By Jill Schoolenberg, GoDaddy Canada
We may be just at the start of winter, but a new year and a revitalized spring season will be upon us before we know it. Now is the best time to give your website the boost it needs with a design and content makeover. Even if web design isn’t your area of expertise, you can still create an amazing website. Solid design will always outdo flashy or gimmicky pages. By following a few easy tips and building a solid foundation you can’t go wrong.
Before you begin, look at what you already have, and ask yourself if your current setup communicates your brand effectively. Maybe your site only needs a fresh coat of paint, or maybe you would like a major renovation. Winter might be a terrible time for renovating your house, but it’s the perfect time to get down to business with your website.
Let’s look at some of the best ways to improve your website:
- Trends are your friend: Just like any industry, web design goes through phases. Before you embark on any changes be sure to browse around other sites in your field and read-up on what’s hot to get some inspiration — then make it your own!
- Set realistic goals: If your goal is to get a simple website up and running, you will be pleasantly surprised at how quickly you can go live. If you’re starting a more detailed project or looking to improve specific aspects of your business online (maybe you want to start a business blog), remember to set reachable goals so you’re not immediately overwhelmed.
- Domains (and TDLs) are fun! The perfect domain name might not be the most obvious. New top-level domains (TDLs) are being created all the time, and now is a great time to get a domain name that will truly set your business apart from others. Consider a unique domain name that really gets to the heart of your services with TDLs such as .expert, .guru, .studio (even .ninja!). It’s a memorable and fun way to add style to your site.
- Don’t forget security: When you purchase a domain name, add extra security with ID protection to help keep your contact information hidden. If you’re running an online shop, SSL certificates are essential for helping to keep your customer data secure.
- Make sure your business and contact information is up to date: This one is easy to overlook when registering a new domain name, or updating contact information for existing ones. Don’t forget to use a current email address so you can receive reminders about renewals. And make sure renewal notifications are coming to you, and not another employee, in case that person leaves your organization.
- Find a good web host: Do your research and find a host that can scale as your business, and website, grows. Check that they offer all the tools like email, analytics and content marketing that you may want in the future. Maybe most importantly, check if they have 24/7 customer support.
- Focus on navigation: Once you’re ready to get down to actually designing your site, one key is to focus on easy navigation. Even if you’re building a one-page website, plan for growth. Homepage layout is important as it is the first thing your visitors see. Whatever your design — keep navigation clear.
- Pick a consistent colour palette and stick to it: Whether you’re going with your existing business colours or picking something completely new, moderation is the key. Luckily, there are a number of online tools to help all the burgeoning designers out there.
- Get creative with images: Chances are your smartphone has a powerful camera. Use it to take some bright, exciting photos for your website. Original photography is often the best way to go, but if you’re not into taking pictures, you can get creative with some fantastic online resources.
- Write a brilliant call-to-action: Photos are great but you’ll need to keep your customers engaged with your website copy. Use an active voice when writing and explain to your customers what’s in it for them. For example, if you plan to offer a newsletter with exclusive offers, say so instead of asking them to fill out another boring form.
- Build for mobile first: Even if you don’t have a smartphone or tablet, building your website with mobile in mind is essential. Google even uses it as a way of ranking its search results. Building for mobile sounds scary but many tools, including the GoDaddy Website Builder, make it easy.
- Do analytics: Web stats used to be scary, with a lot of vague terms like “hits.” Today it has never been easier to get into analytics and see what kind of traffic your website is generating. Pick a few key stats to focus on at first like time-on-site and look for ways to improve.
- Love social media – on your terms: Social can be stressful but it can be an important driver of new business. Take it slow and identify areas where you can improve. You don’t have to be on every social network, it’s far more important to find a niche and grow your audience, if you can, drop the networks where you’ve been slacking.
- Go global: If you’re building a new website, it’s the perfect time to think about adding localization (language) options. Even if you have the slightest idea you’ll be expanding your business into new countries or would like to attract more international customers, it’s always easiest to start localization from the ground-up. Retrofitting an existing website gets much more complex.
- Save yourself time: If you’ve got some downtime now, put aside a few hours each week to work on new content you can post during your busy seasons. You’ll thank yourself later!
- Stick to the plan: If you’re not a full-time web designer, it can be easy to get off-track. If you need inspiration be sure to check out some examples of well-designed websites and browse some of the excellent online resources like the GoDaddy Garage for plenty more tips for both beginners and pros alike.
Jill Schoolenberg is the Vice President in Canada for GoDaddy. Based in Toronto, Jill is leading GoDaddy’s expansion across Canada. Jill has an extensive business background with leading technology and small business organizations in Canada.
An earlier version of this article was previously published in February 2016 on themompreneur.com; featured image of workspace showing web design page via shutterstock.com