Website design and maintenance, in their respective ratios, are key ingredients to developing a powerful Internet presence. These items are interwoven with each other because one element of the recipe alone isn’t enough. The greatest website designs can quickly fall into disrepair and all the maintenance work in the world won’t save a fundamentally flawed website. Only when they work together can you count on establishing yourself online.
Website design and maintenance begins with a few important questions about the site. These are important because if you aren’t sure about these things, there’s no way your customers will be sure about them either.
First: What is the point of your website? Is it to build brand awareness? Provide product or academic information? Sell advertising space or facilitate the selling of your products or services? Whatever it is, make sure that your purpose is clear and distinct.
Next: What are your goals? You’ve decided on a purpose, now you have to settle on exactly what you want to accomplish. You have to know what you consider a success and what you consider failure.
Now when you are settling on your design concepts you need to ask yourself what image do you want to project? Are you being consistent from page to page? And are you presenting your message clearly?
Usability is a major part of website design and maintenance. This starts with your site navigation, which could include sidebar navigation, tabs, search fields, site maps, bottom links, or any combination of the above (without overdoing it, of course). But the only way to really get a sense for the usability of a site is to actually test it. Real people. Real tests. This is the only way to discover those little glitches that are just laying in wait for an unsuspecting customer to stumble into it. The Mighty Glitch can chase away or devour more customers than you might like to think.
Once you’ve discovered the glitches and decided on a course of action to correct the problem or problems, it is vitally important that you actually implement the changes. You can’t let the action get lost in the plans. The follow through is possibly one of the most important aspects of website maintenance. Until something is done about your site you’re just going to simmer in the same place with the same ranking, never reaching your full online potential.
Another important aspect of website design and maintenance is the content. You’ve heard that content is king a million times, and with good reason. Content is what a search engine can read, categorize, and rank. So if you want to succeed online, you’ve got to have content and it’s got to be search engine friendly.
Search engine “friendliness” doesn’t stop at content, though. Properly used hyperlinks, meta tags, keyword density, title tags, and other items all figure in to your search engine visibility.
Now you’ve built a nice website that presents a clear message and will likely help you achieve your goals. What’s next?
Remember that the Internet is inherently an interactive medium. Consumers turn to the Internet because they expect at least a certain level of input. So when you design your site you ought to include at least some type of customer communication. Ideally this will include you complete contact information and a “contact us” form.
Finally there is the Extended Maintenance Plan. Once all the design issues are in place you have to be willing to commit to keeping the site in peak condition. The Internet is nothing if not intensely competitive, and if you start to let it slide down that slippery slope there’s no telling where it will end.
The good news is that you can plan for a lot of this in the beginning of the process. As you build your site and your web presence you can build in scalability and ease of updating. Make sure that your great content can be changed or updated quickly and easily. This includes the ability to add new pages to cover new products, services, or topics.
Always remember, website design and maintenance are two parts of a greater whole. Keep this in mind and you can build more than a simple website. You will create a powerful web presence.