There are two aspects to website design;
- what it says and;
- what it looks like.
The search engine spiders cannot see pictures or videos or listen to audios, they can only read so the written word is paramount in getting search engine rankings and you can get away with some pretty grim looking websites if you are only looking for search engine ranking..
Unfortunately, human visitors, remember them – they’re the ones with the credit cards, are very discriminating and like good looking sites and pictures and videos and audios etc. In fact, anything that makes their visit more entertaining and varied. You need to bear both these factors in mind as you decide how to go about building your site.
Tip! Always start with the basics and read the instructions on the box. If you want your site to rank well with Google then go read Google’s own advice at:
Apart from the more general issues of building a website there are some specific subject areas that roughly break down like this;
Do it Yourself Websites using Templates
Free Web Templates: www.freewebtemplates.com
Web site design
Yes, you can outsource your website design – if you want to pay for it and wait for it. The reality is that there are so many changes and tweaks you want to make all the time that it is really useful to be able to do it yourself – even it it’s only the basics. And much of what we do with single sales page copy and a few optin forms is not rocket science.
The easy way these days is to use a WordPress blog and I would strongly recommend the Semiologic Pro package which has all the best SEO plugins already integrated and working. It’s a little pricey and you will still need to spend some money on a unique skin to make it look nice with some graphics but the ease of use thereafter is, in my opinion, well worth the price.
Blogging is probably the most effective marketing and SEO tool available – especially for those with no technical skills. And you can make them look and behave pretty much exactly how you want. BUT – when you start getting serious and you have very specific objectives then you cannot afford to waste your time messing around with something you may not be too good at. If you want a good website, you want it fast and you want it to work according to your specification then go to the professionals on Elance and its alternatives. See Outsourcing.
Did you know that both http://www.yourdomain.com and http://yourdomain.com will find their way to your website? But did you also know that Google will treat them as SEPARATE WEBSITES!
This should not be a big issue especially as the latest opinion about duplicate content is that Google does not penalise duplicate content on your own site. But in this case you might have inadvertently placed the same content on your site on one occasion linking to it using www. and on another occasion leaving it out. So now Google is finding duplicate content on different websites – and may penalise you.
The more important point is that when you are working on your linking strategy to create inbound links to your site then it is important to be consistent with the address that you use. If you do half and half for example then you are inadvertently halving the number of links that go to each site as seen by Google – even though you think they are all going to the same site.
Either one is good – just be consistent.
And here’s another good thing about using WordPress. Your WordPress blog will automatically direct from one to the other. So if someone types the wrong one into their address bar then WP will automatically correct it and they will end up in the right place. To do this just put the address that you want to use in the General Settings of your blog.
Do It Yourself – From Scratch
Nvu and Kompozer. If you really are starting from scratch then I would recommend NVu and it’s further development Kompozer. These are open source products (therefore free) and I have now changed to using it. It is well regarded and likely to be intuitive and robust if open source products are anything to go by. You can find a whole series of free tutorials here.
Front Page. I used to use Front Page. Initially I was very happy because it really does behave very much like Word. Not surprising really as it all comes out of Microsoft. I was aware of the rumour machine about superfluous code but I worked on my standard principle that you only have so much time in this life and if I keep chopping and changing and learning new ways of doing the same thing then that is just wasted time. I picked my copy on eBay where you don’t have to pay the full price.
Front page is reported to produce a lot of superfluous code so is disliked by web design professionals. So what, I thought, I’m not a professional and it works for me with minimal effort. When I’ve made a lot of money I’ll pay a professional to go back and tidy up my mess. With hindsight, I wish I had known about Nvu when I started.
I have now changed to Nvu. Why? Because I found that as I got more proficient with Front Page I was publishing more web pages – but didn’t realise that Front Page was not even building in the most basic standard requirements and this can have a dramatic effect on your search engine rankings. So basically I was publishing rubbish. Nvu does not appear to be as capable as Front Page but I have not yet found an occasion where it was limited by what the software could do. I am always limited by my own knowledge before I reach the limit of the software. So my recommendation for beginners is NVu, or if you know you are going to be technical then go straight to Dreamweaver.
Dreamweaver. This is the ‘professional’ solution. If you have the time to learn it, are technically inclined and have the money then you might consider this.
XSite Pro. Highly recommended by a friend of mine as being simpler than Front Page. I don’t have any personal experience of this package.
Website Building Software. You will quickly discover when using these software packages that you are on a substantial learning curve no matter which product you choose. As I remarked on the page about hosting it is prudent to stay away from website building packages offered by your host as they will ultimately tie you into that host and will also be limited in some way.
However, BlinkWeb is a free tool that helps you to construct sites. Bear in mind that anything that automates a process is bound to be slightly limited. So the 80/20 rule applies that you will never achieve perfection without an extraordinary effort. So just be satisfied with what you can achieve and remember you are a marketer looking for profit – not an artist.
Making Money With Your Website
It might seem obvious but the purpose of this excercise is to make money and there are some well proven website structures that make this easier. If you do not yet know what a ‘back end’ (no sniggering at the back there!) or an upsell is then this probably won’t make much sense to you but if you do then you might find this flow chart useful. If you don’t know yet then the most important thing in your marketing career right now is to find out.
Web Site Design
If you would like a more comprehensive design with graphics for your website then try Design Outpost on the Outsourcing page. Alternatively, I’ve just been looking at Graphic Mavericks portfolio page and its pretty striking – especially the number of big names recognisable there. That’s always a good sign of quality (and a steeper price, of course).
Another really good option is to pay $199 to Shark Studio for a collection of graphic elements that will give you a consistent visual appeal when added to a basic website or blog. For that price you get 1 x Header, 1 x Footer, 1 x eCover (any type), 1 x Animated Action Button, 1 x Animated Banner.
Free Minisites Videos
If you would like a free set of videos on how to build minisites for niche markets then Michael Rasmussen has a set of 12 free videos. As usual, you should be aware that it is a lead in to multiple upsells and OTOs (one time offers). It is not necessary to bother yourself with the upsells, just go straight down to the bottom of the page to the ‘No thankyou…’ link to join the site as a free member and access to the free videos.
Other technical stuff
You will also find lots of useful stuff about technical issues at www.webmonkey.com.