Web Development Essentials

Web Development — Nuts and Bolts for Successful Sites

The developmental stage is the point at which the website itself is created. Typically Warren first develops the home page, then develops a “shell” for the remaining pages. The shell serves as a template containing the main navigational structure for the site. He then distributes content throughout the site, in appropriate areas. During this stage, Warren emails his clients links that make the in-progress pages available for viewing, so clients can suggest changes or corrections.

Once Warren has completed the initial web design stage, the rest of the elements fall under broad categories of web development, which he provides to clients. Here's his web development essentials list, shown in no particular order.

1. Attractiveness  First impressions are key. Although good design alone will not keep visitors on your site, an eye-catching design will grab their attention long enough to take a look around.

2. Intuitive User Interface  The foundation of a functional website is its user interface. Whether you're selling products or services, soliciting business, informing, blogging, or asking for subscriptions, how users work with your pages is essential. Your navigation system must be easy to spot and consistent throughout.

3. Well-Written Content  The saying "Content is king" will haunt you if your site is attractive but its content hasn't been written properly. Poorly written content will send visitors away quickly. Seek the services of a copyeditor and proofreader.

4. Easy Contact Methods  Nothing can turn off a prospective customer more than being unable to find out how to contact you. Whether on a contact-specific page or on all pages, ideally you'll want to provide more than one contact method. For example, Warren provides his phone number and email hyperlink on every page of his site.

5. Search Option  If you have a large website or blog, include a search option. It will be incredibly helpful and much appreciated by end-users.

6. Sign-ups and Subscriptions  If your site offers fresh content on a regular basis — such as newsletters, updates, or a blog — you'll want to make it easy for people to sign up or subscribe.

7. Site Map  Larger sites especially need a site map, a structured list of all the site's pages. A good site map includes a link to every page in a hierarchical format, clearly showing the relationship of primary pages with sub-pages and sub-sub-pages. See this site map example.

8. Code Validation  It’s not enough for a developer to create a site using proper codes, such as XHTML and CSS; it has to be accurate code that conforms to industry standards, such as the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Validation is a debugging tool that checks whether a page is built in accordance with today's web standards, ensuring that future web platforms will handle it as designed.

9. Cross-Browser Compatibility  Although many people enjoy Firefox and Chrome browsers, there’s a good chance others are using Internet Explorer, even its archaic version IE6. Today it’s vital that sites display well in mainstream web browsers. Warren also makes sites compatible across Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms.

10. Optimized Images  When developing for the web, it’s important to save images in a compressed format — smaller in terms of disk space, not overall dimension — so that your images look fine load quickly. Optimization is essential for Internet images; a smaller file size enables a quicker download time. Because nonoptimized or pixel-heavy web images take longer to load, visitors may not have the patience to wait and may leave a site. It's wise to make sites user friendly and quickly accessible.

11. Statistics, Tracking, and Analytics  Although this is a behind-the-scenes element, website owners will find it an essential inclusion. Through statistics, tracking, and analytics, you'll learn: the number of "hits" for each page; which keyword search terms people use to find your site; which sites link to yours; which of your pages are most popular; where visitors live; and much more. Google Analytics and StatCounter are the most popular (and free) tracking programs. Learn more here.

12. Launch  Once you give your web developer your final approval of every page, it's time to deliver the site to the world. If you have an extensive electronic database to whom you want to announce your site's launch, Warren can create a launch announcement page you can e-broadcast to everyone. He can also design a postcard or flier with launch details that you can mail or hand out.

13. Maintenance  It's no secret that site visitors and search engines both prefer to visit updated sites where content is added on a regular basis. Websites need ongoing maintenance: updating content and graphics; presenting the latest products and services; communicating organizational changes; adding newsletters, blog updates; and so on. By regularly maintaining your site, you'll improve your search engine rankings, increase the number of visitors, and emphasize your online presence.

14. Marketing and Promoting Your Site  Sadly, websites don't promote themselves. As a new or existing website owner, you need to appreciate the value and importance of marketing and promoting your site. Are you prepared to undertake an ongoing campaign to continue attracting people to your site? Find Warren's tried-and-true marketing and promoting tips here.

Implementing the Essentials  Incorporating most if not all 14 essential web development elements into your site will help visitors feel that it has been well-developed. With Warren's help — analyzing the back end of your website to see what works and doesn't work, which pages people have visited and how page designs attract and retain visitors — your new or redeveloped website can become a successful, effective, lead-generating site.

Check out Warren's web-specific pages:

Web Design  |  Web Development

Examples of Effective Website Basics

Informational Q & A  |  Search Engine Optimization

Improving SEO Rankings  |  Tracking Site Performance

Evaluating Google Analytics  | Marketing and Promotion

Analyzing and Improving Your Existing Site

If your website doesn't stand out and do a lot of things right, chances are it's not going to achieve your goals. If you need a new site, discuss the possibilities with Warren to get a feel for the effort and cost involved. If you want to renovate an existing site, Warren can examine it to see what you're doing right and wrong and what you're forgetting to do. New or existing, his insights and recommendations can help make a difference in the success or failure of your site.

If you'd like Warren Camp Design to create a new site, redesign or freshen up your existing site, or evaluate your site objectively, or call WCD at 209-795-7661.