06 Jul 10 pillars of good web dev
We’re old enough to remember a time when just having a website – any old website – was enough to make a business stand out.
Now every business has a website. Web design and development have moved on by light years. You can build your own site, even if you can’t code – or hire some random guy working out of his mum’s spare room to do it for you, on the cheap.
We’re not saying there’s anything wrong with that. It works just fine for many businesses. But the point is, websites these days are ten a penny. Having one doesn’t make you special. What makes you special is having a website that really works – for your business, and for your customers. A lot of the time, clients who come to us for help have websites that simply don’t meet this basic requirement.
We could tell you that you need an all-singing, all-dancing e-commerce website with a fancy CMS and a bunch of complicated integrations. And maybe you do – but maybe you don’t.
The truth is that good websites are good websites because they tick some key boxes – and that truth holds for small, simple sites and big, complex ones alike.
If your website isn’t working for your business, there’s a good chance it’s not ticking them, and no amount of marketing will fix that. Like property, and supermodels, great websites start with good bones. Let’s take a look at the ten pillars of good dev:
A fast site is the number one must have for driving conversions or sales. Search engines rank fast sites better, and today’s consumer has the patience of a two-year-old in a dentist’s waiting room; they are not prepared to sit still and wait to be seen. They want responsive sites with rapid page loading and auto-play content.
This means all the content you upload to your site needs to be optimised for web, and it also means you need to choose wisely in terms of what content you include. In the interests of speed, less can often be more.
A hosting is the physical web server that is connected to your domain names and holds all the information for your site. The host also provides technical support in the event that something goes wrong with your site, server or security.
It’s really important to buy a good quality, secure, and scalable web hosting. Avoid cheap, shared hostings that use a single server to host multiple sites – your website will be slow and much more vulnerable to hacking. A dedicated server is a more expensive option but gives you excellent speed, security and the freedom to scale up your site as needed. A Virtual Private Server (VPS) is an in-between option that offers the best of both worlds.
Whatever you choose, make sure your server has good security with SSL certificates (essential for e-commerce sites), daily backups and an easy-to-use interface so your dev can view the server content, make changes and keep your site secure without needing to contact a server administrator.
Selecting the right domain name is one of the most important parts of web development. Whether it’s a good one or a bad one, your domain will quickly become integrated into your brand and although you can change it later, it’s always better if you don’t have to.
Great domain names are short, easy to say, spell and remember. Ideally, they should tell the user something about the business or brand. All of these things help sites to rank better on search, and also to stick in the minds of their customers for future visits and word-of-mouth recommendations.
4. Content Management
All good websites have a good content management system (CMS). This makes it easy to maintain and update the site so the content is always fresh and relevant. A good CMS will give you the freedom to present information in a way that is both informative and engaging for visitors. This means your content will rank better, attracting more traffic, and will ultimately keep people on your site for longer, making them more likely to convert.
It goes without saying that it’s important to publish new content on your site regularly, and remove old or irrelevant content in a timely manner. Google is always watching!
Strictly speaking, site navigation is a web designer’s responsibility, rather than a dev’s – but collaboration between the two often makes for the best site navigation. Your nav is the menu bar across the top of the site and it should be as simple and explanatory as possible. Keep it concise, without too many options. Resist the urge to give the tabs quirky names and focus on getting users where they want to go as quickly as possible.
Mobile accounts for just over half of all web traffic globally so if your site isn’t optimised for viewing on a mobile device, you could be missing out on half your potential customers. Many businesses now adopt a mobile first strategy for this reason, creating sites that are specifically designed for mobile and adapt for desktop viewing, rather than the other way around.
Error 404: Page Not Found shows up when a site visitor follows a link that no longer exists. As well as being really annoying, these errors are a sure sign that your dev isn’t staying on top of website maintenance, and will be punished by Google. When removing or replacing old content, it’s important to redirect any broken links to a suitable landing page.
9. Webmaster tools
Tools mentioned above such as Tag Manager and Google Analytics are essential for helping you to gather data on your website’s visitors. You can track things like daily, weekly and monthly site visitors, how they arrived on your site, how long they stayed and what they looked at while they were there.
By tracking bounce rate, you can figure out whether people liked what they found or went elsewhere. By analysing this information, you can learn about what users want, and make sure your site provides that for them. You can even implement tools for things like A/B testing to see what design elements and content work best to get your customers to convert.
The final, and perhaps most important point. We can’t say it clearly enough that a website is never ‘finished’. So often we get customers coming to us with websites that are three, four or even five years old and have never been touched since the day they were launched.
A website requires constant tweaking and maintenance to make sure it remains responsive and up-to-date. Failure to maintain your website can result in security and data breaches, software and plugin failures, and reduced functionality due to broken links and outdated content. We’ll say it again – Google is watching! If you don’t maintain your site, search engines will know, and punish you for it.
That’s it! 10 simple ways to make sure your website is working well for you, and for visitors. None of these tips are rocket science but for a professional dev, they’re second nature – so when we work on your site, they get taken care of as standard. Contact us today for integrative marketing support that connects tech, creative and business strategy to help you grow online.