Anatomy Of A Website
I can remember calling construction businesses over twelve years ago to find out if they had a website. We had a mixture of responses to the question varying from antagonism to an indifference on the subject. So, what happened to change that?
*In 2010, 30.1 million adults in the UK (60 per cent) accessed the Internet every day or almost every day. This is nearly double the estimate in 2006 of 16.5 million.
Everyone Wants a site now
It is no wonder that business people now want to set up a website with figures like the above. It is important to have an effective site available for your clients and future customers. So, in order to get your business in front of ‘surfers’, it is important to have a web presence. But, is it that simple?
I can do it!
Every business including Architects, Builders, Quantity Surveyors et al now wants a website and of course if you type ‘website designer’ into Google you get 302 million results. Everyone can now design a website for you from the 12-year-old to the guy down the pub who is prepared to have a go and the large company with every known Internet discipline on board and everyone in between. Of course, there are some very good companies out there who know exactly what they are doing but how do you choose which one? More on that later.
Then, of course, there is the question of budget. How much are you prepared to pay for a good site? When I went out to get some prices for my own site they ranged between £7K and £15K. We eventually paid much less for the same outcome but of course, it can be quite a science to the uninitiated and stressful unless you have a clear understanding of what it is you want.
Why do you want a website?
Would a website benefit your Structural Engineering business? If so, how do you develop a site that will be accessible to your clients and at the same time contribute towards the building of your business? It is clear that your business needs a site and you may well have sourced a trustworthy firm to move your plans forward. A website in my understanding puts a ‘personality’ to a face. In other words, the site is attractive and draws people in to engage with you. After all the site is for your customers, so looking attractive is very important.
If you go shopping for a new shirt and you are like me, one of the first things I do is feel the material, appreciate the colour and check the price. With a website, we need to give our customers the kind of experience that makes them want to come back for more. Be interactive! If I am in the shop again and the staff member is disinterested or just offers me their sales patter it switches me off. A lot of websites do that because they appear more interested in themselves and offer the standard patter. How does that make you feel?
Character Qualities of a Website
I asked Martin who has been a graphics designer for over ten years to comment on the important steps to consider when having a website developed. He suggests following these guidelines.
- 1. The site must reflect your personality
- 2. Must look good. Aesthetics do play an important role.
- 3. It must have a clear “call to actions.” Relevant details and info must be visible and/or easy to find.
- 4. Must bring across – quickly – what it is that you do.
This is not an exhaustive list but it does give you some of the basics to start out.
Jakob Nielsen summarises these important issues in a sentence; “Clear content, simple navigation and answers to customer questions have the biggest impact on business value.”
Wireframe or Plan
If you wanted to build an office block you would need to approach an architect to draw some plans for you. It is just as important to draft an outline of what you expect your site to look like and how you want it to function. Again, we will look at this in more detail later on. So, I have done my research on good websites and have come up with the following ‘key’ components which need to be taken in to account.
1. Appearance – Make sure that your site is aesthetically pleasing with the balanced usage of images and colour. A simple yet professional design which is easy on the eyes and with colours that contrast well. Ensure your text is not too small. Try and break up your text with headings which focus the readers’ mind and highlight your content.
When people arrive at your site they should be able to determine quickly what you are offering and how it will benefit them. A good site will speak quickly to your visitors through your headlines, text and graphics and convince them to take relevant action.
A website should say to its visitors;
“ I’ve been designed with YOU in mind!”
2. Content – We have all heard the phrase, ‘content is king’ and it is important to stamp your own character on your site by writing in your own style with information that will inform and attract visitors. I am told reliably that we need good content on our site because the internet is the information superhighway and this is the place that increasing numbers are sourcing products and services. If you feel you cannot write or you lack the motivation to hire a copywriter who has experience within your niche. Don’t be afraid to try different things and then test the response to each of them.
3. Functionality – Your site is for your VISITOR and not for you. However, consider what you would want if you visited your own site. It will need to load quickly and take your visitor straight to what they are looking for. Try to think like your visitors. Draw up a profile of your visitors so you will understand what they want from your site. If we make the customer experience enjoyable, they’ll be back. A good hosting company helps to ensure your pages load quickly. Check your links to be sure they work well. If you enjoy power tools as I do they need to do what they say on the box. If they don’t I take them back. If your website doesn’t do what your visitor wants they will go to another site that does.
4. Web Usability – “A web usability redesign can increase the sales/conversion rate by 100%” [Jakob Nielsen] Your site should be easy to navigate with pages downloading quickly and information easy to retrieve. Help your visitors to stay with your site by creating content pages that are integral to the site rather than opening up a new window.
“Every time a link is opened in a new window the back button is disabled. Approximately 60% of Web users employ the back button as their primary means of navigation (source: Usability Interface). If you do this then you’re preventing 60% of your users from using their primary navigation – now that can’t be good for usability.”
5. SEO – Search Engine Optimisation – A tongue in cheek statement by Danny Sullivan is very true to life. “SEO is only not seen as rocket science by those who already know it.”
People said to me, John you must have your site optimised. Cool, I said, but why? Oh! well, you just really need to have it done. It’s a bit like going into PC World for a laptop and the assistant asks you if you are looking for a Second Generation Intel Core i5 Processor. But, when pressed he cannot explain to me what this really means, let alone why I need it.
So, what is SEO?
1. SEO is a search technique which helps search engines like (Google, Bing, Yahoo, Altavista) find and rank your site above the millions of other websites in response to a search query typed into your browser. Search Engine List.
2. Try typing into your browser some keywords from your website. (Construction Marketing, Blogging for Architects, Anatomy of a website) See if they come up when you press enter. If your site comes up on one of the first three pages you are doing well and you need to continue what you are doing.
3. Most people will not go beyond the first 3 pages during a search which means that your customers will not find you and your business becomes invisible to them. You need to take action.
4. Use words people look for and then place those words or phrases in the right places on your web pages.
5. A search engine like Google has what is called a ‘spider’ which crawls around the net to find out what is there. ‘Spiders’ follow links from one page to another and index everything they find on their journey. It does take time as I am reliably told there are about 20 billion web pages, so your site is visited only every month or two. I came across this marvellous comic with characters to explain SEO more simply. Watch SeoMan for a very helpful explanation.
There will be more to come in the weeks ahead as we discover what makes a website tick, who we can call upon to help design one and what separates the good from the mediocre. We would really appreciate hearing about your experiences while having your website designed. It goes a long way to helping others get it right.