1. GoalsA starting point when crafting your website should be your goals. What do you want people to do when they visit your site? This will help you determine what type of site you need (brochure, storefront, etc). It's important to consider the primary goal of each page as well as the site as a whole. Focus on those goals and make it very clear what action people should take at every step. Avoid providing lots of options. Too many choices leads to indecision, which leads to inaction.
2. Easy to find contact infoAs much as we hope everyone who visits our site will read every word on every page, the reality is sometimes people just want to find out how to contact you (which is actually a good thing!). So make sure it's easy for them to do that. Every page on your site should have a way for visitors to contact you, whether it's the actual information (phone number, email link) or a link to take them to a contact page. In many cases, it's a good idea to have this information in a few places on the page. If you are a "break the mold" kind of person and like to try different things, this is not one of those things you should mess with. People have come to expect to find contact information in the top right corner of websites and that's where they will look first, so make sure you have information there for them to find.
3. ConsistencyEverything you do with and for your business should be consistent with your brand. This applies to your website as well, both internally and externally. Internally, all pages of your website should use the same styling. Examples include using the same fonts/colours for specific purposes (black Arial text for paragraphs, purple bold Open Sans text for page titles, etc) and always using squares for bullet points. Ideally, this is all pre-coded into your theme, and not changed on a page by page basis. Externally, you want to ensure that if someone is already familiar with your business, they instantly identify your website as part of your brand. If someone isn't already familiar with your business, this is their first impression and it should be a good representation of what they can expect from your business. Bottom line: consistency is key.
4. Security measuresProtecting your site from hackers is a must these days. It doesn't matter how small or unknown your site is, you can't prevent it from becoming a target. What you can do is make it a difficult target. Do not use "admin" as your username. Do use a strong, unique password (longer is better). Do install a security plugin. There are several useful plugins available, ranging in their ability to lock things down. One of the main features to look for is the ability to limit login attempts. This is like installing an alarm system on your house. It will deter most of the "drive-by" hackers who use bots to attempt to gain access to your site by trying a million passwords (usually with "admin" as the user name).
5. SSL certificateAn SSL certificate encrypts data passing between your website and a visitor's computer. It's what gives you the "https" instead of "http" and that little green lock symbol in the address bar. Search engines have recently started penalizing websites that don't have an SSL certificate installed and properly set up. All other things being equal, a site without an SSL certificate will rank below a site with one. You may also have noticed a red message in your browser saying "Not Secure". The wording, along with the red text, causes fear in visitors that your site is unsafe. Many don't understand yet that this message is referring to the lack of an SSL certificate and it's features, and they worry that they could get a virus or be hacked if they look around your site. Do yourself a favour: get an SSL certificate and avoid losing visitors due to fear of the unknown. There are other benefits to your site, like improved speed, and a free SSL certificate is sufficient for the average small business website.
6. AnalyticsAnalytics is one of those tools you need to implement from day one, or as soon afterwards as possible, even if you don't think you need it. You can learn some really cool things with the right analytics, from how many people have visited your site and how they got they there to how long mobile users are staying on your site. By the time you decide you want to know and use this information, if you haven't already been collecting it, it's too late.
7. Off-site backupsA backup of your files protects in the unfortunate event that something happens to your website. It's important that your backup does not live on the same server as your website. If something happens to the server, your backup is likely just as compromised as your website, rendering it useless. Also, it's ideal to have full access to your backup files independent of your host provider, in case you lose access to your account. You should be able to utilize your backup at a moment's notice in any situation. This means that as nice as it is that host providers often provide daily backups, they really aren't the best solution. Luckily, there are lots of trustworthy plugins that let you save backup files via email, dropbox, google drive, etc, and many of them are free or low-cost. At some point in the lifetime of your site, you will be glad you have this (or wish you had followed this advice!).
Consider these points to be the building blocks of your website's foundation. A good base provides support and stability, allowing your website content to shine and serve you well.
About the Author
"Let me be your geek!"
Christina helps small businesses manage their online presence. Specializing in WordPress website development, she also offers technical help and training with various digital products including MailChimp and social media. She also possesses a rare gift of being able to translate “tech talk” into English. Christina is a purple-o-phile, animal lover and tea junkie.