Ultimate Web Design Guide
Finding web designing services is like finding a remodelling contractor to work on your house — it’s not something you want to gamble with because the risk is so high, you could lose your shirt.
Even the most professional website design consulting services make mistakes, and if yours does, it can cost you thousands of dollars, not to mention the time and aggravation that goes with it.
That’s why you don’t just rush to hire anyone to design your Web site. You want to hire the best that the industry has to offer.
Unfortunately, finding one is not easy. Web designers can range from self-taught Webmasters to Internet marketing experts with years of experience and plenty of successful Websites under their belt.
What’s Website Design?
In the simplest of terms, website design is the process of developing websites that are visually pleasing, easy to navigate, functional, and appropriate for your web business.
Web design is a multidisciplinary field, requiring skills from both the graphic design and programming fields. Many people think of these two disciplines as separate entities — you have a website designer who creates the layout and a programmer who creates the logic that makes it all work.
The Qualities of a Great Web Designer
Website design is an iterative process. Meaning, the first attempt at designing your site might not be 100% correct or on target, so the designer goes back and modifies it until it is.
That iterative process makes Web design very difficult because you don’t know if your end result will be what you want until you get there. It’s not like building a car, where things are either right or wrong. Websites are more fluid — they change during the entire creation process.
It’s this iterative process that separates average web designers from great ones. A good web design agency will be able to provide you with at least three samples of their work that are relevant to your site, specifically highlighting how they were able to adapt their creative skills to the particular subject matter.
If the web design agency can’t provide this, then walk away because you want to be sure your website will be designed by someone who has the knowledge and skills necessary to adapt their design work to your industry.
The Qualities to Look for When Choosing a Web Design Agency
So, how do you vet a website design agency? What are the qualities to look for when choosing one?
Here are some hints to help you.
#1 Check their Portfolio
You want to see at least three projects completed by the designer you’re planning to hire, explicitly highlighting how they adapted their creative skills to your particular industry. If the agency is unable or unwilling to provide samples of their work for this specific purpose, do yourself a favour and “next” them.
#2 They Inquire about your Business Objectives
A competent website design agency will be in no rush to jump on your project. They’ll first want to understand your business and the image it wants to project.
They’ll want to know about your competitors, the unique aspect of your business, pricing strategies, how you plan to sell your product or service, and much more. In other words, they’ll start by asking you the right questions so that they can provide you with a tailored website design solution based on your needs, not assumptions.
#3 A Dedicated Team or Staff
This is quite big!
You want your website design agency to be committed to your project and the success of your business, not just with you for the short-haul.
Look for an agency that has dedicated account managers and web designers who will be with you through every step of the development process and beyond. In other words, you’re looking for a long-term business partner, not a one-project stand.
#4 A Website Design Agency with a Great Story to Tell
In the end, it boils down to trust and relationships – you want an agency that will be there for you when times get tough. The best agencies have won over clients by going above and beyond their professional line of duty, making a real emotional connection while doing so.
You want to look for an agency that speaks the same language as you. You want to feel like they understand you and what you are trying to achieve. You want them to motivate and inspire you rather than frustrate you by insisting that their way of doing things is the only right way.
#5 A Reasonable Contract:
A web design agency that offers free initial consultation is likely to be as good as their word, but there’s no harm in asking for – and checking – a contract.
The best contracts are those that only lock you into the job if both parties agree. Don’t fall for an agency that promises you the earth and delivers a contract agreement and payment plan that look much like ransom notes. Instead, find an agency that will let you pay the fee in stages and only locks you into a contract when everything they’ve promised is complete and ready to launch.
#6 Website Maintenance
Ask the web design agency if they offer maintenance services. You want to know that your website will be kept up-to-date with changes in SEO, URL structure, and other on-page developments that might affect how Google indexes it over time.
Choose an agency that can help you make necessary improvements or updates as your business grows or new opportunities arise.
#7 A Pledge to Work with a “Growth Mindset”
You want an agency that will work with you as your business grows and changes, rather than trying to pin you down into a permanent contract that could put a crimp in your style as you go forward.
The best agencies are those who understand the importance of flexibility and scalability, developing with you as your business changes. It’s the difference between actual charity – which expects nothing in return – and codependency, where neither partner is genuinely independent. Watch out for agencies that act like they’re doing you a favour by working with you.
#8 An Agency that Can Provide Creative Solutions
It’s not just about what they can do now, but how they can help you grow your business over time. Websites are living, breathing organisms that need to change and grow with you as your business moves forward. You want an agency that understands this concept and knows how to provide a flexible solution while still meeting the immediate needs of your business.
7 Qualities of a Great Website
Agencies Asides, what are the qualities of a great website?
Great websites are beautiful, functional, and rich in content. But these three qualities don’t always come together in one place.
A website can be beautiful but not functional; functional but not rich in content; or rich in content but not very attractive.
Or it might look good or function well at first glance, but when the user interacts with it, there isn’t enough going on to keep them engaged.
On the other hand, a great website is attractive and functional, and every piece of content has been carefully crafted to provide real value for users. But most importantly, a great website will also be easy for search engines to understand – Note that Google has gotten extremely good at reading sites. Still, if you can’t help it do so efficiently, your site will never rank highly.
7 qualities that make a Website Great
1) A Great Design
Your website’s greatest asset is its visual appeal. If the design isn’t pretty or interesting enough to inspire visitors to explore the site further, they’ll leave. So it’s crucial to find a web design agency that can create an aesthetically pleasing design that also draws people in.
2) Content That Matters
Every page of your website should be written with specific users in mind, and each piece of content must be relevant to those users. If the text doesn’t help your users accomplish the task they’re there for – whether that’s checking out your services, signing up for a newsletter, or just learning more about you – then the content is of little value to them.
3) Usable Navigation
If your navigation doesn’t help visitors intuitively move through the site and find what they need, they’ll get frustrated and leave. So, make sure your website is designed such that the navigation bars are easy to spot and accessible on every page.
4) A Fast Page Load Time
How long your pages take to load is extremely important. Online users are an impatient lot.
They’re not going to wait around for the site to load, and if it takes more than a few seconds, they’ll leave.
Keywords are important. Think of keywords as the fuel for your online marketing campaign. If you don’t have enough on each page, you won’t be found by search engines. So ultimately, not so many people will see your site. So make sure your copywriter knows how to use keywords in a natural, diverse way across your site.
Your website should be compatible with all web browsers and mobile devices. Technology is constantly evolving. Because of this, you want to choose a web design agency that understands the need for ongoing compatibility – and has the budget to keep up with ever-changing technology.
7) Additional Functionality
Your website should also include other features that make your business easier to do business with. For example, if you want to create an online store or sell products on your site, it would be helpful to work with an agency with the right set of tools and expertise to help you pull this off.
Note, however, that certain features can be implemented later, depending on the nature of your business. These include, but are not limited to;
- Membership sites for subscription-based models
- Emails management tools (i.e., outlook email account)
- eCommerce stores (most businesses like this do not require one initially)
- Live chats for real time-on-site engagement.
9 Things to Avoid in a Web Design Service:
Now that you know what to look for in a web design agency and the kind of website to expect from them, it’s worth exploring what to avoid.
The following are common pitfalls you should avoid when looking for a web design agency:
1) Not Asking Questions:
You wouldn’t buy food at the grocery store without asking how much it cost, so why would you hire an entirely new team of professionals just because their work looks good? You need to “test drive” the agency. Ask about their experience, background, and why you should work with them. Just because they can design a pretty website (and look like experts on their site) doesn’t mean that they know what they’re doing or that you can actually afford them.
2) The Cheapest in Town
As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. A cheap web design service may create a flashy website for only a fraction of what’s being demanded by a quality web design agency. But if it lacks SEO, usability, and responsiveness, what good will be the website serve?
3) A Guarantee of Results
It is improbable that a web design agency can give you a 100% guarantee of results. It just doesn’t work that way with marketing strategies. Even Google cannot guarantee that your website will appear on page 1 of Google search.
4) Payment in Full Upfront
For any business, cash flow is of the essence.
The last thing you want to do is give away thousands of dollars upfront, without the guarantee that you’ll end up with the website you expect. As a rule of thumb, never pay more than half at the time of signing the contract, with the rest paid in installments.
5) Making Your Website An Island
Your website has to work in tandem with all other online marketing strategies. For example, you can’t expect to rank well in search engines if your site isn’t optimized for SEO or expect people to remember you after reading your blog if you’re not active on social media. Your web design agency should be able to integrate your website and various other marketing efforts so you can get the most out of them.
6) No Branding
Branding isn’t something you reserve for later. If you want your web presence to be effective, it has to reflect your brand personality from the get-go. So, if you don’t allow your agency to include your branding or do any creative work for that matter (which can help build trust), then you might as well not hire an agency at all.
7) No CMS
You can’t expect to have control over your website if it doesn’t come with a CMS. That means the agency is handing you their baby and asking you to take care of it without any support. The bottom line is that you should see a CMS platform in place before hiring an agency.
Whether WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, or any other open-source platform, make sure the agency uses it. If not, they should at least provide a custom one.
8) Not Understanding Your Audience
When you develop a website with an agency, they must know your target audience and what they want. The last thing you want is to launch the wrong website at the wrong time, or worse yet, get lost in cyberspace. Find out about the agency’s understanding of your audience before you sign on the dotted line.
9) No Clarity in Goals and Objectives
If you’re starting a new business, it may be hard to develop precise goals and objectives right from the get-go. But, if your web design agency isn’t familiar or comfortable with understanding your business model and coming up with a website that will achieve these goals, then it’s time to move on. Poorly defined expectations from the agency and not knowing whether they can help you achieve them just won’t bode well for your project.
Why Onsite SEO Matters When Building a Website
There are many ways to drive traffic to a website. You can try advertising, social media marketing, or email marketing. However, all these marketing strategies require money. Having your own site that ranks well in the organic listings of search engines like Google is free and incredibly powerful.
Step One: Create Good Content
Your first step should be to create content that people want to read, particularly blog posts and articles. Search engines have algorithms that seek out fresh, original content relevant to your website’s topic, and they’ll reward you with a high-ranking position should they find it on your site.
Step Two: Optimize it for Search Engines
Creating good content is step one. The next step is to optimize it so that search engines can recognize what your page is about. You want to include the keywords that your audience is searching for in various places throughout your page. You can also optimize your title tag and meta description, ensuring they are all keyword-rich.
On-site SEO is critical when you build a website because it gets traffic to your site immediately without any marketing needed on your part. It’s free traffic, so if your site is new, this traffic can be incredibly beneficial.
As you continue to create content and optimize it for search engines, your website will continue to grow in ranking, and you will see the benefits of on-site SEO firsthand.
How To to Create a Site Structure that Enhances SEO
Your site structure can either help or hurt your search engine optimization. You want to create a site structure that is logical and simple for people to understand. Having an intuitive navigation system will not only increase the probability of visitors finding what they are looking for, but it can also help with your SEO efforts by making it easier for search engines to crawl through your site.
7 Key Components To Consider While Planning Your Site
There are several components to a site structure that you must consider while planning your site:
Keyword Usage: Always be sure that you are using relevant keywords throughout your site. When your content is optimized with these words, your site’s visitors are more likely to find it through search engine results. Search engines crawl through your page and identify these keywords in various ways, so it’s important to be consistent throughout the entire site.
H1 Tags: Another critical part of a great site structure is using H1 tags on your pages. That helps search engines identify what each page is about, enabling them to rank you better. You can even use your primary keywords as H1 tags, provided you make sure that you’re only using them once on the page and that it is near the beginning of the title.
Images: Not all images are created equal when it comes to search engine optimization. If they’re part of a giant image file or large photo, then search engines may not be able to access all of it, and you will miss out on important optimization opportunities. That being said, you still want to include as many images as possible because they help break up the text and make your site easier for users to navigate.
URL Structure: Too many or too few levels in your URL is an SEO no-no. A simple URL structure that has just a few levels is ideal. Think about how a user would look for what they want. The point is to have your site mimic that. For example, someone searching for “Widget Sale” is going to be lost entirely if the URLs are organized like this: http://www.widgetsalesite1.com/widgets/sale/widget-sale/page4.html
Effective Triggers & Calls To Action: Your CTA buttons should be highly visible and compelling. They need to stand out from the rest of the content on your site and give your readers a strong incentive for converting.
Site Speed: Your site speed is both a technical ranking factor and a user experience issue. People want to get where they’re going on your website quickly so, make it easy for them by making sure you have a fast server that can handle all of the traffic that might hit your site from organic search.
Responsive Design: Regardless of how big or small someone’s screen is, they will want a mobile-friendly layout that is easy to navigate on any device. If you make the switch to responsive, be sure to test it thoroughly on all major browsers and devices.
Creating an SEO-friendly Site Structure in Six Easy Steps
Now that you know what you need to do, you can follow these easy steps, and you’ll be well on your way to creating an SEO-friendly website structure that will have search engines drooling over your content.
1. Plan Out Your Hierarchy Before you Start Working on your website
Sit down and think about how you want to organize your site. Creating a basic outline is the first step in creating an SEO-friendly website hierarchy.
You can do this on a whiteboard or paper, but it’s a good idea to map out each site section and how they link together. You want to go from top-level pages to more detailed content, and you always want to make sure that you have a natural flow through your website.
Think of hierarchy as a pyramid. You have your primary, high-level pages at the top and the more detailed information further down through a series of layers.
Here’s an example of a site hierarchy:
Here are a few pointers about a site hierarchy to keep in mind:
- The Hierarchy must Make Logical Sense: It has to make sense for visitors, and it has to be easy for search engines to understand.
- The internal links must flow: You don’t want the links between your pages to feel random or disconnected. You want them to lead back-and-forth within your site so people can easily navigate through your content without having to click around too much.
- Restrict the Number of Your Main Categories to Between 2 and 7: Search engines will become confused and not know how to organize your site if you have too many main categories.
- Balance the Subcategories in Each Category: Too many subcategories in one section confuses search engines. They won’t know how to organize your site.
- Use Descriptive Titles: Your title tags should accurately describe the content on the page, optimized for both human users and search engine crawlers. Use keywords where appropriate, but don’t stuff all of your keywords into the page title.
2. Create a URL Structure That Follows Your Site Hierarchy:
The website structure is the foundation that your site will be built upon, and it’s an integral part of creating a great user experience. Your URLs should make sense to both visitors and search engines, and they should accurately describe what people can expect to find on those pages. For example:
This is very clear for both visitors and search engines, and it’s good for rankings.
For more information, see Search Engine Optimization For Beginners: How To Make A Website SEO-Friendly For Google.Com.Sg
3. Create a Page Hierarchy That Suits Your Content Strategy:
The page hierarchy is one of the most important parts of creating a well-structured website. If your content doesn’t fit in well with the hierarchy you’ve created, you’re setting yourself up for failure because it’s impossible to rank content that doesn’t match the rest of the site.
An excellent way to think about this is to ask yourself: “What would someone expect to find on the pages contained within this section?”
If you’re hosting an e-commerce store, then your page hierarchy might look something like this:
The URLs are based around the products being sold, so it’s easy for both users and search engines to know what they’re getting when they click through.
4. Create Your Navigation in HTML and CSS:
Having a well-organized menu structure in HTML and CSS can maximize the SEO potential of your site–both in terms of internal and external links. This will help with rankings, and you’ll get a bump in traffic, too!
5. Optimize Titles & Descriptions in <head> Elements:
One of the most critical steps in creating great SEO is having the right keywords in your <title></title> and meta description tags. As mentioned above, titles are one of the key ingredients to ranking well in Google—so be sure to include your target keywords in the titles. You should also include words such as “review,” “guide,” or “top 10” because these words are likely to receive click-throughs by users that are interested in that particular topic.
You should aim to keep your meta description under 150 characters, as it’s displayed right underneath the title tag on Google’s results page–and the shorter it is, the better!
The Future of Web Design: 2022 and Beyond
Where is web design headed in the next ten years? We take a look at some predictions.
Web design is constantly evolving. Just think about what the web looked like ten years ago, and then compare that to what it looks like today. It’s safe to say that web design will continue changing as technology advances at an increasingly rapid pace:
With AI taking over, it’s entirely possible that in the future, robots could be designing websites (or even creating them) on their own. Currently, programs like Adobe Dreamweaver can create web templates without any coding involved, but AI will likely take this to the next level.
Having already conquered the chessboard and beat some of history’s best Jeopardy players, it’s safe to say that AI has a bright future in web design.
Currently, VR is being used for many different purposes. People are using it to create art, design buildings, and even design other pieces of technology. It’s safe to say that it will continue to be used as a medium for creativity in the future.
While you might not be designing virtual reality websites anytime soon, you can bet it will be a prominent part of the web in 2022.
Web Design Trends To Look Out For In 2022:
- AI Used as a Tool to Design Websites
- Web pages will have minimal amounts of text. They’ll instead be using visuals to convey messages
- Websites will be more integrated into social media platforms
- Full-screen online classrooms with HD video conferencing
- Websites will be more fluid and adapt to different devices (i.e., responsive)
- 4K video will become the standard
- More businesses will switch to fully online payment systems via PayPal, Stripe, etc.