Professional website design secrets: simple steps to creating stunning web pages!
These web design tips give you a complete summary of the web design process, to help get you online!
7 Steps to a Well-Designed Website
This page will show you all the nuts and bolts of creating a website.
If you want to redesign an existing site, you can skip over some of these sections, but there are still lots of web design secrets here that will help make your site outstanding!
Here they are:
The 7 Steps to stunning web design!
1. Domain Names
The very first step in web design is registering your domain name. The best, most widely recognized domains are the .com names, followed by .net and .org. But it’s getting harder to find good ones, so if you can’t get the .com you want, you may want to try one of the newer options.
Regional domains (like .us, .uk and .jp) are good if your site is oriented towards your own area, and descriptive domains (like .biz, .info, .tv and .museum) are gaining popularity for sites catering to those specific markets.
No matter what type of domain you get, remember that you can boost your search engine ranking if you incorporate your top keywords into it. So registering “www.osiris-egyptian-artifacts.museum” may be a better choice than just “www.osiris.museum”. Read my page on search engine optimization for more about keywords.
You can easily register your domain yourself. That way you can try different names to see what’s available, and keep control of your registration and its renewal.
I use www.GoDaddy.com for domain names — it’s inexpensive and reliable, although I will warn you that they’ll try to upsell you on a lot of other services that you probably don’t need.
The next step is selecting the right host for your site!
To get your site online, you will need to rent some space from a hosting company. There are hundreds of web hosts out there, so it’s important to understand what you need before you start looking.
For most small companies, individuals, or startups, shared hosting is the most cost-effective option. This means that your site will share the same server as a number of other websites, usually with a fixed amount of space and bandwidth allocated to each.
Unless you have a really large or graphics-intensive site — or very high traffic — you should be able to find a good shared hosting plan for under US$10 a month.
If you have an extensive ecommerce catalogue, or a lot of big files, then you may need an account with more space and bandwidth. And if you plan to run databases, dynamic pages or custom scripts, you’ll need to make sure you’re on a server that supports CGI scripting, and either ASP or PHP (more on this further down).
Two web hosts that I recommend:
Make sure you use a host that fulfills all of your anticipated needs for the future — and provides 24/7 phone and email support.
I recommend that you pay monthly so that if you ever need to move hosts, you won’t lose a yearly fee. And I would suggest that you buy your domain name and your hosting from separate companies, so that you can change hosts without being charged any hidden fees.
So now you have a domain name and some space on a server. What’s next?
HyperText Markup Language is the format used to design web pages. It works on a very simple principle — the markup codes are added to change the appearance of text, like this:
Lewis Caroll wrote <b>Jabberwocky</b> in 1872.
The start tag, <b> tells the web browser to turn bold on, and the end tag, </b> turns it off. Simple, huh? Well, of course, it gets a little more complicated, but the principle remains the same for almost all of the HTML codes.
If you have a website, then learning at least the basics of HTML is probably a very good idea. The free HTML resources listed here can be a great help.
If you don’t have the time or patience to learn HTML, there is a piece of software called Contribute that lets you edit your web pages just like you would in a word processor. It’s an excellent alternative for the non-technically inclined.
Another good option that allows you to change your site from anywhere — with no software to install — is a content management system. This is a way of building a database-driven site that has a password protected administration section where you can make changes online.
But if do decide to jump into HTML coding, you’ll need an HTML editor. There are some reasonably good ones available for free, or you can buy a professional package if you are serious about the web design process.
It’s very important to test your web pages in as many different browsers as possible — they each display things a little differently! You’ll find that it takes some experience before you can easily code for cross-browser compatibility.
So now that you know how a webpage is designed, we can move on to what to put in it!
There are basically three elements to a web page:
- your logo and supporting graphics
- a navigation menu, and
How you decide to design your web pages is mostly a matter of personal preference, but there are some standard practices that have evolved on the Internet, and you should be careful about deviating from them too much.
In most cases, your logo should appear at the top left corner of every web page. This not only helps to brand your image, but it also gives credibility and consistency to your site.
I also recommend following a standard menu layout — either across the top, or down the left hand side of each page. Some sites also add secondary menus on the right, but this can easily make the page look too crowded.
In HTML, there are basically two ways to lay out a web page: tables and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). Table-based layouts are becoming obsolete since CSS gives a lot more power and flexibility to the design.
A quick way to create your site layout is to buy a professional-quality template. Some template designers will also sell you exclusive rights to your template, so that your site will be the only one using it.
Another option is to use an online site design service like Site Build It! . It gives you all of the tools and advice you need to create a highly successful website — including domain registration, hosting and traffic building — with no technical skills required. I’ve written a review of SBI here.
Once you have a page layout designed, it can be used throughout your site. The next step is deciding how to link your pages together...
The best design for your navigation menu depends on how many pages you have in your site. Each of your menus can also have sub-menus, whether they are placed across the top or down the left side of the page.
A common mistake is to divide up the navigation into too many different menus that are spread around the page. That just makes it harder for your visitors to find what they’re looking for — and if your visitors get lost, they won’t stay long.
Another consideration is whether to use text or graphics for your menu links. If you want graphical menus, a good designer will just use a few repeated images — otherwise each page can take forever to load.
It’s helpful to plan out the hierarchy of your site in advance, with your opening page, content pages and closer pages in logical sequence. This will funnel your visitors towards your desired response — in most cases, making a purchase.
Keeping the ordering process as streamlined as possible is also crucial:
6. Sales Integration
If you want visitors to give you their money, it has to be easy for them. Your order pages need to be easy to find, user-friendly and secure.
There are many different options for taking credit card orders online, ranging from third-party acceptance houses to shopping cart software that integrates your site with your Internet merchant account.
Selecting a processing method will depend on several factors: your budget, the number of items you are offering, and your sales volume. If you’re just starting out, then PayPal or Moneybookers might be a good choice — these are third-party payment processors that you can sign up with for free, and just get billed for each transaction.
If you process your own orders, then security becomes an important consideration, and implementing anti-fraud measures is essential to limit your liability. Your system should log as much user information as possible, and make use of credit card verification services like address checking and user authentication.
The last web design element to think about is customizing your site with extra features:
You may want your site to have some extra functions, such as a discussion forum, weblog, search function, news aggregator, database functionality, user tracking...
...and that means programming!
There isn’t much point in learning any Internet programming languages just for your own site, but it may be helpful for you to know what’s involved in creating different features. So here’s a brief overview of the most common web design languages:
PHP is also included within web pages, but it runs on your server, and interacts with your online databases using a query language, SQL, to provide customized content. PHP has a lot of power — it’s used for searches, forums, blogs, catalogues, user authentication, and much more.
ASP is another server-side language similar to PHP, but it runs on Windows-based servers.
Perl is used to add CGI scripts on your server, which add functions like emailing form data from websites. It is different from PHP and ASP in that it isn’t actually incorporated into web pages — Perl scripts are usually sent some data and asked to do other functions on the server.
There are lots of scripts available either for purchase or for free — so if you want to add a fairly common feature to your site, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Just get your techie to install the script for you!
So those are the 7 steps to web design success. The next question is:
How much of this are you going to do yourself?
Given enough time, almost anybody can design a good website — but if you are running a business, then learning all of the ins and outs of web development may not be the most effective use of your resources.
I’ve put together a guide to working with web designers, to help you decide how much professional help to get, and how much time you can expect each step of the process to take.
If you just want a straightforward website without a lot of bells and whistles, then you’re welcome to have a look at my web design package deals. They include everything you need to get a business started on the net, at prices that you won’t find anywhere else.
Finally, as you continue to build your online business, there are a number of excellent web resources that I would recommend to any Internet business owner to help build your net success!