Building a professional website is inherent to the growth and success of a business. Not only does it help enhance the online visibility of your business, but also add to create a customer base for sustainable growth. However, before we contemplate building a professional website, it is important for you to understand the purpose of a website.
Websites have unknowingly become an integral part of our lives as they have helped businesses to communicate and facilitate with customers/users better than ever before.
Understanding the Purpose of Building A Website
Websites, in the recent times have become more communicative and an excellent resource for information. Not only do they add to the branding of a website, but also help visitors looking out for quality information. So if one does not find accurate, comprehensive information they are seeking, they are ought to move over to some other website that serves their purpose of communicating the exact information.
The purpose of websites is also to facilitate. So, it is by large a two-way communication where visitors after being impressed with the communicative approach of a website are increasingly willing to contact a business through its website by way of inquiries, bookings etc. thus serving the next key purpose – facilitation. Moreover, websites can facilitate efficiency by saving your time, helping you multiply your customer base and automate a few processes as well.
Nonetheless, the real purpose of a website is ultimately to bring value to your visitors, which besides encouraging customers to be interactive and participate in the business process should offer greater understanding to assess information, evade queues and be empowered to get a wider perspective on products and services offered by the website.
Presenting a step-by-step guide to building a professional website that will help you understand the intricacies of creating a successful website and the various do’s and don’ts associated with it.
Step 1. Website Specification
Creating a viable website specification is an integral part of building professional website. It is one of the most crucial document that helps a business reflect it’s priorities, responsibilities and create a brand image. While essential planning and precise information is foremost to develop a winning website specification, the success of search engine marketing and successive optimization efforts is concurrently dependent on your approach and ability to deliver a cohesive plan at present.
Besides stressing on accommodating pointers like budget, delays, deliverables, intellectual property, the purpose of the website, the site architecture, domain, the (standardized) languages used and mainly the content besides information on content management and hosting; a successful website specification should include:
- Intent of the document
- Project description
- Front-end functionality like common features, sitemap and website structure, each website page description, wireframes (home page and at least 2 other important pages), miscellaneous functionality
- Back-end functionality like use cases and conclusion
Step 2. Requirement Gathering
Requirement gathering is an intrinsic part of professional website building process. The right amount of requirement gathering after due understanding of the project deliverables plays a crucial role in the success of a professional website. One of the basic rules of requirement gathering is, to be realistic to customer/project requirements and not rely on assumptions.
Define and understand the scope of the website and create clear and concise requirement document, without filling it up with technology jargon or offering an instant solution to possible problems until the requirements are fully understood. It is suggested that you create a prototype if required to refine or confirm the customers’ requirements.
Step 3. Process understanding and Planning
Process understanding and planning is strategic to creating a successful professional website. It is indispensable to clearly state the mission for website creation – identify and analyze the requirements and goals, understand the marketing objectives of the business, so as to successfully caters to the needs of the target market and create a development process to achieve an appropriate endpoint.
Creating a project charter document is recommended for process understanding and planning. This will help you chalk out a blueprint of the process – what you intend to do and why, the technology and content required, the proposed timeframe for the process, budget and the appraisal of deliverables. Therefore, a viable procedure for strategic process understanding and planning would be to:
- Defining the objectives of the website
- Customer Conversion Architecture: the process which structures a website to facilitate users in achieving their end goal.
- Interaction design and Specifications: the process that involves website design testing, including the proposed forms and interactivity of the website.
- Website Development and Usability testing: the process of website building, based on the final specifications.
- Website Deployment, Marketing and Review: the delivery of the final product and deployment to a live website environment, inclusive of monitoring and review of the website for understanding customer flow and its success ratio in achieving the requisite business objectives.
Step 4. UI Design
A good UI design is the one that is user-friendly, responsive and lets users to be at ease with the interface, stay engaged and most importantly achieve goals. Therefore, it is important that you first know and understand your target market, i.e. the user and create UI design that lets them achieve their goals.
Study UI patterns that your target market is used to, and create familiar interfaces for them to feel at home and keep coming back. Create a conventional UI design that speaks your user’s language and ensure to keep it rather simple. Remember, the best UI designs are sensible, concise and devoid of unnecessary bling.
Also, a key principle of UI design is not to be apprehensive about making mistakes or be inhibited of failures, but to move forward and learn from analyzing user’s UI pattern.
Step 5. UX
Building a successful professional website cannot be complete without the right UX or user experience. UX is mainly about a visitor’s response and perceptions about using the website. Considered to be one of the most crucial aspects, user experience and usability if applied correctly in website design can give you the much required edge over your competitors.
In short, UX plays with the emotional quotient and experience of your customer; because the highly competitive market calls for ‘knowing your customer’ and their pattern of using the web rather than just concentrating on the functional aspect of your website (product).
A few of the most notable elements that contribute to optimum user experience are content, usability, branding, functionality, accessibility, pricing, reviews, site architecture, and design. The rewards of creating a superb UX is nonetheless tantamount to ensuring brand loyalty for your business, as well as boosting website traffic and consequently conversion rates.
Step 6. Development
A strategic web development process is paramount to the success of building a professional website. Website development requires a great amount of focus on meeting user requirements. Because, remember you just have 8 seconds to retain a visitor on your page. It is important that a proven development methodology is adopted so as to ensure that besides generating unique and repeat visitors, they help convert into customers, so as to achieve the set business objectives.
This requires initiating the website development process after meticulously setting the objectives of the website and defining the target audience and policies for information development. Thereafter, due analysis needs to be done so as to evaluate information consistency and verify correctness of domain information.
The next to feature in the methodology of a website development process is Design, where you can isolate information into page-sized chunks; connect pages along routes of use; cater information, context and navigation cues; besides creating a consistent look and feel. Thereafter, comes the process of Implementation where you can create an extendible directory and file structure, use HTML tools as and when required; use templates for supporting consistent look and feel; as well as check implementation in various browsers.
Step 7. Testing & Review
One of the most critical part of a website building process – testing and review, ensures that a successful endpoint is achieved so as to meet the business objectives of the company. The main areas that need to be addressed is to understand the website functionality and usability from the user’s perspective and then offer constructive and actionable recommendations on problem areas. A strategically performed testing and review ensures that the professional website developed is in accordance to user expectations, while keeping the objectives of the company intact.
Step 8. Convince Visitors
Convincing customers to trust on your online business courtesy your website is one of the most important aspects of building a professional website. You cannot expect people to do business on your online platform if they are not sure of your credibility. One of the first rules is to be accessible to your customers.
Make sure that your website provide information about the history of your business, experience in the given field and most importantly include detailed contact information – so that in case they have a problem and require solution, they can get in touch with you.
Most businesses in the recent time are connecting to their customers via social media networking like Facebook, Twitter, etc. This is in fact one of the most convenient way to give your customers a sense of acceptance to your online business, while getting instant feedback that may contribute to your understanding of UX. Consider offering guarantee on your products and services; include testimonials in your website while making sure they invoke trust and not sound trivial.
However, nothing can beat the credibility factor that can be garnered by placing Portfolios of your products and services in your website. Not only will it help visitors preview the quality of products/services offered by your business, it in fact gives your business the edge of legitimacy and establishing credibility online.
Step 9. Tracking and Evaluation
The convergence of success in building of a professional website can only be achieved through skillful tracking and consequent evaluation or analysis of visitor (traffic) activity in your website. Not only is it important to keep a track of the unique visitors in your site over a given period of time or the number of requested pageview, besides other variables; analyzing of site user behavior and pattern courtesy the server logs of your website can help towards developing quantitative data on the success of your website.
It is recommended that site logs with readable site traffic reports, complete with data graphics and charts be archived for long-term analysis, so as to understand user needs and interests change, for making the necessary changes.
Step 10. Maintenance
Website maintenance is a crucial part of professional website building, as the actual job of making your website a success begins only once after it is launched. It is important to understand that site maintenance is not just limited to constant monitoring of the aesthetic and functional aspects, but also a coordinated effort on the part of the site editor to streamline new content, maintain the graphic and editorial standards, while ensuring that the programming and linkages of all pages remain intact and functional.