tips, theories etc.

What do I need for a website?

Recently I was invited by a local school to go in and talk to their students about building websites and being a journalist.

This is the kind of thing I love to do for a number of reasons.

One: I’m incredibly passionate about education and have often wondered about becoming a teacher.

Two: I love opening people’s eyes to what they can do if they put their minds to it, especially young people’s.

Three: I just enjoy it. I find schools and colleges and universities really invigorating places to be and I just love being there.

Anyway, to the point of this article. Because I was talking to the teenagers about being a web designer, it made me think about what you need in order to be a web designer. I think it’s the kind of job that lots of young people might think about but might dismiss for one reason or another.

One of the first things that came to mind was that being a web designer involves knowing what should be on a website.

It may sound obvious, but if you know what should be on a website, then you’re part of the way there. Part of the way there in terms of building a good one that people will enjoy using and which will do what your client wants it to do (which is usually sell their product or service).

So, what are the essential aspects of a website?

A good, clear menu

Firstly, your menu needs to be sticky. That means it needs to be at the top of the screen at all times. People will get very frustrated if they can’t quickly move from the page they’re on to the page they want to be on.

The menu needs to be clear and clean so that they don’t have to be squinting to read it or wondering what the headings mean.

I once had a client who wanted images for their menu. It looked lovely but I can’t imagine her customers found it very helpful.

The menu needs to have enough items on it to make it easy to find what you want, but not too many so that it becomes overwhelming. If you’ve got a lot of pages, drop-downs and mega-menus (where the menu expands to fill a big space) might be a good idea.

Easy to read typefaces

The number of typefaces and fonts available for use on a website is mind-boggling. Google fonts alone has nearly 700 and there are a vast number of other ones available on other font foundries.

Typefaces are important. They tell customers what kind of business you are and how you want to be perceived. But if people can’t read the words on your site because you’ve chosen a typeface that is too whimsical or too ornate or too flashy, then they won’t use your service or buy your product. Because they won’t stay on your website or know what you do.

Good quality images

It sounds very obvious but good images really are important. In an ideal world, bespoke photos taken by a professional are the way to go, but many business owners don’t live in an ideal world and bespoke photos don’t come cheap. I’m not saying they’re not worth it – they are – but if you can’t afford them then you can’t afford them.

That’s not to say that you can’t use good images. By all means use free photo foundries (Unsplash, Pixabay, Pexels) but try to be imaginative and avoid boring, dull photographs of people in business meetings.

Another option is to sign up for a free trial of the numerous photo libraries available (Shutterstock, Adobe Photos etc), get your 10 photos and then cancel your trial.

If you need more than 10, then either be a bit naughty and use multiple email addresses or shell out for a plan.

Clear service page(s)

If you’re a shop and you’re selling items like hats or jewellery then you might not need this, but if you’re a service provider then you really do. This is the page on which you tell your customers what you do and how the system works.

Let’s imagine you’re a shop selling t-shirts and offering a customising service.

You’ll have a “shop” page where your off-the-peg t-shirts are sold, but then a “customising” page where you will tell people how it works – do they have to order a t-shirt from you and have that customised? Or can they bring their own t-shirts? How long will it take? The more questions you can answer then the stronger the likelihood of a sale.

Multiple call-to-action buttons

I don’t really like jargon, so I’m going to explain what a call-to-action (CTA) button is. It’s a link, often on a small colourful rectangular background, that when clicked on opens an email, or starts a phone call, or takes the visitor to a different page (often the services or shop page). You can, and should, put CTAs all over the site, simply because you never really know at what point the visitor is going to say “OK, yes, I really want this service/t-shirt/subscription”. When they think that, you want them to be able to act on that thought straight away before they change their mind.

No spelling mistakes or glaring grammar errors.

As a copywriter, I am obviously going to tell you that it’s worth paying a copywriter to write all the words on your site. Because it is.

But as with images, I understand that not every business owner can afford to do that.

However, what you can afford to do is write your own copy and then ask a friend or two to check it. If you type it in Word or Pages or Google Docs first then it will pick up on some spelling mistakes (but not all of them) and it won’t tell you whether your words explain your service properly.

Don’t worry too much about grammar as long but try to avoid glaring errors like “We sell t-shirt’s and cap’s” or “Theirs no beating our prices”. If you do struggle with grammar, then services like Grammarly are well worth a go.

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