Choosing the right website platform

When you know the answers to some of the questions below, you can start to evaluate what platform best suits your needs.

Will you be adding content regularly to your website?
Who will be maintaining your website?
How much monthly user traffic do you expect?
Do you require advanced functionality like ecommerce, marketing, A/B testing?

Choosing the right platform on which to showcase your website is a very important decision, there are numerous CMS platforms (Content Managed System) to choose from, some are light weight and some are heavy cumbersome and complicated, some are SEO and Mobile friendly and then again some are not. Below are a selection of a few of the popular CMS and ecommerce platforms that we have used in the past:

https://wordpress.org/
https://www.drupal.org/
https://www.joomla.org/
https://magento.com/
https://www.shopify.co.uk/

The above are just a small selection of the popular platforms that are available, majority of them are open source and FREE to download and use. By far the most popular platform of them all is WordPress. The most recent stats are showing that since March 2016, WordPress is powering 26.4% of the Web, and it’s on the rise. WordPress is still by far the most used CMS, with 59.4% market share compared to other platforms. Interestingly, on a daily basis there are over 500 sites being created on WordPress.

It’s not hard to see why it’s popular, the platform has an array of themes and plugins available (some 44,000 plugins and counting) some free and some paid, and web designers love it because they can customise it in many many different ways.

If you’re using WordPress you’re in good company:

  • The New York Times
  • People Magazine
  • National Geographic
  • Forbes

We also use Drupal in-house and we love how flexible it is. Drupal is by far one of the most powerful platforms out there and is growing in popularity. It’s so popular in fact the whitehouse.gov website is built using drupal, now that’s a serious thumbs up. Other well known brands that are using Drupal include:

  • BBC Store
  • Bruno Mars
  • Weather.com

So you won’t be surprised to learn that we will be referring to WordPress a lot and occasionally Drupal just to mix it up a little.

Mobile & Responsive

Seriously guys its 2017! Who doesn’t have a mobile device these day? New research shows that the amount of time people spend on their phones to use the internet is set to skyrocket this year. https://www.ofcom.org.uk/about-ofcom/latest/media/facts

Mobile has overtaken desktop PC’s as people’s preferred device to access the internet last year, and that trend is set to jump by 28 percent this year. Seventy percent of internet use is now on a mobile, and the use of a desktop for internet will fall by almost 16 percent, this year.

Many designers’ approach to mobile design is to scale down a desktop website and make it responsive for mobile. This approach is a bad strategy for mobile design. Rather than just scaling down a site, you need to examine your business and assess the importance of mobile usability for your particular business. Your site needs to deliver its content around the user experience bad user experience means loss of customers.

To reach the largest number of people online and grow your business, your website needs to work well when used from a cross range of devices. So take the effort to first sketch out your mobile website.

The real challenge in designing for mobile devices is that they come in so many different variants and sizes: 4 inch, 5 inch, 5.5 inch 6 inch and so on. Much like Browsers during the great Browser wars of the late 90’s!

Let’s take a look at some of the best practices to keep in mind for mobile web design:

Clear focused content

Content is key when it comes to your website’s design. You can have a fancy looking website with all the bells and whistles but if the content on your website is not telling your visitors what you are all about within 5 seconds of entering your website, you will lose the customers attention. This area is talked about more in depth in our Marketing section below.

Menu and navigation

There is nothing more important than for a visitor of your website to get to what she is looking for. Often ambiguous navigation can be the one obstacle between you and a conversion. Therefore first thing you should do is create a clear plan for what your top menu is going to be and what should go into the footer.

Here you can work together with a user experience (UX) team who will help you create a smooth navigation that will be convenient for your users. Once you have that in place a good idea is to create a test group of your target audience and let them use the website to complete different tasks. Listen to their feedback and improve your website. This is a great way to get feedback before putting your website live.

The questions you should ask during usability testing include but are not limited to the following examples:

Was it easy for the user to complete the individual tasks?

Did the user understand the content and menus the way they were intended?

How easy was it to navigate?

Is there enough content and information where it was needed the most?

Are the calls to action in the best place possible?

Keep web forms simple

In short web forms are any kind of forms on your website that are aimed at collecting information from your visitors. Be it contact details, leads or more customised forms specific to your business, this is the one place where the customers get to reach out to you and establish a personal contact. Business is all about these contacts, therefore you want this first impression to be flawless. There are few things you should consider when creating webforms.

1. Design

Use simple, yet attractive design. These design decisions should be in line with the rest of the website but it has to draw attention. A smart design will encourage and help the visitors interact with your website in all the right ways.

2. Keep it simple

User’s end goal is to quickly get through all the fields and push the send button. If not completely necessary try and create forms that only require the bare minimum of information. We obviously understand the urge to find out more about the visitor adding such fields as phone number, company etc. But with all honestly, who wants to fill out endless fields when all you wanted to know is whether they are going to be open on the Easter Friday?

3. Customise web forms to your needs

Keeping in mind the previous point it is still a good idea to make your forms customised to the specific services you provide. If you are a doctor add a field with the preferred day for the visit, if you are a cleaning service add a field with the size of the area to be cleaned. The point is, make use of the webforms but keep them simple and concise.

Optimise images and media for mobile

Speed is an important performance measurement when it comes to mobile sites. If you can try not to use too many images or none at all if possible. If you can achieve your message by simply harnessing the power of CSS3 and a good web font then even better. If not then optimise your images for the mobile experience to load faster, your users will happy and google will reward you with a ranking boost.

Use built in mobile device features

Mobile devices have an array of built in features like GPS so your users can click to find you via the map on your website.Click to call from your website so it’s easier for your customer to connect with you. Its down to you to use your imagination as to how these features can be useful to your users online and how you can create the best user experience for your audience. Stretch yourself to think out of the box and leverage the mobile functionality available for a better mobile user experience.

Hosting

A good hosting plan is an important part of your website project. After all, without hosting, your new website can’t be accessed by anyone. Careful planning and infrastructure needs be taken into account from the planning stage of your project through to the launch of your website.

Choosing your hosting options – There are numerous hosting solutions available e.g. Shared, VPS (Virtual Private Server), Dedicated Managed Web Hosting and Shared Hosting. It’s a good idea to discuss your hosting needs with a professional, so you choose the best hosting for your business.

99.9% Uptime – While no web host company can guarantee 100 percent uptime, they should offer at least 99.9 percent uptime. Read the SLA (Service Level Agreement) if you choose a host company yourself.

Don’t go for the cheapest option – “you get what you pay for.” As a business, you can’t afford to experience downtime. Shared web hosting is great if your site only gets a small amount of traffic. However If you’re in the business of selling online or you get a large amount of traffic, then a dedicated or managed hosting provider is a much better choice. The quality and level of technical support will be better and more reliable. Although as you might imagine it will cost you a lot more.

Scaling your online business – As your online business grows, your website traffic will grow too. The ability for your hosting company to scale will be very important. Your web hosting company should be able upgrade and scale to accommodate your traffic growth.

Excellent customer – Find a hosting company that offers great customer support. Some hosting companies offer 24/7 support, but this will not guarantee you will receive a quick and knowledgeable service. You may opt to choose a hosting company via your web designer which means you may rely upon them to offer you this support.