Build a website – properly

Ah, the word “properly”, there is the thing. What counts as a’proper’ website anyway? We asked Chris Brown from Immedia Creative, a U.K. Design agency.

“When it comes to websites, doing it properly is really about providing the visitors to your website with the best possible experience. That doesn’t have to mean amazing animations, mind blowing effects or any fancy stuff at all. If your visitors want a website of plain black and white text with no pictures then the ‘proper’ website for them will be precisely that.”

After 21 years of building websites, Chris has built up a wealth of experience and knowledge on the subject. He has lost count of the exact number he has created but says he has built at least 300 sites over the years. He now works with a development team in Bray, Berkshire, building websites for both local and national businesses.

Know your visitors

“The understanding of who your visitors are and what their wants and needs are is at the heart of doing it properly. Before we build a new site we sit and talk to the owner face to face about who their customers are. This is an essential task. We ask everything we can think of to really understand their needs.  Some stuff we already know (the customers are human beings) but each website audience is different and we really need to find out what those differences are.

For example, we recently built a website for a training provider. Quite a lot of their prospective clients don’t have English as their first language. This meant we needed to make the navigation, buttons and text very simple, clear and understandable to the specific audience.

We need to know what technology their visitors will be using. If 90% of visitors will be accessing the website via mobile phones  and tablets (which is increasingly common, particularly with websites aimed at younger audiences) then spending a proportionate ammount of time making the mobile experience the best it can be is time well spent. However we recently built a site for an architect and the client was certain that the majority of visitors would be using big screen apple Mac computers to view the site and they would expect images to be as sharp as possible at huge screen resolutions.

Be Inclusive

A properly built website shouldn’t exclude anyone. Quite a lot of people with poor eyesight access the web using special ‘text to speech’ browsers that read out the contents of the website to the visitor. Making sure a site follows the rules that allow these browsers to work is not only good practice but is potentially an offence if it is ignored. A simple thing like adding ‘alt-tags’ to images is the first step in this regard but we still see many websites where this is not done.

Be Fast

A proper website should be quick to load. We humans are an impatient species and if you make someone wait too long they get bored and wander off. We see countless sites with massive images or poorly written routines that take so long to load that nobody would ever consider hanging around to see the final page actually appear. The owner might not know it because their computer is displaying a locally ‘cached’ copy of the website, but visitors… well as I said,, they have wandered off.

Analyse the data

How do we know this? well experience is one thing, but one of the key things we do is always install anaysis systems into the proper websites we build so that the owner will know if there is aproblem with their site in future. Suppose in a years time they add a huge image by mistake and suddenly the homepage takes an extra 50 seconds to load. For a web based business this could mean thousands of pounds in lost revenue every day. without analytics reports the owner cannot know the cause of the loss.

There is a lot of ‘do it yourself’ software out there, and while it is easy to build a website quickly, building a ‘proper’ website still takes a lot of time, skill and knowledge.

Why does it matter?

Yes, what does it matter if a website is built properly, as long as it works? Well if you want your website to get visitors you need it to be properly constructed. Google aims to provide better and better results to searchers and so they only want to put the best websites in their top search results. If two websites are equal in other regards, but one is built properly then that is the one that will appear at the top and get the lions share of visits.

So for businesses, the economic case is very clear. A properly built website equals more profit.”

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About the author

Loves to learn new things and make stuff...properly. Born and living in the Thames Valley west of London, England. I have an office job during the day, but evenings and weekends are all about making.