Presentation of a website is not just about its design. It’s your ‘virtual’ meeting point being hopefully a ‘smartly-dressed’, knowledgeable, portfolio ‘virtual image’ representing your company, organisation (or you!) often to people you might personally have not ever met. With this in mind, here are a few things to consider and try not to repeat on your website. This list is by no means exhaustive, and intended to just get you thinking about some of the issues involved with designing and building a website. There are many more points that could be made here, and we may add to this over time. Can you think of any more? – please comment below this post.
‘Under Construction’ – Part finished websites
Its a good idea not to publish your site on the web until it either has all of the important content added, or at least all general useful and important information the website might need in order to avoid too many page or file not found errors. It is not a good idea to publish a website that says ‘under construction’ all over the place. Think ahead, and try not to advertise your site or to seriously promote it until you have substantial, decent and useful, relevant content available. People will quickly navigate away and likely not return to a website that appears mostly still ‘under construction’ or gives a lot of errors.
Out of date content / expecting the ‘problem’ to go away with a one-off concerted effort
A website is time-intensive for the webmaster and/or content contributors. Don’t necessarily expect to be able to get your website done, and then sit back for ages or never need to think about it again. A good website will be updated regularly with new content and out-of-date content will need to be removed. On-going updates to the site will be required, both in terms of technology and software, but also design, ‘look’ and feel to keep it fresh.
To keep high in search engines like Google and Bing, you’ll need to check regularly how your site is positioned, be changing content, and you’ll need to keep on top of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) issues and web trends. Websites have a limited life-span before they need major work. If you’re hoping to do a website as a one-off project to be left alone once done, consider carefully if it’s worth doing at all – or the need to delegate responsibility to ensure the continued and successful operation of your website.
Navigation and menus / keeping content relevant
It’s crucial to keep content on a website relevant to the overall context. Too much unnecessary and unrelated content can cause folks to move away from your page. Consider your menus and website structure to best get people really quickly to the content they are looking for with the minimum number of links and mouse clicks. Avoid excessive use of drop-down menus and submenus and submenus…(!!)
Break down a larger site into relevant sections with relevant content in that section. Consider that a person might get lost in your website – can they really easily and obviously get back to the homepage and start looking somewhere else on the site? Don’t try to fit all the important information directly on the front page. A well-designed, user-friendly site works much better than one that tries to say everything important and include all important details on the front page.
Special effects / use of technology and gimmicks
Some ‘cool’ features of websites, such as scrolling text, flash movies or innovative menu systems, can be just irritating if used inappropriately. It has been shown that most users ignore many special effects, and will leave your site if they can’t find what they want quickly. So keep it clear and simple and sometimes its better to ‘leave it out’! A website can be good without being seriously ‘cutting-edge’ or ‘flashy’.
Content is king – if the content on a website is no good, the use of technology / gimmicks won’t help (knowing this may also help you save some money)! There is a difference between a site that is designed well and easy to use with good content and a site that is cleverly designed by the use of latest gimmicks and technology with poor content and perhaps even usability.
Long download times / too many graphics / unnecessary clutter
Websites filled with graphics may look appealing when you view them on your own computer, but when users access them they can take ages to download. Unfortunately, most people won’t hang around on a slow website. On the internet, unless you have a specific user-base, you will have just a few seconds to catch someones attention. There is a balance between using gimmicks, good content and grabbing attention to cause people to give your website the time of day, and to come back to look at it again. So if you want people to find out more about your company / blog / organisation then make sure that the website runs quickly.
There are ways to present your information in the most appropriate way for the web – for example, if you have lots of photos to display, place them on a special ‘pictures’ page so that people can choose whether or not to view them.
EXTRA: Church ministry related
Don’t start with the church building / including large portions of church building information
Many church websites begin the homepage with a history of the church building. This approach might show the webmaster has forgotten that the Church is the people, not the building. So don’t begin the website with ‘St Andrews was built in 1908 and refurbished in 1994’.
In fact, unless your church building is a significant attraction to visitors, there is probably little reason to have any historical information about it on a church website at all. If there is something that you want to include, move it into a ‘Church Building’ section.
Incomprehensible statement of belief
If your denomination or network has a ‘Statement of Faith’ or ‘Doctrinal Basis’ then it is tempting to include it on your website. But these documents are rarely written with non-churchgoers in mind, and are unlikely to help your users find out what the church believes. A better way is perhaps to create a ‘What we believe’ page which contains a simple explanation of what it means to be a Christian, or a simple, short, bullet-pointed list of a ‘Basic Statement of Faith’. Then, if you still want to include a more formal or expanded statement of belief or doctrinal basis, simply provide a link to the relevant page on your denomination’s website or a separate page on your own website.
ANY TO ADD?
Please comment below, and help us to build this into a useful resource. There are many more points that could be made here. Can you think of any more? – please comment below 🙂 Thanks.