We’re not going to bore you with the details of how to create a website. You’re too savvy to be taught the basics of setting something up. What we are going to try and do is help you with the things that you might overlook.
We've teamed up with Squarespace to put together a range of helpful advice on creating a successful website. We've looked at why you need to get online. Now let's consider the things you need to remember when pulling together your content.
From checking your copy is correct and adding calls to action to ensuring excellent user experience – the following six points are often the most overlooked when it comes to building a website. Make sure you don't miss anything out!
People have come to expect certain things on websites. If they don't easily find them, they might end up lost and confused, and – most likely – will go elsewhere. You want to avoid this by making your home page as easy-to-navigate and straightforward as possible.
After searching Google for what they need, people will want to know if they've landed in the right place. In which case, offer a clear idea on what your business offers. You'd be amazed by how many creative studios and freelancers try to be smart and assume visitors will "get" their rather obscure landing page. Spell out what you offer and provide general information on your products and services.
Don't try and be smart and get inventive with your page titles; stick to standard names for your primary navigation. A blog is a blog, not a "journal". An "about" page doesn't have to be labelled "Company Mission" or anything else for that matter. Don't give any opportunity for visitors to furrow their brows and wonder where to click next.
If you use Squarespace, you're getting an all-in-one platform that removes all the headaches of building and designing a website. You can choose from a range of beautiful templates that help you get started with the essential bones of what's expected.
Do you need five sub-pages underneath your main "about" page? Could you merge all of those into one? Yes, people want information – but they also don't have a lot of time, which means you only have one chance to capture their attention and make them stay.
If people can't find what they're looking for, they become frustrated and bounce off. Is your navigation clear and concise? Can people quickly get the information they need? Have you remembered to include all the basics?
So you've captured their attention, what do you want your visitors to do next? Add clear calls to action that encourage people to "sign up" or "get in touch", so all your hard work doesn't go to waste. Include an opportunity to subscribe to your mailing list. (If you don't yet send regular newsletters or emails to your database, more on this later.)
You'd think most people would remember to add contact details to their websites, but many don't. It's not that they're stupid – they might be deliberately vague about their location due to circumstances. For instance, they could be a freelancer working from home, worried about sharing their home address. Or they prefer to do all their business online, so why share a telephone number?
Although there are viable reasons to withhold contact information, you risk damaging the credibility of your business. People want reassurance that you are who you say you are. Build trust instead by including a phone number, email address and physical location to your website.
There are plenty of solutions available if you work from home. Find a virtual office provider to add a business address (Central Working offers virtual space, as well as co-working, so they're a good shout). And use a phone service like Vonage or Circleloop to secure a local landline number that's separate from your home phone.
For extra brownie points, add photographs of yourself and your office. It's the cherry on top and will confirm that you're a bona fide expert – the right person for the job.
You've added all the information people might need. They know who you are, and what you do, and can quickly contact you. But why should they bother? A website without third-party validation might as well not exist. I'm talking client testimonials, positive reviews, client lists, successful case studies, awards and accreditations, and anything else that proves how great you are.
You've informed, now you need to persuade. Don't be shy about your achievements. If you've worked for a memorable brand, and they were satisfied with your work, shout it from the rooftops! Just remember always to seek permission from your clients before you add their praise or logo to your website.
What's the point in building a website when your spelling and grammar isn't right? Mark my words, visitors will be put off if they spot any mistakes. And Google won't like it either, punishing you for your sloppiness by reducing your rankings.
If you're pushed for time, consider using a tool such as CheckDog. You enter your website and email address, and they'll instantly create a trial account for you with a scan of the spelling errors on the first 50 pages of your website. For grammar, try something like Grammarly. You add to Chrome, and it's free.
Every time you add a blog post to your website, you’re saying to Google: "Hey! Over here! Come and crawl me. I’m important!" Building content adds more web pages, and more of these help with your overall SEO – mainly when you write regularly in your chosen subject.
Let me put it another way. Imagine your website is a boat in the middle of a vast lake. All of your main web pages are lines with bait, trying to catch fish. Every time you write a blog post, you're throwing in another line. It means you're increasing your chances of driving organic traffic.
When considering what to blog about, question what people might want to read on your subject. So, for example, if you're a photographer – others might want to learn photography tips, or discover your inspirations, or even get advice on the essential kit. Google will be looking for answers to these questions too, so craft content that is rich in your field. Just remember, you're writing for people, not search engines – natural is always best.
One final SEO tip – categorise your blog! Not just for easy navigation, but to show Google what your blog is about. And within each section, write only about that category. Always consider what you're saying to Google: "Hey, this section or web page is about this specific thing, and you can expect lots of juicy stuff on the same subject!" That way, you build credibility and trust, giving you more of a chance of being found for your chosen keywords (such as "Freelance Photographer Manchester") and beating your competition. If you're going for local optimisation, include a category on your home turf and write about what's happening in your area.
Now that you're happy with your website, you might want to consider user testing. It might feel like overkill for a designer or photographer, such as yourself. But it's one of the best ways to understand how people interact with it. And you do that by communicating directly with them, observing their habits and analysing how they behave.
But you're not made of money so how can you carry out meaningful user testing on a small budget? The following tools will help you start your user research:
Google Analytics is one of the most powerful resources out there for analysing the performance of your website. And best of all, it's completely free. There are some more refined versions of heat maps, ‘confetti’ analysis and other traffic visualisation tools out there from premium services such as Crazy Egg. But did you know you can access Google’s free version from within your Analytics dashboard? It will tell you which links and navigation items have received the most clicks on a page and can throw up some interesting initial insights.
Another option is to observe some friends and see how they interact with your website. No matter where they're based in the world, you can interview them while watching their behaviour on-site using free screen-sharing solutions such as Google Hangouts or the free version of GoToMeeting.
We’re big fans of Optimizely for A/B and multivariate testing. It allows you to test different versions of what your web visitors see. It does offer a free version, but you do need some traffic to your site to get meaningful results, and it requires a little bit of technical knowledge to set it up.
If you want to test out different options for the copy on your site, then try getting feedback on other platforms. You can try out different ‘headlines’ on Twitter to see which get the most clicks. You can do the same on Facebook, although you may need to spend a few dollars to ensure your status updates reach enough people. But with Facebook advertising available from $1 a day, it can be an affordable testing ground.
Some testing is better than none. Make the most of free trials and free versions of software to gain insights. And acting upon your findings can help you improve your website, so it attracts and converts more potential clients in future.
Are you ready to build your online presence, and ensure you don't overlook these key things? You can create a website with Squarespace starting from just $12 per month, and if you use the code CREATIVEBOOM – you'll get a 10% discount.
In the meantime, stay tuned to Creative Boom tomorrow and next week, as we'll be sharing some of the best usability testing tools to help you optimise your website. We'll also reveal our top tips on writing compelling web copy – the kind of copy that encourages people to buy your products or services.
Get the best of Creative Boom delivered to your inbox weekly