Why do you need a Business Website?

The first reason why small businesses need a website, even if your business has five employees or less, is because that’s where so many of your potential customers are for so much of the time.

Your customers expect it.

If this were the only reason on the list, it would be enough. Six out of ten consumers expect brands to provide online content about their business on some form of digital property, and more than half head straight to the brand’s website for product information.

If you don’t have a business website, today’s digital-savvy (and impatient) customers may look elsewhere. Take a look at this list of specifics that customers say they want from a business website.

A business website gives you another marketing channel.

Having a business website gives you an automatic online presence. Think of it as an online billboard. Instantly you have another chance to introduce people to your products and services and another way for people to find you.

Helps with business goals

That’s right! When it comes to writing the content for your website you are going to revisit things about your business that you haven’t in years. You will most likely reassess your business goals.

Marketing

The internet has opened up a whole new world of marketing that didn’t exist before. Your website can attract new business by using a whole host of low cost marketing techniques.

Showcase your products and services.

Not only can you display your products or outline your services in detail with beautiful images, but you can provide short video tutorials or downloadable PDF instructions to give hesitant customers no reason to go elsewhere to purchase.

The Evolution of Web Design

Since the first websites in the early 1990’s, designers have been experimenting with the way websites look. Early sites were entirely text-based, with minimal images and no real layout to speak of other than headings and paragraphs. However, the industry progressed, eventually bringing us table-based designs, then Flash, and finally CSS-based designs.history of the different eras of web design.

The first web pages

In August 1991, Tim Berners-Lee published the first website, a simple, text-based page with a few links. A copy from 1992 of the original page still exists online. It had a dozen or so links, and simply served to tell people what the World Wide Web was all about.

Subsequent pages were similar, in that they were entirely text-based and had a single-column design with inline links. Initial versions of HTML (HyperText Markup Language) only allowed for very basic content structure: headings (<h1>, <h2>, etc.), paragraphs (<p>), and links (<a>). Subsequent versions of HTML allowed the addition of images (<img>) to pages, and eventually support for tables (<table>) was added.

World Wide Web Consortium is formed

In 1994, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) was established, and they set HTML as the standard for marking up web pages. This discouraged any single company from building a proprietary browser and programming language, which could have had a detrimental effect on the web as a whole. The W3C continues to set standards for open web markup and programming languages (such as JavaScript).

Table-based designs

Table-based layouts gave web designers more options for creating websites. The original table markup in HTML was meant for displaying tabular data, but designers quickly realized they could utilize it to give structure to their designs, and create more complicated, multi-column layouts than HTML was originally capable of.

Table-based designs grew in complexity, incorporating sliced-up background images, often giving the illusion of a simpler structure than the actual table layout.

Design over Structure

This era of web layouts paid little attention to semantics and web accessibility, often opting for aesthetics over good markup structure.

This was the same era where Spacer GIFs were popularized to control whitespace of web layouts. Some major companies even educated designers about the Spacer GIF  see Introducing the spacer GIF for use in HTML tables on Microsoft.com.

The development of the first WYSIWYG web design applications, all of which used table-based layouts, increased the use of tables. In addition, some of those programs created tables so complex that many designers would never have created them from scratch (such as tables with rows only 1-pixel high and hundreds of cells). Designers had to rely on tables if they wanted to create designs that were even mildly complex (such as multi-column designs).

Flash-based web designs

Flash (originally known as FutureSplash Animator, then Macromedia Flash, and currently as Adobe Flash) was developed in 1996. It started with very basic tools and a timeline, and progressed to have powerful  tools to develop entire sites. Flash presented a ton of options beyond what was possible with HTML.

The advantage of Flash

HTML sites were very limited in their design options, especially when built with early versions of HTML. To create complex designs, you often had to create crazy table structures and/or resort to using spacer images (as some WYSIWYG web design programs did).

Flash made it possible to create complex and interactive sites with animated features.

Dynamic HTML (DHTML)

Around the same time as the introduction of Flash to the scene of web design (late 1990’s – early 2000’s), the popularization of DHTML techniques, which consisted of several web technologies such as JavaScript and sometimes server-side scripting, for creating interactive/animated page elements were also the rage.

During this time, with the inception of Flash and the popularity of DHTML, the concept of interactive web pages that allow users to not only read static content, but also to interact with web content, began.

3DML

3DML is a little-known web design language for creating three-dimensional websites. Invented in 1996 by Michael Powers, 3DML files are actually written in a type of non-valid XML.

Flatland Rover is an independently-developed 3DML browser, though there were also plugins available for Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator, the AOL browser, and Opera, but since development stopped in 2005, there was no plugin available for Firefox.

There are sites still available online that were built on 3DML, but without the browser or plugins, they’re not viewable. 3DML was used to build worlds or scenes called “Spots”. What really gave 3DML an edge was that it was faster than most other languages that let you build 3D simulations (like Flash, which also required you to have access to the Flash desktop application to create and edit Flash content) and had much smaller file sizes.

CSS-Based Design

CSS-based designs started gaining in popularity after the dotcom boom in the early 2000’s. While CSS had been available long before then, there was limited support for it in major browsers and many designers were unfamiliar with it (and even intimidated by it).

CSS-based designs have many advantages over table-based or Flash designs. The first is that it separates design elements from content, which ultimately meant that there would be greater distinction from the visual aspect of a web layout and its content.

CSS is also a best practice for laying out a web page, where table-based layouts are not. It also reduced markup clutter and made for cleaner and semantic web layouts. CSS also makes it easier to maintain sites, as the content and design elements are separated. You can change the entire look of a CSS-based site without ever having to touch the content.

The document sizes of CSS designs are generally smaller than table-based designs too, which translated to an improvement in page response times. Although there would be an initial bandwidth hit when first downloading the stylesheets of a website you’ve never visited before, CSS is cached by the user’s browser (by default) so that subsequent page views would be faster-loading.

 

10 things to consider when designing a website

element labs design 10 things website domain 10 things consider designing website

lets talk about 10 things to consider when designing a website

1. Choosing a Domain and Host

Great domain names  say so much while saying so little. In addition to being memorable, a domain name needs to accurately reflect your brand’s voice . Finding the right name for your brand is important, because incorporating a combination of SEO, simple spelling, and brand identity into the domain name leads to a higher chance of being located in search engine results. Simply put, businesses that are easily accessed online get more customers.

2. Backend Services (CMS “Content Management System” / Software)

It’s impossible to develop a great website without a functional program taking care of the backend. If you think of your website as a car, you can understand why.  In the world of websites, this equates to the part of your site a user experiences directly. The backend of your website is where the magic really happens. Without strong backend services, your website won’t be able to “wow” your guests.  WordPress is a customizable CMS ideal for informational sites.

3. Clean Design

One of the most important things to remember during the process of website development is to create a clean, attractive design. A quality design is attractive and easy to read with intuitive navigation. Most importantly, a clean design helps viewers focus on the value of your brand and content instead of distracting graphics and large amounts of text. Often, customers associate website designs with the quality of a particular company or product. Hence, a clean design is vital to providing a positive user experience that encourages customers to return.

4. Branding

Branding is important to all businesses, both large and small. The design and placement of your brand’s logo contributes to a viewer’s overall opinion. Professionally designed logos successfully catch the customer’s eye and provide a clear picture of the brand’s unique voice. Choose a location on your site that is readily visible to visitors, such as the upper left corner, since this is where the eye naturally begins to scan a website. To further solidify your brand’s identity, consider using the same logo on packaging, print advertising, and branded apparel. When a business is consistent with branding, it provides customers with an integrated and memorable brand experience.

5. Functionality

When thinking about functionality, there are a few matters to consider. Namely, is the website functional in the literal sense? Are there loading issues or broken links? Are the site’s security features adequate for your business’s needs? In addition to these operational issues, it’s crucial to view your website’s features from the user’s perspective. Are the contact forms, surveys, and customer feedback sections of your site working properly? One or all of these functional issues can prompt a customer to leave your site.

6. Call to Action

Placing calls to action on your website encourages customers to contact your business. A friendly suggestion, such as “Contact us today!” demonstrates that your business wants to develop a relationship with its customers. It’s important that calls to action are appropriate for a visitor’s level of engagement with your company. If they’re just discovering your brand, invite them to subscribe to your email newsletter. If they’re already a loyal customer, perhaps they’ll enjoy participating in your brand’s loyalty rewards program. Regardless of what you’re asking visitors to do at your site, always include a call to action at least once on each page.

7. Clean, SEO-Friendly Code

Whether you’re developing new webpages or optimizing existing ones, it’s critical to have clean, SEO-friendly code. By taking the time to improve your site’s code, you can increase the overall return on investment. SEO-friendly code acts as a guide for search engine spiders by providing a clear picture of your site’s content. Certain CMS services, such as WordPress, provide plug-ins designed to simplify the process of cleaning up code and increasing search engine rankings. Since it requires little coding knowledge (if any), WordPress is a great resource for companies struggling to drive traffic to their websites.

8. Mobile Sites vs. Responsive Sites

Statistics indicate that the use of mobile devices to conduct online searches has increased significantly in the past two years. In fact, approximately 95% of mobile device users count on their devices to search for local products and services. To effectively reach this growing population of mobile users, businesses need to be sure that their websites are available from any device. For a large company with an existing web presence, it makes sense to develop a separate, mobile-friendly website designed to perform well on any device. On the other hand, a business planning the launch of a website would be better served by choosing a responsive design capable of adapting to any device.

9. Customer Testimonials

Similar to offsite reviews, customer testimonials can be used to promote your business. By featuring customer testimonials on your site, you demonstrate your company’s skills, products, and commitment to customers. If you already have a loyal customer base, reach out to a few and solicit online reviews. If they’re willing to provide a recorded testimonial, take advantage of this opportunity to create a branded video. The more genuine, detailed testimonials your company receives, the greater your chances of gaining new customers.

10. Comprehensive Sitemap

When you sit down to read a book, what’s the most helpful section to review first? Typically, it’s the table of contents. Acting as a summary of the book’s details, the table of contents provides a snapshot of material found within. Similarly, a sitemap provides visitors and search engines with the information to easily navigate your website and discover its contents. To keep your site up to date, it’s necessary to revise the site map as new pages are added. Google Webmaster Tools simplifies this process for you.

10 things consider designing website

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