PDP Exclusives by Rebecca

Sunday, September 11, 2011

How to Build a Website That Doesn't Suck

We realize that a lot of our readers are either business owners, or need a website of some kind. A lot of families even have a web domain where friends and family members that are not close can catch up on their lives, with pictures, and regular blog-like entries. So we invited Lindsay Coats from Stellar Edge PR to tell us the general ins-and-outs of web design.

Just about everyone and their brother thinks that they can design and build a website. How hard can it be, right? There are free templates for crying out loud!

Ummmm… NO. There is skill and knowledge required to put together a website that will actually be useful for your brand. As a web designer, I would obviously recommend that you contact a professional even if it’s just to talk with them about what you should and shouldn’t do with your particular site. However, I realize that a lot of people either can’t afford to work with a designer or haven’t put the value on their online presence that they should. For those of you intent on doing it yourself, here’s a few tips to keep you from an online crash and burn.

1.      Plan ahead. Don’t just start building. Things can get out of control pretty quickly. Create an outline for your site and decide what information you need to convey and where it should go. Check out other websites or consult friends and ask them to virtually browse your new site in their heads. Write everything down and then organize it – it’ll pay off later.
2.      Let people in. Picture this: Johnny Depp is at your front door. But wait…. You’re going to make him watch some lame marketing video before he can come in. Or maybe fill out a form to let you know how he found you. HELL NO! You want people to come to your site – don’t make them jump through hoops to do it because they won’t and you’ll lose business. 

3.      Be sure people know what you do, who you are, or what you’re selling within the first 4 seconds of looking at your site. People are impatient. In today’s fast-paced society, they want information now or, better yet, yesterday. Don’t make them search your site just to figure out what you do. A simple sentence on your home page will do the trick (and help with search engine optimization too!).
4.      Make it easy to find information. The average web visitor is lazy. VERY lazy. They don’t want to have to guess what to click on when they want to learn more about your company (PS – It should be a link that says “ABOUT.”). Make navigation straight-forward and easy to find. Make links obvious so people know what they can click on and where it will take them when they click on it. Don’t be clever because it usually ends up frustrating someone. Your goal is to keep them on your site as long as you can. If you piss them off, they will leave. And that is bad.
5.      Just because you know how to make something move doesn’t mean you should. Flash is one of the most misused features on the web. There is absolutely a place for it… just make sure your website benefits from it if you decide to use it. Photo slideshows and music players are good uses of Flash provided they are placed properly in the site. If you do use a splash page (and before you do, see #2), be sure to give people the option to skip it and enter the site. Also, keep in mind that Flash is NOT viewable on iPads and most cell phones.
6.      Background music is annoying. It just is. You will not get people coming back to your site if you get them fired for blaring “Who Let the Dogs Out” from their computer speakers when they’re supposed to be working. Don’t do it.

7.      Keep it simple! People say it all the time, but it’s true – less is more. A simple website with a clean layout, clearly written and nicely contrasted text, and complimentary images will give you much more bang for your buck than something overly graphic and media-ridden. Everything will download faster, information will be found easier, and people will leave your site happy. I repeat, KEEP IT SIMPLE.

Lindsay Coats, owner of Stellar Edge PR  (Follow them on Facebook as well to keep up on events), has been designing websites that don’t suck since 1996. She lives in the Chicago 'burbs with her hubby and 2 amazing kiddos.


  1. Great advice and a reminder that I need a kick in the bum to get my site up and fully functional!

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  3. If I didn't already have someone doing my site, I would ask for Lindsay, she rocks!

  4. As someone that just goes to websites as a future client, I agree 100% with everything said here!!

    And just to say it once, I agree 200% with the music thing, I am home, and I HATE having to scramble to look for the button to turn the sound off when viewing a website, if I want music, I'll have my own, thankyouverymuch!

  5. *wishing johnny depp was at my door*

    oh yeah, excellent advice. i've found myself trying to DIY and it turned out allllright, but seriously if I would've just forked over the dough to begin with it would've saved me a bunch of headaches and time. not to mention my site would be awesome not just alright.

  6. great advice! people really are sooo lazy haha