculate return on investment. For both traditional and mobile websites, these instruments can be used together to monitor traffic, engagement, and conversion rates. After digging deep into the data, it's possible to uncover which marketing campaigns work best and which are underperforming. These valuable insights into why customers come to, stay on, and leave your website help your team perfect marketing strategies and adjust engagement techniques to maximize results. Since your branded online presence acts as a 24/7 storefront, it's essential to simplify the outcomes measurement process by using Google Analytics along with Google and bing's Webmaster Tools.

 Comprehensive Sitemap

When you sit down to read a book, what's the most helpful section to review first? Typically, it's the table of contents. Acting as a summary of the book's details, the table of contents provides a snapshot of material found within. Similarly, a sitemap provides visitors and search engines with the information to easily navigate your website and discover its contents. To keep your site up to date, it's necessary to revise the site map as new pages are added. Google Webmaster Tools simplifies this process for you.