Building a website doesn’t need to be a complicated process. Using your online business plan and functional specification document as a starting point, you next need to address the following issues.
DIY vs. Outsourced
As with other stages of the online process, you do have the option to outsource some or all of the work involved in building a website. This is a great option for those who do not feel capable of creating a website from scratch.
It is recommended you search for a developer with experience in delivering the style of website you are aiming to create. This does not have to be limited to industry specific websites, but should be related instead to style. Some questions to ask about your potential developer include:
- Does the developer have experience in delivering the functionality you desire for your website?
- If applicable, does the developer have experience using your desired platform?
- Can the developer provide references from previous clients, including testimonials?
- Are previous clients still using the website design?
- Do their previous projects show the following:
- Easy to understand navigation
- Consistency between the website’s design and the company’s branding
It is recommended that you state your budget at the beginning of the process, so that the developer can determine what type of platform to offer you.
You would have already conveyed your technical requirements in the functional specifications document, but it is also a good idea to have a discussion with your developer about the style, look and feel you desire, as well as the do’s and don’ts for how to use your brand. Find out other considerations to discuss with your developer in our blog post – Make Your Website Last.
Once you feel comfortable that your chosen developer is capable, it’s time to start the process of building your website.
Templates vs. Custom Sites
A relatively simple way to build your website, with or without the assistance of a developer, is by using a package that provides a design template and a content management system (CMS). Design templates provide you with a stylised design for your website; a CMS is a platform that gives you the tools with which to manage it.
Template designs are generally a cheaper alternative than creating your own CMS, or using a web developer to build a CMS. Programs such as Freesites and Weebly allow you to add your content to a template and go live quite easily. They do not however, allow much room for changes.
Programs such as WordPress and Drupal act as a standalone CMS, but do also include templates. They allow you to create a website without much need for HTML or XHTML coding. You can also engage a web developer and request they build your website with one of these platforms. This is particularly useful if you already feel comfortable with a particular system, and wish to build a similar one for your website.
Your web developer will often have graphic design skills, or be part of a team that has these skills. They can work closely with you to help you determine the look and feel of your website, including its navigation.
As your website is a starting point through which new clients can find you, you could use it to help build your brand. This can be as simple as using your logo’s colour palette across your website design. If you are happy with a design on any printed material you may have used in the past – newspaper ads, mail flyers or even your business cards – consider showing examples to your designer or web developer to see if consistency can be included between their designs.
There is no right or wrong in choosing between a design template or a custom design; rather, your choice should be a reflection of your web needs and your budget.
You can include as much or as little content on your website as you wish, however in general, customers will be searching for the following content, which you should endeavour to include on your website:
- Contact Information, including your business name, phone number and address. You could also build a contact form
- Opening hours and a map of your physical store (if applicable)
- A search function to allow customers to search your website
- The ability to return to the homepage, preferably within one click.
You also need your content to be easily readable. In general, the following guidelines can help to create accessible text:
- highlight keywords by using eye catching, bold fonts
- strong contrast between text colour and background colour
- strong contrast between text colour and link colour
- sub-headings that reflect the content
- short paragraphs
- bullet points
- minimal words per page.
Images are also an important part of your website, and can be a valuable tool in communicating your product or service. You could consider a professional photo shoot of your staff or products, or purchase licensed photos through a provider such as iStock or Shutterstock.
Creating content for your website does not have to be a complicated process, but you should take the time to ensure your content is relevant to those who are searching for your business. Keyword research and the process of search engine optimisation (SEO) can help with this. See our Search Engine Optimisation module for more. You can also research your competitors to see what they are doing effectively.
To be publicly available, a website needs to be stored on a server that is constantly connected to the internet. These servers can attract large amounts of traffic and require dedicated management and maintenance personnel. You can do this through a process known as hosting. Hosting your website refers to storing its files on a server. This service is generally paid for by a monthly or yearly subscription with a web hosting provider.
If your website has been created by a developer, ask them about hosting; they may be able to provide you with hosting on their own server. Alternatively, you can search for hosting providers. Some things you may wish to consider in choosing a provider include:
- Cost. In general, you should be wary of hosts who provide hosting for free. In most instances, they may only be able to provide enough storage space for a very small website which is often not enough for a business website. They can also offer free hosting in return for a display ad or banner on your website.
- Server space and bandwidth. Make sure these figures are more than capable of maintaining your website, and ensure it is available at all hours. A hosting failure can make your website inaccessible, so look for a service with a 98 per cent or higher uptime guarantee.
- Security. You need to make sure your data, and the data of your clients, is stored in a secure location where it cannot be accessed without authorisation.
- Support. If you need help, will someone be there to offer support?
Making your website work for mobile
The electrotechnology industry is particularly targeted towards searches on mobile devices, especially in emergency situations. For this reason, you may wish to investigate the options for optimising your website for use on mobile devices.
Smart device technology in Australia
There are two main options to consider in developing your website for use on mobile devices; creating a mobile version of your website, or optimising your website for use on mobile devices.
Creating a mobile version of your website
Creating a mobile version of your website means creating an entirely new website designed to display content on the smaller screen. Although the website has an entirely new CMS, it can use much of the content from your original site. Even though this will generally involve a new design, it is considered best practice to provide users with a link to your full website.
Programs such as Duda, goMobi and Mobdis are available to assist. These programs use the current source code of a non-mobile friendly website, and allow you to adjust it for one of their pre-designed, mobile friendly templates. The process is a quick and easy way of creating a simple mobile website, without the need of contacting a web developer.
Optimising your website for any device
You also have the option of including building one website that will fit to any device and screen size, whether it’s a laptop, tablet or mobile device. This means you will have one CMS and one website that resizes depending on the type of device and internet browser. If you have created your own website but do not have knowledge of web markup language, you can investigate plugins for your website, for example WPtouch for WordPress or Mobile Plugin for Drupal. Alternatively, speak with your web developer about creating a responsive website; they may be able to use cascading style sheets to achieve this for you.
Tips for the electrical industry
Mobile customers searching for electricians have very specific needs. During times of emergency, the customer will often be searching for an electrician or contractor that is available immediately, regardless of time of day. For this reason, mobile friendly websites for electricians should be optimised for contact in the first instance. This can be through the use of click to call services, whereby the customer simply clicks a button when searching on a mobile device and is instantly connected to a phone call.
Proof reading and testing
Proof reading a website can be a long and arduous task. It can be helpful to do your initial content proof read while the content is still in document form, i.e. before it has been entered into the CMS. You might want to consider printing out a copy if this is practical, as you might pick up errors on paper that you’ve missed on screen. If you have both written and proof read the content, it is recommended you enlist the help of someone else for proof reading; a fresh set of eyes is always a good idea in proofing.
Additionally, be sure to proof your website’s technical elements. Questions you might like to ask include:
- Are all metadata fields complete?
- Are keywords used consistently throughout the site?
- Do your hyperlinks work?
- Are headings used consistently across pages?
- Are dates and phone numbers displayed consistently across pages?
You should also be aware of how your website looks in common internet browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox etc) and different sizes, so don’t forget to test functionality across browsers and devices. This will be particularly relevant if you have optimised your website for use on mobile devices.