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Articles : 4 Key factors in ensuring a successful website.

Introduction

When developing your own website, there are four important factors to consider before you start designing. These area accessibility, content, colour and layout. Once you have these key factors outlined, then you are ready to jump into the design stage and start drafting. You should always try to sketch out your ideas- designing mock-ups electronically is time-consuming and non cost-effective when working to a budget. In most cases, you should only need to move to the digital stage when all of your design drafts are finalised and you know exactly what you are going to do, otherwise unforeseen problems can arise later on in the project, and you will have to backtrack to fix them.

Accessibility

The first factor, accessibility, has always been an important part of web design. Think of it this way, if people cannot navigate your website, how can they ever possibly find out what you do. The problem with designing your own website, is that you are your own worst enemy, due to a) being biased and b) having a supremely high standard (not always such a bad thing!!). Make sure you set aside a set period of time in which to complete your website, and treat it as if it was a client project, working to deadlines and the same standards as you would for anyone else. A successful website could be most important marketing tool you ever had, and one of the most cost-effective. However if it takes 3 years to complete, the design will be stale by the time it is released, or will have been redrafted 15 times, and been watered down from the initial concept.

Content

Whilst bearing accessibility in mind, the use of correct content is also at the forefront of importance when building a website. There are two types of content regarding websites. Content ranges from what you want the end-user to see, to what you want the search engines to index for your ranking. Getting content correct is possibly the hardest part of designing your website, and getting the right mix of pure content and keywords is a tough cookie to crumble, but if you can crack it, an important factor in your search engine ranking, and ultimately, the amount of traffic you drive to your website.

You must remember to add relevant keywords, meta tags and meta descriptions to your text, but not too many, as search engines such as Google will mark you down in the search engines for spamming keywords.

All links should also have 'alt' and 'title' tags defined, so search engines can read the links, and people with viewing difficulties can use a screen reader to read a description of the link.

For this same reason, also ensure that all images have an 'alt' tag defined. Not only is this good practice and required for W3C compliant HTML, it helps screen readers identify content on the page

Colour

Colour is an important factor to consider when designing for the web. A good colour scheme can really add to the effectiveness of your website. Take time in deciding on a scheme to use, and generally try to keep it to 3 or 4 colours, to prevent the site from becoming too busy. Too much use of colour can detract from the real message of the website, and in some cases even drive traffic away from the site, if it is truly garish.

For simple, yet effective, results, try adding colourful images to a black background to really bring out the resonance of the colour in the image, or add the same images to a white background to show even hues and a consistent feel to your design.

Remember, a picture says a thousand words. Just bear in mind you are building a website, not a book, so avoid using too many or you will clutter the page and affect how accessible your website is.

Layout

In the initial stages of development, you should focus on should be the layout of your website, and try not to bother yourself too much with the other 3 factors until the later stages of the project.

A clean and concise layout, for example based on a Grid (see post WW2 design and research designers such as Josef Müller-Brockmann & Max Bill for more information on Grids) will ensure your website is easy to understand and people can find what they are looking for straight away. The average user decides whether to stay on the site or not within 8 seconds, so you do not have long to impress. If people can't find what they need within that time period- you could lose a potential lead or sale, and nobody wants that!

Keeping these factors in mind, and taking time to plan your website before going digital can ensure that you have a well thought out and successful website, with good layout, good solid design and the potential to unlock a wider client base.


by Jack Oliver (Creative Designer) | E-Mail

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4 key factors in ensuring a successful website