An Effective Website: The Basic Ingredients

17 Feb

Trying to run a business without a website could be considered self-sabotage in an age where 81% of shoppers are said to conduct research online before making a purchase, and is most probably the 2017 equivalent of refusing to set up a commercial phone line. As the digital revolution snowballs into an avalanche of add-ons, phone apps and other instant consumer solutions, our expectations of professionalism have soared, creating a generation of customers that simply refuse to settle for second best. Any business hoping to slip an outdated and badly-designed website through the door unnoticed is in danger of losing more money than it’s trying to save, risking an online reputation that is integral to all marketing efforts to come.

Operating as a design, development, and marketing hub for creatives, entrepreneurs, and business-owners of all shapes and sizes, Buzz Bar is the walk-in media shop London never knew it needed. Offering side-by-side collaboration on a whole range of digital services, from graphic design to websites and content writing, Buzz Bar specialists take clients through a guided process of brainstorming, planning, and execution before delivering a speedy final product.

We’ve seen it all when it comes to amateur web development efforts, from the moving GIFs to the endless popups, deconstructing and rebuilding more glitchy websites than we’d care to think about. Clean, smooth, and user-friendly is the name of the game at this stage of the internet’s lifecycle, so here are some basic rules to keep in mind:


Don’t Skimp on Design


Websites are uniquely visual mediums, relying heavily on photographs, images and complimentary colour palettes to communicate feeling and desire. Never underestimate the power of high-quality images to get across a sense of luxury and confidence! They’re worth it, even if it means paying for professional graphics and photos to feature on your product or landing page. Remember, an unknown business is judged first and foremost by appearance, giving you a head start on your reputation before the positive reviews start rolling in.


Pssst: Free, high-quality images can be found here and here.


Research Your Developer


Web development can be a tricky field to navigate for anyone, especially those with no prior experience in the matter. Prices are known to vary wildly from developer to developer, ranging from the low hundreds to the high thousands, and often without good reason. The temptation to opt for the services of a friend or relative can be great, especially when money is tight and stress levels are high, but that could land you in some very sticky situations at some very inopportune moments.

No matter who you choose to work with in the end, it’s important that you inspect (and use) some websites they have made in the past, looking out for any loading problems, design glitches, and layout issues. Compare quality and price across a few different developers, ensuring that they each understand the purpose and scope of your project – i.e. how much functionality does the site need to have? Will it be a static, display-heavy affair (private individuals & awareness campaigns) or will you need interactive payment and e-commerce features (products & services)?

Last but not least, always ensure that you will have permanent and complete access to hosting & domain panels, as well as any CMS or back-office that stores your website content. You should be able to edit your own content at any time, without having to endlessly rely on the original developer for minor changes. Future developers will also need these passwords and permissions to continue working on the site, so remember to write them down immediately and store them in a safe place.


Make it Responsive


There are few things more infuriating than a website that refuses to conform to a smartphone screen, forcing you to swipe horizontally in a desperate attempt to reach the end of the paragraph. To be inconvenienced at this stage of the consumer journey is a very bad sign, and a quick glance at your web analytics can give you a pretty good idea of the pages that are responsible for high bounce rates and low visitor engagement. It’s wise to try accessing your site on as many different phones/tablets/web browsers as possible to catch any problems early on. Speaking of analytics…


Use Google Analytics


A website that’s not connected to Google Analytics is just floating through cyberspace, unobserved, untracked, and potentially travelling in the wrong direction. Analytics is a free tool that allows you to group your online visitors by location, device, and demographic profile, giving you information about how they got there and what they did once they arrived. It can tell you which pages are the most popular, and which pages cause your visitors to leave, developing a pattern of user behaviour that allows you to make edits and improvements based on the interests of your audience.


Focus on SEO


What good is a website that no one can find? Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the process by which the structure and content of your website is improved to ensure that Google recognises it as a useful search result for its users. One of the easiest ways you can improve your Google rankings is by hiring a copywriter to develop content that is clear and simple, using SEO-friendly keywords that are relevant for each area of your business (e.g. photography, wedding, newborn, studio, etc.). Another effective way is to get as many links back to your website as you can, preferably from other high-ranking sites. This can be done by writing guest blog posts for other businesses, or by writing reviews that can be featured on other sites with a link back to yours.


Content is King


Aside from the technical aspect of SEO, content serves a very important purpose: shareability. The more you produce content that has value, the more people will share it, earning you thousands of site visitors for the cost of one blog post. Valuable content will increase your Google rankings, provide you with social media material, establish your reputation as a contributor to your field, and hopefully snag you some high-quality backlinks. Content can also be a fantastic way to network, with guest blog exchanges becoming one of the most effective ways to secure friends in high places. Marketing has moved on from the traditional rent-a-billboard model to a system of collaborative communication, becoming a medium of conversation between supplier and consumer that reinforces the interdependent qualities of modern commerce. Without fresh content, your website is just a massive business card…and there’s only so many times you can get someone to look at that.