So you’ve built your own website, it’s got cool sliders and functions, but it isn’t quite giving the professional impression that you were looking for. Do you need to hire a web developer to help you out?
Not necessarily. Even though an agency could solve your problems, there are a few easy and cost-effective tricks that could make your amateur website look like it was done by an expert.
Whether you’re a designer, business-owner or developer, these guidelines will help you create a professional-looking website.
Let’s get started!
1. Domain name
The first visible element of the site will be the domain name, which is why it’s a crucial part of a professional website. A good way to start finding the perfect name is to write down words that describe the business. Make sure the keywords are short, simple and unique. Try to think about what the visitor will search for to find the site. Is the website providing customer services? Include that in the nickname.
For example: if the business name is Petunia and you are providing design services, the domain name could be petuniadesign.com.
Once the keywords have been specified, use a Whois lookup tool to research what other similar names are out there. If your name is already taken, a change of domain extension could be the solution. Try to keep the domain extension local and relevant to your business. You can find examples and suggestions here.
2. WordPress Themes
If you are looking at creating a professional WordPress website, there are thousands of excellent themes to choose from. We have put together a list of the 50 best WordPress themes of 2016 to make the process easier.
3. Responsive design
According to a study by StatCounter Global Stats, there were more mobile and tablet than desktop users in the world in November 2016.
With this in mind, it’s safe to say that every website needs to be adapted for both desktop and mobile devices. The best way to do this is to either choose a theme that provides a responsive design and mobile menu, or to start designing your website for the mobile first, rather than the other way around. Save time by choosing or creating a design that works for both screen sizes.
Also, Google recommends responsive design as a design pattern, since it makes it faster to manage multiple pages for the same content.
4. Photography & Sliders
Most modern websites use large scale images on their landing page to gain credibility but also to get the user to engage further with the website by highlighting products or services. An example of this is the Porsche Macan website, where high quality images are shown along with a product description and a ‘Find out more’ button.
This is the most powerful way to give a professional impression of your website even though it hasn’t been built by an expert. Make sure that the image is communicating the brand values, that the license allows commercial use and that the file size isn’t too big, so you can keep the website loading time low.
Another great way to give a good professional impression via high quality imagery is to use an image slider. There are several WordPress slider plugins to choose from that will suit your needs on CodeCanyon.
Security is the backbone of a website and users don’t realise this until something goes wrong and the visual aspects are affected. This could be a malware virus, a hack or a plugin structure change due to an update. To prevent this from happening, security maintenance is a really important part of a professional website.
A few security steps to take include backing up the website before performing any updates, setting up regular backups, installing updates, using secure passwords, using a different login URL and buying an SSL certificate for your domain name.
Some hosting companies include security services and tools in their hosting plans. Make sure you speak to the provider to get the most out of your plan.
6. SEO & Keywords
So, you’ve already chosen a unique and smart domain name that will help clients find the website easily by typing it into a search engine. But what about the ones who are searching for your services for the first time? Since all this work has been done to make the website look brilliantly professional, we want to bring them in to view it as well. This is where SEO comes in.
SEO stands for search engine optimisation, which is the process of increasing the traffic to your site from search engine results. It’s all free and easy to do. However, the search engine algorithm is constantly changing while your competition is working on their SEO as well. This means that you constantly have to track your traffic and get to know your customers, which is the fun, ever-changing part that the website owner can do best. After all, who knows your target market better than you?
Related article: What You Need to Know Before You SEO
To help boost the website SEO and make it look professional, there are a combination of things that can be done. Firstly, make a list of keywords that you believe your customers will search for to find you (maybe you can make use of your domain soul searching keywords above). Try to make it as specific as possible. For example, if you are selling jewellery, use keywords like engagement jewellery or silver jewellery watches.Then use these keywords when writing the copy for the website and image descriptions. Repetition, bold text and title styles for these keywords is SEO gold.
This can be combined with plugins that will improve the SEO in accordance with the latest trends and track the website analytics so that you can make changes that will bring more people to your site.
7. Kick-ass testimonials
Last but not least, a great way to gain credibility from potential customers is to show that others reinforce your claims of being an expert in your field. If a testimonial shows how the current customers have had positive experiences with your services, you have succeeded. But how can you get these testimonials?
It’s important to get the current customer to answer this question: How did your product or service solve their problem, help them save money or improve something in their lives?
Make sure that your target group can relate to their testimonials. This can be achieved through photographs or personal stories. Make it a bit more personal than just a feedback form. However, no website visitor is going read a long letter so make a custom selection of testimonials that are short and clear.
If you haven’t had enough, there are more tweaks that can be made to boost your pro-profile on the web. Social media buttons increase the shares, following and therefore the customer market. They also help drive more traffic to the social media accounts.
A professional contact form ensures that the website visitor can feel comfortable sending questions and contacting you without receiving spam or an auto-reply.
These are a few suggestions to help take your website to the next level. What other tricks can you think of that would make a website look like it was done by a pro?