Don’t build a website because you "need" one. Build a website because it accomplishes a goal for you. A few example goals:
Then whenever you add something to the website, ask yourself: does this help accomplish the goal?
The secret to a great looking website is typography— websites are mostly text after all.
You don't need to find an unusual, artistic font— instead already popular fonts like Open Sans, Roboto, Merriweather or Lora are your best bet.
People glaze over when they see jargon or technical language on a website.
Write plainly and humanly.
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How did I do it? I’ll tell you— but you might roll your eyes. Here's how:
Create really, really valuable content for your visitors.
That’s it. That's the best long-term SEO strategy. Seriously. It sounds simple but it's devilishly hard.
Of course there are some fundamentals you should know (Moz's Beginners Guide to SEO is a good start) but there are no magical shortcuts with SEO. It just takes work.
Note: There are plenty of crappy SEO consultants out there. Avoid the salesy ones— in fact, avoid anyone who promises SEO results or speaks with authoritative certainty.
Seek out consultants who aren't afraid to say there are no shortcuts or easy answers.
Being published is like oxygen for websites. The sooner your website is live, the sooner you'll know what works (and what doesn't).
Your website is not a work of art— it’s something that should accomplish a goal for you. Perfect is the enemy of good enough.
Many people waste too much time planning a website. But most questions are too hard to answer until you've actually begun building the website.
Start building early and you’ll be surprised how quickly answers come to questions like How much text should I write for this page?
Keep things as simple and clear as possible.
White space is good.
Whenever you add something, ask yourself: does this absolutely need to be included?
Show, don’t tell. Pictures are worth a thousand words.
Doubly important for ecommerce websites.
Imagine you're explaining your company over coffee with a friend. How would you talk? What words would you use?
That's how you should write.
For example, the following should always be easy to find:
This matters less than you think.
While some website builders are better than others, you can actually get by with many of them (or with a CMS like Wordpress).
Choose something you feel comfortable using— it's the words you write and the images you choose that will make the most difference.
If you get stuck on a hard technology problem always take a step back and ask: is there an easier, low-tech way to get this done?
People spend more time on mobile devices than they do on computers:
So your website has to be mobile-friendly.
To test this, just browse your website on your phone. Does it look like the desktop version? Do you have to pinch and zoom to see everything?
Don't make your visitors think— navigation should be quick and easy to use:
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If you’re not a large corporation don’t pretend to be one. Own your smallness.
Make it clear that there is a real, live human behind this website. People respond to that.
A good way to act human is to include a picture of yourself— it will build trust quicker than any slick design.
My recommendation: Use a website builder if you’re building a conventional website. Even though I'm a web developer, I still use Squarespace for projects like my band's website. It's easy to manage and there are no headaches maintaining the website.
If you're building something a bit unconventional, you might want to try Wordpress— it’s more flexible. But be warned: building something unconventional is never easy unless you know how to code.
Ninety-five percent of websites can be built with Wordpress or a website builder. Unless you’re reinventing the wheel, you don’t need a custom web design.
I explain more here.