Best Practice in Website Design


Best Practice in Website Design1.1 Introduction

When considering a new website design, or the redesign of an older site, there are multiple elements to be considered. Despite the paradigm shift in internet marketing strategies in recent years, search engine rankings are STILL critical to overall success. Designing your site to achieve good organic / natural placement in Google et al makes a  lot more sense than completely ignoring that aspect! When it goes live, a website should already have search engine optimisation applied. In the process of website development there is often a conflict between the form (design) and the function (SEO).

1.1 Introduction » read more…
1.2 Focus on the Product » read more…
1.2.1 Decide on Site Name/URL » read more…
1.2.2 Internal Page Naming » read more…
1.2.3 Image Names » read more…
1.3 Design Issues » read more…
1.3.1 JavaScript » read more…
1.3.2 Flash » read more…
1.4 FRAMES » read more…
1.5 Splash Pages » read more…
1.6 Databases vs Text » read more…
1.7 Page Layout » read more…
1.8 Content » read more…
1.9 Links » read more…
1.10 Geographic/Location Searches » read more…
1.11 HTML Coding Errors » read more…
1.12 Choosing a Designer » read more…
1.13 Site Maintenance » read more…
1.14 Ten SEO Design Rules » read more…

A website bereft of visitor traffic is about as much use as nipples on  bull. To attain a reasonable return on investment (ROI) all websites must generate the highest possible amounts of “free” traffic. A prerequisite design criteria is generation of “qualified traffic” – defined as possible clients who require what you offer, and who landed on your website because it was pertinent to their search query. This occurs as a consequence of your pages showing in the “natural / organic” search engine result pages.

In addition to natural rankings, you may also receive traffic from traditional hardcopy advertising, newsletters, business cards & stationary and from PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns on search engines via Yahoo Search Marketing and Google Adwords. This is not “free” visitor traffic due to incremental costs in initiating its flow.

Ranking helps establishes Brand recognition and if you are in the Top 10 on search results there is an underlying credibility factor in your favour. Natural search results deliver a higher click-through rate than paid advertisements.

The elements outlined here are all section incorporated in serious search engine optimisation projects and should be included into the site development. The major search engines consider many elements in their ranking algorithms and the more you can get correct, the more impressive are the benefits. Essentially, you set out to clearly and accurately define what your website is about.

1.2 Product-centric Focus

Accurate and descriptive what it is you are selling… and aim all content and copy at ensuring that potential customers know that you have it available.

1.2.1 Determine the best Domain Name

Relevant keywords in the website’s Domain Name help rankings! E.g. www.fast-pizza-delivery.com  but strike a balance between including multiple important keywords and the headache of typing in long URL’s.

Separate words with hyphens; e.g. www.fast-pizza-delivery.com is much better than text strings such as  www.fastfpizzadelivery.com – although some SEO experts suggest being caution with the total number of hyphens. Some say 1 is enough, I know of many sites that rank well with 3 words…

1.2.2 Internal Page / File Names

It assists descriptive accuracy when you include keywords in the site’s internal page names, e.g. www.fast-pizza-delivery.com/pepperoni-pizzas.html The more clues you can give to the search engines regarding the content of a page, the easier it is for the SE’s to rank it.

1.2.3 Image Names

Accurate descriptive image file names e.g. gourmet-hawaiian-pizzas.jpg is better than DSC-00011.JPG

Accurate keywords within image file names will not be ignored and will usually gain you some additional traction.

Search engines index image files, and it is therefore useful to give all your image files descriptive names. Some traffic will be generated this way, so you might as maximise the opportunity.

1.3 Design Issues

There are many items to be considered in building a website to rank highly on today’s search engines.

Content links – provide text links to internal pages from within the Home page. Anchor text that uses primary keywords, linked to an optimised page that has relevant information, will score you lots of brownie points. Pages with direct links from the Home page are also accorded a higher value.

Site map page – ensure you have a text link on the Home page to a site map page which has a text html link to every internal page. Spiders seldom go deeper than 3 levels, so this tactic ensures all pages are accessible at no more than 3 levels deep.

1.3.1 JavaScript Issues

Anything contained within JavaScript is invisible to the search engine spiders. A nice JavaScript menu is can be a thing of beauty but it destroys the internal indexing structure! The links to internal pages within that menu will not be seen by Googlebot and other spiders, which has a serious negative impact on indexing and prevents “page rank” being passed downwards and sideways throughout the website. That’s counterproductive at best, and crippling at worst!

Use JavaScript sparingly – and only where essential.

Use an external file and “call” your JavaScript applications instead of adding them to the pages. This is more efficient and, where a change is required, means editing one file instead of dozens of pages.

1.3.2 Flash

Don’t use Flash to build a website – only use it to add content you don’t want search engines to index… There is few benefits to Flash and plenty of compelling reasons to avoid it. Animations should only be used if they serve a clearly defined purpose – perhaps to establish a concept, or to tell a story. Images should be kept small, and file sizes small to avoid slow-loading penalties.

Visitor attention spans are short and we want fast page load times. Flash is slow-loading, content is not readily indexed, and maintenance is both complex and costly.

1.4 FRAMES

Frames are an archaic solution to a forgotten problem. They are disastrous to search engine rankings because search engines cannot access the internal page content. Were search engines able to index internal pages, there would be no page menus, headers and footers, making navigation a confusing experience. Don’t let your website developer use FRAMES under any circumstances!.

1.5 Splash Pages

There was a trend by website designers to have a “splash” page entry to the Home page. Whilst that  might have been a very nice animated Flash graphics introduction, and it might have looked superb BUT its deadly to rankings.

Never permit your web designer to use a splash page that forces your users to “click to enter the site!” Its annoying enough the first time, and irritates people enough to reduce their enthusiasm to return.

A “Splash” page is like the box-within-the-box type of present – really amusing for the guy who duct-taped up the boxes, but damned irksome for these people trying to get inside to read the information they are seeking.
Splash pages are often a monolith to the designer’s artistic talents but provide no functional merit within the site itself.

1.6 Databases vs HTML Text

How times change… a few short years ago, the only CMS options were Joomla and Drupal, clunky behemoths that made doing the simplest things a huge effort.

These days the best approach to building a web site from a SEO perspective is to use a modern CMS such as WordPress. For most “small business web sites” this is the fastest platform on which to create a modern, robust and high-ranking site.

Modern database-driven sites make it easy to produce unique pages – with search-engine-friendly URLs, individual titles, descriptions and headings that are easy to maintain. Databases were once infamous for impenetrable URLs – any URL having a “?” or “&” in it makes life difficult for search engine spiders trying to index internal content. Those days are well behind us!

Databases are often promoted on the “ease of maintenance” grounds, isolating users from making site-wide errors. A design template ensures layout, fonts and colours are replicated across all pages. One change on a style sheet is reflected across all pages.

1.7 Page Layout

Keep it simple. There are some basic rules to be observed that will ensure best results in search engine rankings. These can conflict with the site designer’s view of the world, and you need to make informed decisions when/if compromises are to be made.

The search engines place greatest emphasis on content above the fold – including the 1st heading or title, and the 1st paragraph. Your keywords must be placed prominently there. Use a narrow header holding a company logo, common to every internal page.

Follow this with a Title/Heading in H1 style to emphasise its importance, and containing the targeted keyword phrase. Follow this with an accurate, explicit and descriptive first paragraph, containing the targeted keyword phrases at the beginning. If possible, using an iteration or variation of the primary keyword phrase as the anchor text, add links to internal pages containing additional information.

Some search engines will look for the first iteration of the search phrase, and include a portion of the paragraph as their search engine page results for the search. Its therefore important to provide good copy.

  1.8 Website Content Issues

Content is still king and to achieve and maintain top rankings you need good content that is easily indexed. This means a series of verbose and comprehensive pages, possibly in an heirachical structure and usually including;

  • Business Products & Services
  • Contact form for potential clients to contact you, with email, phone and business address
  • Web Links & Resources – a list of sites which may interest to your clients
  • A “Link to Us” page outlining your preferred link-back information – URL, Title, Description
  • Sitemap in XML format for search engines
  • Sitemap in HTML format for visitors
  • About Us – a company outline
  • News, Reviews,
  • Testimonials
  • Business Location Map
  • Opening Hours
  • Rates / Fees / Charges

To achieve rankings for an internal page, you will need 500-800 words outlining the topic. Google is supposed to be rewarding authentic, original, useful and comprehensive content…

Build yourself a lots of unique pages with 800+ words apiece, targeting different keywords/phrases on each page. Now you’ve got some substance for the SE’s to work with.  DON’T target the same phrase on multiple pages because you’d be foolishly competing with yourself… Google will not allow multiple pages from the same site to dominate SERPs…

1.9 Incoming Links & Anchor Text

Incoming links to your site are a crucial element of the search engine ranking game, and especially important on Google. Since 2012, links have become a very sharp, double-edged sword. Get it wrong, you will be bleeding profusely from Google penalties. Get it right and you will be shielded from harm and rewarded with rankings.

Link quality is crucial. Uninhibited link quantity is NOT a good thing any more… Excessive keywords in anchor text will consign your site to oblivion.

Review 3-4 of the local business directories in your area of operation. See which ones rank well and get listed on them even if it costs you a few $ annually to do so.

1.10 Geographic/Location Searches

Searchers refine their query with multiple words, frequently using location e.g. “pizza food delivery London” or “hotel accommodation Alberta.” If your business is city / suburb-specific, ensure that’s reflected in your site’s content. Include the city, suburb, address, postal code in the footer of all pages.

Search engines also weight”location” as an indexing element that enables increased relevancy searches, in particular geographic location.

1.11 HTML Code Errors

Produce error-free HTML code. Validate this online, there are plenty of services available. Tell your web designer that this is a prerequisite.

1.12 How to Choose a Web Designer

With an appreciation of design goals outlined, you can set out a design brief and circulate it to several designers and ask for project cost estimates.

Refine the list to a group of 3 potential designers from the preliminary response to your design brief. Discuss the site project with them, ensuring that they comprehend your objectives. Redefine the plan, refine costs.

A “fixed price contract” requires that each of you fully understand what is to be done. Amendments requested by you are obviously a variation to the plan, and are usually made at additional cost. All amendments must be requested in writing, costed by the developer, and agreed to by both parties.

1.13 Maintenance

Website management is a key issue. There will be ongoing changes and you should determine howe that will be done and at what cost.

Many of my clients use WordPress which has excellent facilities for site maintenance and gets the job done quickly.

Maintenance becomes an issue for many, either from a technical or lack of time perspective. Usually the task does not require a full-time webmaster, and but for small business there are not always skilled staff available to handle it the task. Your site designer will usually offer to do maintenance for you, and there are also “contract webmasters” available to assist.

 

1.14 The 10 Design Rules

1. No “Flash”
2. No “Splash” page
3. No “FRAMES”
4. Use a good CMS like WordPress
5. Simple layout
6. Easily indexed, comprehensive menu structure
7. Unique Pages – every page has a different title, description, keyword targets
8. Modest graphics use
9. No Coding Errors permitted
10. Minimise JavaScript – use “include” scripts to minimise embedded code