Web Design On A Budget: What Are The Must-Haves For My Site?
Having a good website in this day and age is not a bonus, but rather a necessity. If you have a business, offer services of any kind, or simply need to publicize yourself, you need a website. A custom website can get pricey and it is understandable that you may have a budget you need to stick within, so knowing the must-haves will help you make the most of your website while adhering to your budget restrictions.
Ensure Good Hosting
Choosing a good web hosting company is very important. The server should provide your website a 99% uptime guarantee. In case you do encounter technical problems, reliable tech support with immediate response time and will be quite helpful, so be sure that the company you go with offers excellent customer service. Like any website, your web hosting site should have an easy to use interface that allows you to easily log in and make adjustments to your account anytime without struggling to find what you are looking for. Also, if you are trying to stick to a budget, you may want to compare prices to find the most affordable deal. There are several popular web-hosting companies whose prices are way higher than smaller companies that offer just as good of quality services. The way to know if you are making a good decision on web hosting is if the company has a good reputation, so shop around and do a little research first.
Have a Captivatingly Designed Home Page
It is important to make a good first impression on visitors who come to your site. Upon visiting for the first time, people are likely not only scanning around to see main headlines and navigation items, but also picking up on non-verbal cues about your site, such as branding and professionalism. It is important to have the home page, above any other page on the site, designed very well and professionally. Make sure that your web designer is familiar with your brand standards and has a clear understanding of your expectations.
Have a User Friendly Design
Your website should be neatly organized and easy to navigate. There’s nothing more frustrating to web surfers than a site that is cluttered and difficult to understand. A simple navigation menu with clear, easy-to-understand menu items is one of the most important features that will keep visitors on your site. A navigation menu is intended to draw your visitors deeper into your site so they can learn more about you and what your business offerings, as well as read what you have to say and decide whether they think you are an expert in your market. This is not the place for cute menu titles or attempts to impress your visitors with industry jargon. Short, simple, descriptive navigation titles should be the goal. Your visitors may wish to contact you if they have questions or if they need more information.
Have a Comprehensive About Page
Many websites disregard the importance of a thorough “About Us” page and offer a vague description of who they are and what they do. Or on the other hand, some websites get way too wordy on the about page and give unnecessary information. Your “About” page is quite possibly the most important page on your website where you can really showcase your credentials and why people should trust you. Use it! This is where you explain your business and what you offer, in a concise and captivating manner.
Load Up On Free Plugins
At the moment, there are about 32,461 WordPress plugins that you can add to your website that are completely free of charge. When working with a tight budget, this may be the route you choose to go, as opposed to hiring a web developer to custom code what you need. Here are some of the must-have plug-ins to consider using on your site:
The WordPress SEO plugin is the most complete WordPress SEO plugin that exists today for WordPress.org users. It incorporates everything from a snippet preview and page analysis functionality that helps you optimize your pages content, images titles, meta descriptions and more to XML sitemaps, and loads of optimization options in between.
The SEO Smart Links plugin lets you automatically detect and link common phrases in your posts and comments to relevant articles on your website. This can help you create a better internal linking structure, as well as improve user engagement (encouraging visitors to continue to browse your website). That being said, I think that such an automated solution might create some “false positive,” and possibly create an unnatural linking pattern. It’s a cool concept, but I would still use it carefully.
The Contact Form 7 plugin allows you to implement a feedback form to a web-page or a post in no time. It is an extremely easy form that doesn’t require any additional settings, though there are plenty of available options. All you need is just to activate the plugin and insert the shortcode
[bestwebsoft_contact_form] into the text. There is also a premium version of the plugin with more useful features available.
Broken links are bad. The are frustrating for your visitors, and they are bad for SEO too. If you have broken links on your site, you should fix them! The problem is, these links are often hard to find. How would you know that some site you linked to three years ago has since been deleted? If you want your post to stay relevant, that link should be replaced with a something similar that still exists so as not to confuse your readers. The broken link checker helps you identify those pesky broken links so that they can be fixed.
Social sharing is important, and even on a budget, it should never be overlooked. Luckily there are some great free social sharing plugins available, such as AddThis. The plugin makes it easy to implement social sharing buttons into various parts of your site. In fact, we have used it on our own blog for quite some time.
XML sitemapts are a great way to help your new website get indexed. Often times, a fresh site will take a while to be crawled because there are a lack of natural links pointing to your website for robots to follow. Submitting an XML sitemap can give Google a clear map of your website to ensure that everything gets indexed. We have a great post about Google Sitemaps that goes into greater detail on the subject if you are interested. If you are looking for a quick solution, then definitely give the Goole XML Sitemap plugin a try.
The Jetpack plugin was created by Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com. The team at WordPress.com have been creating great functionality for their users for years, and this plugin takes those features and packages them into a plugin that can be enjoyed by WordPress.org users as well. When you are building a new site, this is a great plugin to start with. Some of the notable features of Jetpack include: Social sharing buttons, simple contact forms, a custom like system for comments, post sliders and so much more.
Every website needs to keep regular backups. If you are on a budget, this is not the area to skimp on! WordPress DB Backup is a great free plugin that can help you keep regular database backups of your WordPress site in case of emergency. If you are looking for a premium solution, you might also consider using Vaultpress.
Create an Interesting, Useful and Active Blog
Static websites tend not to attract very many new clients or customers; however, a regularly updated blog can produce a constant stream of good leads from all around the world. When you publish in-depth blog posts that help potential clients solve their problems, they come to respect you as an expert in the field. If they want more help than a blog post can offer, they are likely to be interested in hiring your business. In addition, blogging regularly is a guaranteed way to expand your network. Valuable and interesting blog posts attract readers who will then comment on your site and send you personal messages through your contact page. Also compared to a static portfolio, having an active blog is much friendlier to search engines because of the fresh content it offers once in a while. The friendlier you are, the better chances of you being searched for. This is another example of how you can create an awesome website with effective features for free.
Include a Call to Action on Your Home Page
Isn’t the main point of having people visit your site to encourage them to do something that you want them to do? If so, you should consider including a blatant call to action for whatever that is. For example, if you want them to opt-in to your mailing list, be sure to have a clear call to action prompting them to enter their name and email address. If you want them to contact you, have a clear call to action of how they should contact you. This is a simple technique to bring success to your website without going over your budget.
Emphasize Your Contact Information
Don’t make your visitors fish around for a way to contact you. You should have it available at least in the footer of every single page on your site, as well as a dedicated contact page. As mentioned above, installing a Contact Form via WordPress plugins will enable people to reach out to you anytime with any questions they may have for you. Being approachable and easy to connect with is an important attribute of a successful business, so be sure to emphasize all the various ways to get in touch with you, including phone numbers, website URLs, email addresses, fax numbers, addresses and social media accounts.
Another great feature to include on your website that is beneficial and free of charge is the inclusion of testimonials. Request formal statements and recommendations from some of your previous clients. What better way to make a statement about your level of expertise than by having people vouch for how great you have been to work with in the past. It is a great way to advertise your business while gaining a good reputation.
There are many ways you can create an excellent website for your business while staying within a set budget. When your funds are limited, think about your priorities and consider all the free resources you have available. WordPress is an open source platform (also free) as is all the bundled additions and plugins. Not taking advantage of such a useful set of tools could severely limit any up and coming website.
Feature image via shutterstock author IdeaGU