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Beginner Read

Introduction to Websites

Your websites are the centrepiece and showcase for your business or organisation, often the first port of call to any potential new customers and the place where everyone will go to find out more about you, or to make a purchase.

This is why it’s so important to create a great experience for your visitors and make sure that you have the right content in the right places on your site.

So, what makes a good website? Here are some of the most important things to consider when creating or planning yours.

Website Goals

If you’re clear about what you want your visitors to do when they come to your site, you will be able to plan to encourage people to take that action.

Setting your goals is probably the most important thing you need to do when planning your website. You should choose the things that make the most impact to your business.

Goals can include signing up to your newsletter, purchasing a ticket, filling out a contact form, making a retail purchase or making a donation.

Once you define and select the most impactful goals for your business, the rest of your strategy will flow from here.

Customer Journey & User Experience

With your goals in mind, plan and plot out the journeys that visitors will take. The aim here is to make it as easy as possible for your visitors to take those actions.

Think about using encouraging wording and strong calls to action, like ‘Book Now’, or ‘Become a Supporter’. Look at how your successful competitors are achieving these goals by exploring their websites. What do you like about their site? What does and doesn’t work for you as a user?

Simple and clear design with strong messaging can really help your website convert more visitors and make people feel safer and less confused.

Beautiful imagery, simple design, well-planned navigation and clear calls to action are all important factors to consider when planning your customer journey and user experience.

Content Management Systems (CMS)

Content Management Systems are a great way for your organisation to update the content on your website without the need of hiring a developer or agency to carry out the work.

There are many to choose from: some of the most popular to look at when you’re researching are WordPress, Wagtail, Craft CMS, Squarespace, Joomla and Drupal.

Each CMS has its pros and cons, so it’s worth trying them out and seeing which one works best for you.

Responsive Design

A responsive site is a successful site. Responsive design means that no matter the size of the screen that your visitor is using, the site will adapt to fit automatically.

This means the site will look and perform just as well on a mobile as it does on a tablet or desktop. The text, images and buttons will be functional for tapping fingers as well as a mouse, and the navigation can be used whatever the size of the screen is.

There are still so many sites that don’t work on handheld devices – don’t let yours be one of them!

Elderley couple looking at an interactive museum board


Accessibility and why it’s important

Putting in the effort to make your site accessible means that you are building a site that can not only be read by people with all abilities, but also interpreted efficiently by search engines.

It’s not difficult to make a website more accessible, you just need to plan for it. The main things to consider are: high contrast text, colour blind-friendly colours, descriptive alt tags on all your images (alt tags are the little bits of code added to describe an image for screen reader visitors), dyslexic-friendly fonts and sites that can be navigated via a keyboard.

Legislation that came into full effect in September 2020, means that if you are mostly funded with public money, you will need to make sure your site is 2.1 WCAG compliant and that your site has an accessibility statement. I have written an article on accessibility and ran an accessibility webinar which you can refer to for further information.

Hosting & Security

Making sure you host your site on a nice speedy server will not only improve the user experience, but also improve your search engine optimisation. Faster load times are always going to make people browsing your site happier.

Site security will also improve user trust and search engine optimisation levels. You can always spot a secure website address because it starts with https instead of http. The basic level security certificate is usually all that is needed for most websites. In most cases, they can be issued for free as well.

Security certificates show that you are making the effort to protect any information sent through the forms on your website, which should also support your GDPR policies. I have written an article about SSL certificates that you can read for further information.

What next?

This article has explained some of the basics you need to think about when planning your website and should give you some food for thought when it comes to making your website as good as it can be. To learn more, you can read one of the articles linked below.

The Digital Culture Network is here to support you and your organisation. Our Tech Champions can provide free 1-2-1 support to all arts and cultural organisations who are in receipt of, or eligible for, Arts Council England funding. If you need help or would like to chat with us about any of the advice we have covered above, please get in touch. Sign up to our newsletter below and follow us on Twitter @ace_dcn for the latest updates.

Article reviewed on 24th February 2021.

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