Building your website

Here are a few notes to help you build a user-friendly website.

Where to begin?

With a pencil and paper...

Decide what you want to achieve from your website.  Is it a general brochure for your company?  Are you intending to identify specific products to sell?  Then put yourself in the position of your intended reader and consider what they will want to know.

Spend a little time designing a site-map (like a family tree), noting what information you would like on each page, try to keep it simple and logical without too many pages

Have a look at other websites on subject matter that is important or of interest to you; see which you like and then analyse why, it's a good idea to bookmark them in a folder for future reference.  Look at their layout:  Have they used bullet points?  How have they used images?  Can you employ any of their design styles in your website?  When you are interested in the subject matter of a website you will be surprised how much more information you can quickly glean from uncomplicated websites.

Points to bear in mind

The heading on the page is read by Google and other search engines and should succinctly identify your business, eg Promotional Pens, Websites for small businesses, Furniture Restorer, House cleaning services. 

Menu options should be simple and clear, the reader may not yet be an expert in your area of business, help him find his way round.  When you set up a new page you will be asked for a "Menu description" this is the text that appears when the cursor hovers over the menu option before you click.  This needs to be descriptive but also succinct.

Use action statements in your text to drive readers around your site eg "Click here to see a demo", "See our rates" and "Book now!".

Headings
Use sub-headings to break up text so the reader can easily scan down the page and find the information required.  It is also worth summarising the content of the page at the top.  If there is a lot of information it might also be worth including a simple bullet point list at the top of the page consisting of the side headings used on the page with embedded links so readers can be transported down the page (don't forget to include an opportunity to go "back" to the top of the page at the end of the section).

Caution
Be careful not to "cut and paste" from documents you haven't written, Google will know if it has read it somewhere else and it will count against you when it comes to ranking you in a search.  As with mis-use of illustrations infringement of copyright is expensive.  However don't be afraid to refer readers to other websites if the information is going to help them understand your products or services better.

If you are including links to external websites it is worth checking them regularly, leading the user up a blind alley doesn't help your credibility. 

None of us likes to think we'll make a mistake, but typographical errors can easily creep in to the most perfectly composed prose, so before you hit publish ask a trusted colleague to read over the material.

Good opportunities
If you are a member of an association you may be able to include a link to their website using their logo - it is important to check with them first though, they'll also send you a specially designed logo you can embed in your document. 

Ensure every directory that includes your company includes your website address, don't miss an opportunity to lead potential clients to your on-line brochure.

If Yellow Pages (and its on-line version www.yell.com) is a medium you use as part of your advertising strategy then you might consider looking at their on-line advertising prices for your entry (http://www.yelldirect.com/internetadvertising/home.html), you can have a hyperlink from your company name to your website for just under 100. 

Remember to clearly state your company registration number, place of registration and registered address, this has been a legal requirement since 1 January 2007, the most common place to put this is on the About us page.  It also needs to be embedded in all emails.

Using Images
When you place an image on the page you will be asked for a "Image description" this will be the text that appears when the cursor hovers over the image.  This information is also read by search engines, so make sure that it is short and simple but also descriptive.

Include a few pictures but try to keep them limited; some people still use dial-up!  Don't risk losing someone because they get bored waiting to download your images.  But don't be afraid to use graphics/icons/photographs judiciously because they do break up text and brighten a page.

Keep images simple, like text they need to be succinct, if necessary use a photo editor to trim pictures of excess information round the edge, if you are showing people don't be afraid to just show head and shoulders, but do make sure you start off working with a large image or the picture will appear fuzzy on screen.  If you can't choose between images why not consider creating a gallery page?  Each image can be captioned and can provide the user with an over-view of your work.

Remember who "owns" an image (photograph or graphic), if you didn't take the picture make sure you have the agreement of the person who did take it before using it - copyright infringement can be expensive!  It is also a good idea, out of courtesy, if you are including a picture of a person to let them know. 

A few other ideas
Consider the advantages of an events page, you may not think that it applies to your organisation but it can help your reader, and if he finds it useful he will bookmark it and return - giving you more opportunities to impress him.  An events page can be as simple as events that are pertinent to your industry - tradeshows, local events, or maybe anniversaries (a real bonus to florists!).  Use it to keep client's up-to-date on where they can see you.  Keep it up to date (making sure it's accurate), you can add links to pages within your website for more information such as the location of your exhibition stand or events you are sponsoring.  Search engines will also find this data which will help your ranking in a search.

If you offer seasonal promotions ask readers to return the contact us form with a simple message eg newsletter or special offers, you will build a "subscribed" email list for emailshots, you may not get many but you will have a high quality list - after all who signs up for unwanted emails?

Finally

It's worth remembering a few typographical rules: firstly use the minimum number of fonts (including sizes) it is generally established that 3 sizes is the maximum - heading, sub-heading and text.  Add bold to emphasize a word or phrase but don't put the whole body in bold or it will lose impact and will be uncomfortable to the reader.  Avoid upper case except to conform with grammar convention, it's uncomfortable to read and is like shouting at your reader in panic - STOP!  FIRE!  It is accepted that 10pt is an acceptable point size on screen - if it looks small on your screen it might be worth checking your setting: on the browser menu select View and then Text size, take it up one as necessary.  Most browsers will now automatically set for large screens which will seem small on laptop size screens. 

 

Some useful links

Here are some links to external websites, you may find them helpful as you consider and build your website: 

Business Link:
http://www.businesslink.gov.uk

Google:
http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=35769&ctx=related

 

 

 

Accreditation mark March 2014

Accreditation Mark July 2016

Squarezone Ltd is an Accredited Channel Partner of Nominet, the UK domain names authority


Building websites
for small businesses