Web Design 101

Web design 101

Are you a local business looking to work with a Gold Coast web designer and not sure where to begin? Welcome, you have to come to the right place! Choosing a Gold Coast website developer can be difficult. We get that. Between technology jargon, crazy price variations and countless options, it can be overwhelming.

Below you will find a wealth of information that will hopefully help you Understand what is important for your website, What questions you need to be asking Gold Coast website development companies and What to expect after your new website goes live It’s only a 12-minute read that hopefully can make a challenging decision much, much easier.

What you need to know before you invest in your business website design?

The need for speed

OK, let’s start with an easy one. Speed is important. Hugely important.

You will know from personal experience that there is almost nothing as annoying as a slow loading website page. And we’ve all been a situation where we have become frustrated and hit the back button. For the business owner, this potentially is a lost customer.

And while consumers have always appreciated a fast website, they are not alone…the Google algorithm is a huge fan as well. Search engines reward fast loading websites by bumping them up the rankings.

Google has more than 200 ranking factors for its search engines, but speed is right up there among the most important.

If you have a website that you’d like to test out for speed, Google has a great free online tool called PageSpeed Insights. Not only does it provide a score out of 100 for both mobile and desktop website speeds, it also provides useful insights into how the speeds can be improved.

Website content…is king

It’s sometimes easy to be caught up in the website design, fancy images, branding, bright colours, snazzy animations….and don’t get us wrong, this stuff is important (and we’ll cover it below). But what should never be forgotten is what your website actually says i.e. its written content. As a leading Gold Coast website designer, we know that content is king.

Good written content, as we know it, is SEO optimised, interesting, current / fresh, it doesn’t sell (or is very subtle!), audience-led, easy-to-understand and follow, educational, actionable and provides value. It is also mixed in with professional visual content.

Poor content is none of the above, along with a steady supply of spelling and grammatical mistakes (never forget the difference between there and their! – visitors notice, and respond accordingly).

While most of us are never going to be writing for The New York Times, or even The Gold Coast Bulletin, if you decide to write your website content it’s important that you present your business as being professional.

Website conversions

What good is a website if it doesn’t bring in the moolah, right? This is relevant for all websites, whether it is an e-commerce website design looking for an online transaction or a local plumber presenting as a reliable set of hands in a call-out emergency.

When we initially speak to potential clients, one of the first questions we ask is what outcome they want from their website. It’s quite often called a call-to-action (CTA). It could be a transaction, the exchange of an email address, a phone call or even a subscription.

Regardless of what you are trying to achieve, setting your website up for this goal properly is paramount. The best Gold Coast website developers use a range of techniques including:

  1. Only having short succinct contact forms.
  2. Adding live chat.
  3. Incorporating a healthy dose of multimedia (video and images)
  4. Testing everything. If something doesn’t work, try again.
  5. Including social proof, including reviews/testimonials.
  6. Improving your website speed.
  7. Speaking directly to your audience (for example, localise your content).
  8. Adding a pop-up to your website.
  9. Adding a money-back guarantee
  10. Being really clear about your proposition.

Website design

OK, it’s time to move onto the fun stuff, the magic dust even. I’m talking about website design and website development, it’s when the 11 secret herbs and spices are added to your project.

Let’s face it – with about 1.2 billion websites now on the internet, it’s important to stand out from your competitors by having a little bit of wow factor. To be clear, we are not for a moment suggesting that this overrides your business branding, it’s more about adding a little bit of pizazz so that you impress your visitors and turn them into paying customers.

In 2022, here are a few design trends we are currently seeing:

Nostalgia

Who doesn’t love the 80’s, right? We all get a bit of a warm and fuzzy feeling when we hear our favourite 80’s song come on, and that’s exactly the feeling you get when seeing the retro colours and design on websites. An example of this can be found right here on this website – check out our website design Gold Coast page.

Bigger and better typography

There are tens of thousands of fonts available, so getting creative with fonts is nothing new. What we are seeing however is a tendency to use much larger fonts, moving fonts and to turning fonts into ‘hero’ images.

One-page websites

These are particularly popular among creative businesses where the focus is on the visual portfolio – architects, designers and artists. Many argue it is the simplicity of this design which is driving its popularity. From a functional perspective it also works as it can be easier to navigate one page rather than a traditional structure (particularly on mobile).

Website structure

While chatting about website design can be glamourous, getting into the nuts and bolts of website structure can be less so. Despite this, it’s importance can never be dismissed. After all, your website structure – how your website is organised, laid out and linked – plays a hugely influential role in your online success. It also helps Google ‘crawl’ your website more easily.

The ultimate plan when designing any website navigation should be to provide the visitor with the most convenient way to find out what they are most interested in. Users should not have to work their way through countless pages, instead information flow should be logical and succinct. If it’s not, your visitors will become frustrated, they will leave quickly and take their business elsewhere.

Worse still, Google will notice all this…they see everything and take note of your website’s bounce rate and the time each visitor spends on the website. The longer your visitors stay and are engaged, the more impressed Google becomes.

There are plenty of tips that we can impart on how to improve your structure, however the key recommendation is to take your time planning your website. Don’t rush any decisions without consideration. Put yourself in the shoes of your audience (and test your theories if budget and time permits). Also never assume that a visitor is always arriving on your home page first.

Getting it right early, can save a lot of time later…and could even potentially save your business.

Mobile optimisation/responsive website design

In 2022, about 55 per cent of all website traffic comes from mobiles (this includes tablets, by the way). It’s a growing number, made even more impressive as only ten years ago it was about 11 per cent.

Websites need to cater to this audience. Some call it mobile optimisation, others call it responsive website design. Regardless its hugely important. Fortunately, the overwhelming majority of websites are mobile friendly, however there still some slack Gold Coast web developers out there and some disappointed customers (the-get-what-you-pay-for-crowd, now is the time to put your hands up!).

So what is mobile website development? It is the process of designing and developing your website so that content and functionality perform as well on mobile devices as it does on desktops. It is important for website designers to use responsive code which allows for websites to adapt to various screen sizes and orientations of any device that is viewing the content.

Put simply, it’s not a five-minute fix or afterthought. Good website designers will give serious consideration as to how the user experience should change on the smaller screen.

Tactics most commonly used include:

  1. The use of large and easy-to-read text (don’t make visitors have to zoom in with their fingers!).
  2. Simpler layouts, including larger buttons and links.
  3. Smaller/reduced images (and sizes).
  4. Shorter contact forms where possible and auto-fill fields.
  5. Eliminate pop ups (or if you must use them, ensure they are easy to close with a thumb).
  6. Test before committing, including a speed test.

SEO and your website

OK, so you have set up your website. It looks very schmick and the content appeals to your audience but there is a major problem…no one is visiting the page.

That’s where search engine optimisation (SEO for short) enters the conversation. For those who don’t much about SEO, it refers to how prominent your business is on search engines following the use of specific targeted keywords by prospective customers. It’s hugely important in bringing in your desired traffic and growing your online presence and business.

It therefore shouldn’t be an afterthought. It goes hand in hand with the website build, like peas and carrots.

As stated already, Google has as many as 200 ranking of factors that go into determining how high your website appears in the rankings. Some of the more prominent ones include:

  1. Content (including keyword selection).
  2. Backlinks.
  3. Speed
  4. On-page optimisation.

10 questions to ask before choosing your Gold Coast web designer

Choosing a content management system (CMS) can be a big decision, as once you commit it’s hard to back track.

We are proudly a WordPress developer. And there is safety in numbers – WordPress powers more a third of all the internet’s websites and about 60 per cent of the CMS market. We think it is the best as it provides access to countless features and plugins that others CMS’ cannot compete with.

Importantly, WordPress also has the best reputation for SEO. Being a Gold Coast SEO company, this is something we take incredibly seriously and place high importance on.

WordPress is however not the only CMS available. Other fairly popular options include Joomla, Wix, Drupal and Shopify. If you are set to agree to terms with a Gold Coast website designer who is using one of these CMS’ or another, you need to clearly understand the rationale for why they are doing it…and then make a decision as to whether that rationale stacks up.

This is a critical question as a custom-built website will give you multiple advantages.

Firstly though it is worth explaining what a custom-built website actually is. A custom-built site is built from scratch, it’s a blank canvas with no functionality restrictions. It’s coded to suit specific client needs.

A template or theme is purchased from an online library, quite often designed for a specific industry or business type. The thing about website templates is they often look fantastic. They are pre-made and ready to use straight out of the packet. And on occasions, they can serve a purpose if timeframes are tight and the budget is quite limited. However, they do have quite a few disadvantages when compared to custom-built websites.

A custom-built website is built solely for your business needs. There is nothing cookie-cutter about it. It will have the exact features, design, colours that you are after. And importantly, it will be unique – there will be no one else around that will have a design exactly like yours.

Custom built websites are also faster (and as discussed already, we know Google and visitors love this). They are not constrained by the significant code involved in their build.

Can it be more expensive? Can it take a little longer to build? Yes and yes…but will be worth it in the long run? That’s a yes again. Remember, a website is one of the most important business investments you will ever make. What little extra you have to pay to get a custom site built, will be more than worth it in the long run.

Once you’ve got your website live, the next most important thing you need to be doing is ensuring you are attracting traffic.

Does your business have the necessary skillset to both build your website and then set up the SEO foundations to attract traffic? At the very least, all your pages should be optimised and your website should be indexed by Google. Ideally, you should also have Google Analytics set up so you can build an understanding of your website’s traffic trends. Then, into the future, you should be considering an ongoing campaign to ensure your SEO foundations snowball into something more sustainable.

Website design and search engine marketing do tend to go hand-in-hand, so it may make sense to engage with a company that knows both well. This means that your initial conversations with your website designer should also incorporate SEO conversations as well as website credentials.

Interested in seeing how good your Gold Coast website design agency is at SEO? The quickest way to work that out is to Google them and see how they rank for relevant keywords. We rank number one for dozens of high value keywords. Any SEO company, worth their grain of salt, should be doing the same.

Easy answer for this one – fast. Very fast.

As discussed previously, website speed is hugely important, both for user experience and to impress Google.

It’s important you ask your Gold Coast website designer how fast your website will be built once complete. Also ask them what steps will be taken to ensure they deliver on this website speed.

It is probably worth considering that any Gold Coast website agency should have a fast website themselves! You can test their website at PageSpeed Insights. If they don’t have a fast website, it might be worth considering alternatives.

SEO Web Logistics is proud of the fact that our website is built by us (obviously) and delivers blistering speed. We know the secret herbs and spices needed to impress both potential customers and Google.

Be wary of any agency that believes they can whip up a WordPress website in a weekend.

Websites can be done quickly, no doubt. However, any website that is done in a week or two will not be tailored specifically for your business requirements. Instead your website design will be a cookie cutter approach – most likely a template recycled from one of the designer’s previous website designs.

Drag and drop websites (for example, WIX) have also become popular as a DIY resource. And in fairness they do have a place for those on a tight budget and who only need a simple design. However, for something more professional, unique and fast, WordPress website is generally your best option.

Our website builds generally take approximately 8 weeks once all content (text and images) is supplied / agreed on. However, timeframes are heavily impacted by client responsiveness and the number of rounds required as part of the approval process.

We’ve seen it before… sometimes circumstances change and brief evolves with it. We get and understand quite often it is out of your control.

In times like this, it depends on how significant the changes are as to whether the entire project cost has to be revisited. Sometimes, it’s only the page text that changes and that is generally very manageable. However if the entire design is turned upside down with new features and pages, costs are generally re-visited.

This is hugely important – you need to see the quality of work that your website designer is doing. Some agencies talk a big game on their own website, yet have not completed any builds recently…this question is your opportunity to separate the fact from the fiction.

Any serious website designer will have a portfolio set up on their website. If they don’t, make sure you ask to see some of their recent projects.

Leading website designers will provide client access to an online image library. This access, combined with some more specific business images, is usually sufficient to ensure a fantastic visual result.

At SEO Web Logistics, we provide free client access to an online library with more than five million stock photos and almost 2.5 million videos.

If you are left to pay for images as part of your project, it can bump up your costs significantly.

This is a tough question as website costs vary dramatically, depending on the complexity of the design.

However, to give you a ballpark figure, a straightforward WordPress site can be built for as little as $5000. More elaborate site designs with a higher number of features and/or pages may cost $10,000 or more. E-commerce functionality also increases the price, and these types of builds generally start at $6,800.

Most agencies won’t tolerate 15 rounds of changes in order to finish your project. It will drag your project timeframes out and inevitably blow out your budget. This can be frustrating for both parties. It also means preparation, including having your content finalised as much as possible, is important to ensure there are no nasty surprises.

It is therefore important to understand early on, or even prior to committing with a website designer, what the approvals process looks like and what changes can be made at what stage.

What you need to think about, post website design

Gold Coast Website hosting – what do to do?

So, you have completed your website. The next major decision, if you have not made it already, is where are you going to host it?

Don’t ever make the mistake of hosting being an afterthought – it’s an important decision which has a significant impact on your website performance.

Why does website hosting matter? What do you need to look for?

  1. Reliability: if you choose a host that suffers bouts of downtime, your business will suffer.
  2. Loading times matter: Never lose sight of the user experience and the value that Google places on website speed.
  3. Locally-based: if your server is far away, it impacts your load times. Choose Australian-based as opposed to international operations.
  4. Prevent data loss: Good hosting services regularly back up your website. This means if something catastrophic goes wrong, you can call for help.
  5. Customer service: You need the peace-of-mind that in the aforementioned catastrophic moment, your host will actually take your call.

How will you promote your website post-launch? SEO? Adwords?

As discussed already, there is zero value in having an amazing website, if no one is visiting. Online traffic is the life blood of most businesses these days, particularly if they are looking to grow.

It’s therefore important to have a gameplan on how to get website traffic. How will people find your website if they are interested in your service offering?

The benefits of SEO are many:

  1. It’s cost-efficient and sustainable: An SEO campaign is one of the most cost-efficient forms of marketing, ensuring a considerable return on investment in the short, medium and long term.
  2. Loading times matter: The benefits are felt 24/7: Unlike ordinary shopfronts that only open for select hours, your website is online 24/7, allowing you to reap the rewards of an SEO campaign at all times, potentially securing customers at any time of the day.
  3. Locally-based: It gives all businesses a fighting chance: Smaller companies that do SEO well can compete with much larger companies. For example, we’ve helped smaller online retailers outrank Myer for footwear.
  4. Prevent data loss:Improved user experience: Improving search engine rankings through SEO, means resolving all technical flaws with your site to help maximise performance and ensure the best possible user experience for your visitors.
  5. Customer service: Target new search terms and locations: If you wish to diversify your product offerings or branch out and target new locations, doing so with SEO is easily accomplished.

Google Adwords brings exactly the same benefits as SEO, except the traffic is attracted at a cost (not organically). However, it does have the benefit of instant results whereas SEO can take a number of months to build momentum.

Ongoing maintenance

Most businesses decide to update their website every three to four years, and unfortunately throughout this period many websites remain untouched.

The risks in doing this are many:

  1. The website does not grow and evolve as your business does.
  2. The website becomes stale as it does not provide insights to current business events.
  3. Increased exposure to security risks, including malware.
  4. Your website backend becomes out of date – and possibly unstable.

A structured website maintenance program typically includes:

  1. WordPress update (if available)
  2. Plugin updates (so all the plugins run on latest and compatible versions)
  3. Theme updates
  4. Scan website for any malware or issue using word fence plugin
  5. Contact form testing
  6. Deep scan the website from C-panel/server level
  7. In case there is any error like plugin/theme compatibility issue or deprecated functions of PHP, we fix that so website wok properly.
  8. Ensure the website speed is appropriate.

Ensuring these appropriate website updates and checks are completed helps to reduce your risk of website downtime. For many businesses, losing online presence for any period of time can result in a material financial impact.