Web Site Design: Nobody Should Start with a Blank Page

Have you designed your own web site in the past few years? Maybe ten years in the past? I sure have. I have used straight HTML, CSS, and even JQuery. My most recent web site designs did not require any of those although they utilized those technologies and many more.

You may be thinking “So how should I begin?” You should start with a Content Management System or publishing platform. The CMS platforms available may depend on your individual web host. My web host for more than ten years has been Godaddy and I have been quite satisfied. Currently I have two sites which spread the word on my own business – Link Em Up custom business services. I am also using my web site for blogging purposes and promoting my various books on technology and Christian Studies.

Let’s start with the Link Em Up site. It has gone through the many technologies mentioned above and presented a nice site that required quite a bit of time and effort to construct. Currently that site is built on Joomla and exists in a Windows hosting environment. Joomla is a true Content Management System which provides many professional-quality features. As you can see from the site, the functionality provided by Joomla results in an impressive web site design that does not require weeks of effort before it is ready to go. My other sites are designed using WordPress, Simple Machines Forum and a Visual Studio web-based app.

Now we will work on your desire to build a site. First, get a site layout in mind and maybe even rough it out on paper. This will provide something to refer to when building your web site. Next you will need to choose the platform. Does it cost to install it? Will the themes have a cost? This would depend on your web host and your individual desires. I can say that the many sites designed so far using Drupal, WordPress, and the individual themes and modules used have come from the open source world and have not incurred an initial cost. Of course, the designers of the software and themes work for a living so you should give a donation if you financially benefit from their work.

Now that you have chosen the platform, which theme should you use? That depends on your target market. The best recommendation is to choose a responsive theme which will be viewable across varying platforms. Even though you may not be targeting smart phones now, this platform may be an excellent resource to get the word out about your business. By building a site that is cross-platform capable you will have smartphones, tablets, and desktops covered with a single site design.

What color scheme should you use? This, also, is dependent on the focus area of your business. Certain color schemes are more suited for specific business types. You would not want to use a dark layout for a happy, party hosting site. Do some research to find out which colors will appeal to your target audience. There are certain decisions that you will not have to make because they will be absorbed by the theme options and layout chosen. One of those decisions is whether to use frames. Another decision that should definitely be NO is whether to use Flash based presentations. Although they look flashy, the recent security woes in the Flash arena can cast a dark cloud on your business because you chose to design around that presentation platform.

Now that you have selected your design platform, theme, and even the initial site layout you are ready to show it to the world. Which domain name should you choose? One popular approach is to use keyword-laden URLs. Many domain names are chosen specifically for the purpose of search-ability. Choosing a domain name is quite easy, and registration may be free with the purchase of your hosting plan. My web sites are hosted with GoDaddy for less than $50 for a year. Since the only cost for the domain registration was the ICANN-required 18 cents. That means a total investment of less than half of a C-note to put my new business offering out there for the world to see. When you get to the main GoDaddy page you can look up the availability of any domain name that you may choose. Some people will say that you should settle for nothing less than a .com domain. As you can tell by the two sites listed here, I disagree with that statement. Choose whichever top level domain (TLD) you feel comfortable with. You may choose .biz, .us, .com, .co or any of the many others available.

So far we have chosen a web host, registered our own domain name, and designed a site. How do we get this site in front of the billions of web users around the country? Search engine optimization is the answer to that question. Every page that you have on your site should liberally use applicable keywords in as many places as possible. This does not mean that you should place a list of keywords, even if they are invisible to the human, at the top or bottom of your page. You can use the meta-keywords tag but that is generally ignored by the popular search engines. You should also be sure that the theme chosen uses H1 and H2 tags properly since these are scanned by the search engines to properly index contents of the page.

Now that you have carefully selected the URL and designed the site, sign up for Google Analytics and watch the hits roll in. After signing up, take a look at the Webmaster Tools and Website Optimizer. Enjoy your new web site adventure and additional revenue.

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