You want to make a website but not sure where to begin. Or maybe you already have one, but have no idea how to make it better. Well my friends, there are 3 key elements in a stellar website: the design, the images, and the copy.
Let’s talk about the design.
My top recommendation: have it professionally done! I’m not just saying that because its my job, I say it because it makes sense.
Today one of my friends mentioned she received a piece of furniture that she ordered online. She could have paid a little extra to have someone assemble it, but she decided to try it herself. After a long night of reading instructions, the piece is still not put together and she has war wounds to prove it. Sure, she’ll get it assembled at some point in time and it will work great, but, wouldn’t it just have been easier paying a little extra to have it done and have it built right?
See where I’m going with that story? Yes, you can create a website on your own and I’m sure it will look great. But, will it be like my friend’s furniture piece and be built properly? Will you have taken every piece into consideration? And how long will it last before you realize you expected something more?
A professional designer will have it done faster and better. Why? Because they do this for a living. They know the benefits to having a great home page design. Or having your H1s worded a certain way for SEO reasons. They have built that piece of furniture over and over again and know the ins and outs.
If you’re yelling at me right now because you don’t have the funds or you really would just rather make something on your own, its ok! You can. You can get a theme from WordPress or Squarespace or Wix or where ever, and make something splendid. If you do want to create a site on your own, be sure to have amazing images.
Let’s talk about photography.
A website is only as great as its photography. Go to your favorite website and imagine it without the images. No graphics. No photos. Nothing. Not so awesome, right? Images MAKE a website! Spend time taking great pictures. Think about composition. You don’t have to hire a professional (although, it is highly recommended), you can do this on your own. Have an understanding of what makes a great photograph. Stop being the overly excited BFF with the disposable wind up camera and clicking at whatever looks fun.
Stock photography is a great option for those that cannot afford a photographer, do not have time, or do not feel comfortable taking their own pictures. Stock photography sometimes gets a bad rap but, a stock photo is going to be better than anything your 2012 camera phone will produce.
Insider Tip: Many times, it won’t cost very much to have a designer create an ad or a slideshow image.
Another option is to create something and have a designer give their critique. Some will do this at no cost to you, others may charge their time. Either way, cheaper than a full web design or professional photographer.
On the same lines, if you have a slideshow or need an advertisement created or want to highlight an event or section on your website, spend time thinking about the design.
When a slide pops up on a website with neon letters in 5 different fonts, you’ve lost me as a user. Not only have you lost credibility, but you appear to have just discovered fonts in MS Word. Nothing against that program, but put a little thought in how you present yourself online. Would you wear rainbow socks, oversized 1980s graphic tee with a fancy suit to your high paying job? Having ridiculous graphics on your website gives off the same vibe.
Let’s talk about copy.
People do not read everything that is posted on a website. They want important information in digestible chunks. This doesn’t mean you only need 1 sentence on every page, but more so that you need to organize it in a way that is quick and easy to read. You’re not writing a novel or a 5 page report.
- Use Headings, Subheadings, bullet points, lists, etc. to organize your content.
- Highlight the sections you really want people to read.
Hit a return when you have a paragraph that might be too large.
Users like reading simple copy. Get to the point. Think Twitter-style but do not use “tween speak.” Still present yourself the want you want to be seen. Maybe you’re edgy and like to use humor. Maybe you’re very professional and proper. Whatever your style, be sure to carry it through with the design, images and copy.
If you want to make a website really awesome, make sure you have a decent design, great photographs, and informative copy. Everything needs to match your brand and how you want to be seen online. Its ok to use a template from WordPress or Squarespace, but put some thought into it. Learn about how to make a great layout. Learn how to write great web copy. And learn how to optimize for the web. If this is something you want to do on your own, spend some time learning about how web design works and why there are people that get paid to do it for a living.
Have other ideas? I’d love to hear them in the comment section!