Whether you currently have a website or are in the process of creating one, there are a lot of basic fundamentals your finished product must contain. While many will look for the ‘cost-effective’ routes of doing it in-house with limited platforms like Wix and Squarespace, those who want to really succeed will understand that more effort and capabilities are needed to stand out among the competition.
At this point, everyone is connected to the web in one way or another. From smartphones and mobile devices to services like telemedicine and mobile payment processing, everything is connected to the constant stream of data surrounding us. While this makes it easier for brands to connect with their consumers, it becomes a double edge sword when you consider the amount of time and effort required to remain ahead of the competition. This post will give you an idea of website ‘must-haves’ to stay competitive.
The process of creating or even redesigning a website can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. In this post we’ll cover the basic fundamentals your website should definitely possess while offering some insight on how to actually get it accomplished:
- Choosing a CMS Platform
- Content Strategy
- Responsive Design
- Search Engine Optimization
- Brand Alignment
Where to Begin? Website Development Core Basics
Let’s start off by discussing how to choose the right CMS platform to use as the foundation of your website. A CMS platform is a content management system, a software that is used to create and manage, you guessed it…content. You have your basic platforms, your custom CMS infrastructures and even those that are created for high volume, enterprise levels of content.
There are a lot of great options out there with different capabilities, including:
Our preferred CMS is WordPress.
When you’re looking for the right CMS for your brand, consider what your needs are. What are you trying to accomplish? Unless you’re a big brand looking for enterprise level integrations and capabilities, such as churning out a ridiculous amount of content across multiple websites WordPress tends to be the ideal choice. The amount of customization, open integrations, and capabilities of the platform makes it a powerhouse CMS in the right hands.
Now that you’ve selected the right foundation for your brand, you can dive into the structure or layout of your site, which lays the blueprints for the overall design and aesthetics. For us, we use Coggle to create sitemaps and outline the content for each page. A mind map is a great tool to use so you can focus on the specific purpose of each page while remaining mindful of the bigger picture goals. Here’s an example of how we use Coggle during the planning phase for most of our projects.
Once you’ve adjusted your sitemap based on your needs and have a CMS platform in hand, here are the other four key components of any killer website:
- Content Strategy
- Responsive Design
- Search Engine Optimization
- Brand Alignment
Regardless of what you may read or what you have experienced in the past, content is king. Without it, the result would be similar to a ‘big-beautiful Cadillac with no engine.’ It may look amazing and snappy on the outside, but there are no guts to hold it together. In future posts we’ll definitely be focusing on your content strategy but until then, here’s what you need to keep in mind:
- Your Target Audience
- Overall Goals
- What’s Your Value Prop?
- Keeping Content in the Queue
The Content Strategy Quad, copyright Brain Traffic
Your content strategy spans across your entire brand, with your website being one of the cogs in a larger machine. After you’ve identified the right messaging for the right audience, there’s much more work to be done. As you create or redesign your website, consider how your messaging will play a larger role in your content strategy. Each of your value props should be a running theme for all of your blog posts, social media plans and more. Every message, line of copy or blog post should serve an overall purpose, whether it’s solidifying your brand as an influencer, increasing your followers or improving your conversion rate. You should never go into drafting blind, and you should always have a clear idea of how this piece fits into the puzzle.
We’ve spoken on this topic before, but it remains true and will only continue to increase as the years go by and technology improves. Having a ‘mobile-first’ type of mindset will allow you to create an overall positive experience for all of your visitors regardless of their preferred device. Using a responsive design approach gives you the ability to ensure your website looks just as good on any mobile device as it does on a desktop. That’s the ultimate goal, isn’t it?
Consider how often people are on their smartphones and tablets versus on their desktops. We always have our phones on hand, and will constantly use it for research and browsing purposes. When creating or revamping your website, you need to consider how you can provide ALL Of your visitors with the best web experience regardless of the device. Keeping your information easily accessible is the best way to increase your page on-time and engagement metrics.
Search Engine Optimization
There’s so much noise out there on the web, it’s difficult to differentiate yourself even with all of your experience and credibility. One aspect that many companies fall off with is in their rankings. What are you doing to keep your website at the top of search results? Are you being found for the right terms and keywords? Search Engine Optimization is a fickle mistress, constantly changing her needs and wants based on the habits of consumers. What may have worked years ago is not guaranteed to work now, especially if it was closer to black hat techniques. That being said, it’s absolutely necessary to keep your finger on the pulse and identify the best tactics that will help your brand stand out.
At the very least, your website should have all of your meta-information optimized, a focus keyword for every page and overall configuration for efficient loading times. That’s only the beginning. Looking at the bigger picture, your overall content strategy and your SEO efforts should be working in-line, as you can’t have one without the other. Well, you can but it won’t really do jack for you. The more optimized content you produce, the more links you have pointing back to your website, the higher you will go in search rankings. More importantly, search engines like Google then consider you a much more credible source, which also affects your search performance.
Be sure to lookout for our upcoming post on best practices for SEO to learn more about how to get started.
If you’re going to take the time going through the entire web design or redesign process your ultimate goal should be to keep your overall strategy and approach aligned. If you have any silos within your brand working on different things, take a moment to understand how this can result in a disjointed, inconsistent appearance and actually hinder your brand in the long run. You create a stronger brand when you are all on one page rather than working on your own goals.
A unified approach gives all of your teams the perspective they need to understand how their responsibilities fit within the company’s overall plan or vision. It’s a great way to keep your team engaged and more importantly, will create more effective results than you were receiving prior. If you’re going to invest the time and money into a website or a redesign, it’s imperative that you also align your strategies to follow the launch and capitalize on the momentum.
To Sum it Up
In the end, the most important aspect of any web redesign or build is to remain focused on the big picture while taking care of the specific tasks at hand. Any distractions or loss in momentum can affect how cohesive the finished product is. Your overall goal should be to ensure a seamless approach with your other efforts when launching. Finding the right CMS platform, creating a strong content strategy, and keeping mobile in mind when designing will get you started on the right track. By using the insights offered above you can make sure you are taking care of the core fundamentals to your website.