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Website design

Websites and SEO

A website serves as an advertisement for you and the services that you offer. Unless potential customers or enquirers (users) already know that you have a website - and they know its web address - they will have to rely on a search engine like Google to locate your website. It's vital, then, that your website be presented to the world in such a way that it can readily be found.

Everybody wants their website to appear on the first page of a Google search. This cannot be guaranteed, unless you pay Google specifically for that privilege.

Point to the picture below, and you'll see the first results of a search for “bed and breakfast cirencester”. The results on a buff-coloured background are agencies who have paid Google to be at the top of the list. Websites for individual B&Bs in Cirencester will be well down the list!

In short, there are millions of websites out there competing for attention and it is a cat-and-mouse game constantly played between web designers and the search engines! There are large technical books written on the subject of search engine optimization (SEO) and whole businesses devoted solely to providing SEO services.

Building your own website

There are two ways to do this:

  1. You can teach yourself the website language HTML and write your own web-pages. It's what I did and I'm now a website designer. It's taken me some years and I'm still learning!
  2. You can use one of the website-building applications or packages available off-the-shelf at High Street stores or on the Internet. Some of the Internet ones are free.

I would strongly advise against using build-it-yourself packages. These give you an all-purpose website, covering every possible gizmo that you might be tempted to use. All this capability employs a lot of HTML and JavaScript code, most of which your website won't be using. The search engines do not like web-pages that carry lots of redundant code.

MCT websites

I can design a website for you that suits your needs. The search engines approve of well-designed websites. I follow the principles of good website design as laid down by the World-Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

These principles are too numerous to list here, and many are very technical, but the following hints may help in your overall consideration of requirements:

  • Make sure your pages are consistent in style. This can be strongly supported by your choice of colours and a logo - generally described as branding.
  • Don't be tempted to use 'eye-catching' flashing or rolling images and other 'effects'. Use good informative pictures by all means - a picture speaks a thousand words - but you don't want your users distracted; you want to keep them informed.
  • Your users might want to print some of the information on your website. Make sure that your website has the capability to print the stuff that's worth printing, without wasting the users' ink on unnecessary banners, navigation bars and pictures!
  • Make sure that your website works in all browsers. Although most people use Microsoft's Internet Explorer, there are several versions of this browser in use and it's still not thoroughly compliant with Web standards! Many people use Firefox or Safari...

Consultation

If you are considering having a website designed for you, or perhaps an existing one re-designed, contact me to arrange a consultation. We will need to discuss your 'branding' and general design requirements and also the content of your pages. Good choice of words and phrases that you use on the pages really helps with the all-important SEO.

Hosting

A website is stored on a computer to which the world has constant access. Such a computer needs rigorous security measures. There are numerous host computers or servers dedicated to storing websites, and you pay them for the privilege. As a rough guide, it would cost about £50 per year, but there are always introductory offers for less than this. It's advisable to pay for at least 3 or 4 years' hosting - you'll get a good reduction on the rate...and it's good for SEO!

Some self-help with SEO

Choose a domain name that reflects the nature of your business.

Choose a designer who follows the W3C-approved methods.

Have your website hosted, and your domain registered, for several years. The search engines don't like "fly-by-nights".

If you want several pages in your website, they should be clearly defined in their purpose.

Make sure that you use words and phrases in your content which users are likely to search for.

Update your content regularly. The search engines like to know that a website is being cared for!

Find your support businesses and offer to "link" to their websites. They should offer to return the compliment and include a link to your website.

Prices

Not surprisingly, the cost of producing a website depends on how much work it takes!

The most time-consuming tasks I have undertaken in building websites have been in designing colour-schemes and logos, editing photographs - the sort of editing like removing lamp-posts from people's heads - and in writing copy for the client.

Picture of a ball of string

It helps tremendously if you can provide the artwork and the copy for your business. My main work as the website designer is in the layout of the pages - the stylesheets - rather than the number of pages.

To give a rough guide, an integrated website of 5 to 6 pages including a contact form would cost £450 - £600 at 2014 prices.