As a business owner or marketing manager you are likely extremely swayed about website design and development based on how it looks. I am here to explain to you why this is no-where near as important as you think it is. This is not to say that this isn’t important, it is, but it isn’t the be-all and end-all. When making decisions around technology, what you really need to be asking the questions about is technology, frameworks, scalability and adaptability. All of the technical aspects you probably would prefer not to get too involved with as this is what you pay the web guys to take care of, right?
Unfortunately, the reality is that when you ignore these key aspects you end up with an all fur coat no knickers solution which is going to cause you tremendous pain in the long run. Trust me. It is often at this point where we pick up projects, when they have gone seriously wrong in the past when these aspects have been ignored, often because you asked for a pretty looking website or made a decision based purely on how something looks or made a cost-based decision. Here is when we pick things up and straighten things out which is a costly process.
Below we’re going to talk through many of the aspects you need to be asking questions about before you even start to think about the design of your website. When you get the below aspects right from the outset, you can make your website look any way you desire. And most importantly, you can chop and change the look of your website on a daily basis should you wish as you have the flexibility to do so without being restrained by poor technologies.
Platform and Content Management System
It is essential that your website is powered by a leading Content Management System. A platform which allows you to control most of the aspects of your website yourself, without requiring a developer to implement changes. For 99% of businesses out there you have two choices really, WordPress or Magento.
Poor quality web hosting is going to harm the success of your business. It’s cheap for a reason, it’s restrictive and not that good. Leading web hosting has security built in, is regularly maintained and is backed up in a remote location should anything go wrong.
I can promise you that if you don’t take cyber security seriously, your website will be hacked into at some point. A pretty looking website which can be hacked, deleted and changed by an unauthorised person trying to do your website harm is no good to anyone.
Back End Frameworks
A framework is essentially a set of rules for how things are implemented. A back end framework is all around how the server side code is implemented to ensure the code is easy to maintain, easy to extend and easy to work with in general. Think of a back end framework as a separation of concerns, read up about MVC if you’re really interested. Using the correct back end framework for your website ultimately determines how successful your website project will be or how many problems you will face in the future.
Front End Frameworks
Just like back end frameworks, front end frameworks deal specifically with how your website looks on the front end. Just as with all frameworks, you need to work within the limits of the framework which is why getting this part wrong can result in simple changes not actually being so simple in the end. Discuss this with your web developer about how things are built to understand the potential pitfalls further down the line.
Plugins, Themes & 3rd Party Solutions
When using any kind of 3rd party solutions as part of core functionality on your website, it is absolutely essential to make sure these are chosen with quality in mind. Cheap and free is like this for a reason, it’s likely absolutely awful and will cause you many problems down the line.
To a certain extent, the speed of your website is determined by how much you are paying for your web hosting. You cannot expect the speed that you experience on Google, Facebook and Twitter when paying budget web hosting. It’s just like buying a car, the more you pay, the faster it goes. Sure, there are optimisations and tweaks that can be made at the server level to further improve performance, although in the grand scheme of things these are a bit like spoilers and go-faster stripes on cars, they help, but aren’t going to do much on a Peugeot 205.
Control and Flexibility
You want to be able to edit as much as possible on the website, right? Well this hugely depends on the technology you’re using. Certain frameworks will give you more control for you to edit things yourself, others will restrict that control meaning that you have to pay a web developer every time you need to make a change. A costly process over time.
You want your website to work seamlessly across all devices, right? Well this again doesn’t just happen by magic. This is a conscious decision and requires strategic planning to make sure that your website performs in the way that your customers expect.
Only now do we start to think about the user experience on the website. Why are people using your website? What are they aiming to achieve? How easy is your website to navigate? What do people like about your website? What do people dislike about your website? How can things be improved on a regular basis to improve performance? It’s all of these questions you need to start asking about your website and business as a whole.
Once you know what your website visitors are looking to achieve, how are you meeting their needs through the content that is available on your website? Are you still dealing with common queries for products and services over the phone? It is this type of content that at the very basic level could be handled by a more sophisticated setup on your website. Think differently about content. Content is not for Google and SEO, content is for your users.
Now we come onto the branding aspect. Once you have all of these aspects above in place, now it is time to start looking at how your website actually looks. At this point, once you have all of the above items in place, you can make the website look and feel any way you like. Get any of the above items wrong and you will extremely restricted based on what you can or can’t do at this point. You see, the branding aspect is the icing on the cake for website design. No matter how good your website looks, if your key ingredients are rotten, your website isn’t going to perform and your website visitors are going to be able to see straight through that.
There is a lot more to website design and development that you may first think. Never assume that your web development team is going to be doing everything right. If you ask for a pretty website, that’s what you’ll get, a pretty website that has been built poorly and doesn’t perform. When you ask a web development team for a website that achieves your business goals, you’ll get a well-built platform for you to work towards your goals much faster. The choice is yours, never skip over asking the difficult questions about website technologies.