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The Essential Basics of Web Design

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You can design websites to do all sorts of things; e-shops, blogs and portfolio sites all have different layout and design styles, but the majority of small businesses just getting started online need a "brochure" site. This is something similar to a company brochure which gives a good overview of the company, products and services, and encourages the reader to pick up the phone and make an order. Coincidentally (!), it’s also something we specialise in here at Smart Domain Group. Which is why we're happy to explain the essential basics of web design for you.

The process of actually building a website, creating graphics and computer code, is something best left to an expert web designer that you can hire, but many web design companies expect you to provide the actual copy (we don't!), and all of them will do a better job all round if you have some basic ideas so that you can brief them well.

The first thing to consider is the site structure; in many aspects of web design less is more and this is very true for your basic navigation. It may seem a good idea to give every little aspect of your business a separate web page, but that leaves the web surfer with 20 or 30 pages to go through and try to pick out what they're interested in. It makes more sense to bundle similar services onto pages together, or just to summarise them in a single "services" page. We often recommend that the focus of websites be to encourage a potential customer to make an enquiry, rather than to try and do the entire sales process online unless it’s focused as an e-commerce web shop, a good summary entices an enquiry and an opportunity to sell direct to the person.

Always remember that people expect to see a home or index page that gives a general overview of everything, an "about us" page so they know who they're dealing with and a "contact us" page. So a nice structure for a roofing company website might be;

  • Home
  • About us
  • Roof installations
  • Roof repairs
  • Gallery of work
  • Customer testimonials
  • Contact us

In those seven pages a customer can find all the basic info they need and it's easy for them to find what they want really quickly. There aren’t endless pages of details to get lost or bored by and the copy can be full of encouragement to pick up the phone or shoot off an email to arrange a survey and quotation on the exact issue at hand. If you want more detail, then break those broad headings down into smaller sub-pages so people can get more detail if they want without your navigation getting crowded and confusing.

Consider some graphic design basics as you go such as photos of your work and your team at work, or look through some stock photography libraries to see what kind of thing you like and might present you well through your web design. Also consider colour schemes and how they might work with your logo to create a professional branded feel.

Web copywriting is a real skill and it's worth considering hiring a professional to do it, but you can get the basics together being organised by noting down a few of the standout unique selling points of your business to get the copywriter started. Most writers will take a structured approach starting every page with a bold headline that summarises the essentials, some good bullet point lists to highlight services and benefits  and an end to every page with a "call to action" providing a telephone number or email address to get more details or make an order.

Once you get the basics together you can always refine it, especially as you get to know about search engine optimisation techniques or receive some work through the website and see it's definitely worth spending some more time and money on. The best web designers will be happy to go through a couple of drafts polishing text, page layouts and images to get a result you’re happy with presenting to the world.