August 21, 2016 by Ed Kennedy
The 3 Pages you Need when Starting a Simple Website
Starting a website is a little like founding a circus. It is totally OK to aspire to have a bunch of gymnasts bounding about the top rope high above everyone else – but you REALLY want a safety net below first, and some basic entertainment to get the show on the road.
Just as a business is built step by step, so too it is the same principle with a new website. You can look to have blog posts, social media links, and all manner of attractions in time, but the initial planning of a website lends credence to the value of simplicity.
So, where to start when starting with website content? Let’s look in-depth now..
An About Us Page
This is the anchor of your web page. It tells people who you are and what you do. While not every business may have the most compelling story by default – if you are a new suburban gym who has just opened in the past month no need to write an epic detailing your family’s history in producing wine dates back to the 1800’s – but you should still seek to convey the essential information to anyone reading it; who you are, what you do, and why you do it.
True, just like there’s a big difference between driving a car and being a formula one driver there is a difference between a OK about us and a fantastic About Us, but provided your writing has clarity, follows the three principles above, and holds good spelling and grammar it should be fine to start.
A Contact Us Page
Just as a Contact details page is an obvious inclusion to a website there is by contrast a number of things to consider as you build on. Sure, it seems straightforward at first – it’s a section where I list your contact details! – but unlike a bygone era whereby a name and a phone book listing would suffice, in today’s age of online there is a rapid variety of ways in which to contact people.
Furthermore, its true: some may say ‘just put your contact info in an About Us’ – but this overlooks a few thing. First, someone may visit your page keen to contact right away – and while they may otherwise be ready to read your bio – if in a rush for goods or service they may sooner click away to a competitor’s website than stand ready to spend time navigating through your site for contacts.
In turn, while you shouldn’t go ahead and have 400 links on your contact page if its feasible you could have the following;
Your Phone number
An extra option (e.g Skype)
And then a couple of social media links.
The diversity of options (and risk putting them in the about us would distract from the bio content) means putting them in a contact page is essential, both for ease-of-access and to keep your About Us section looking neat and clean (your garage may be cluttered but your website shouldn’t be).
The Info Page (Main Section)
The info page is the page where you provide the main info about your business. Think of it like the wheels on a bike, the engine in a car – here is where the main momentum and drive for your website shall come. It may not be rocket science, but given its placement getting it right is important.
Accordingly, some prior planning is essential here. Using this website as an illustrative example, while the author works around the web on a variety of sites, the chief purpose of this one is to convey words and written content to people. Further, while including an about us or contact page could have value, as the body of the website already includes extensive text (being a journalist’s website) then adding extra links to extra text could complicate the design.
Instead, by using the sidebar to present a bio and contact information this information is conveyed without adding extra complexity to the website – keeping in line with the foundational rule of design: keep it simple when possible.
Now, it depends on what you are looking to do. If like this author’s page your chief design aim is to put words before people then having a website that is text-first makes sense. If you are a restaurant however – even if you wrote the menu with the flourish of James Joyce penning Ulysses – having a text-menu set out over many pages will not do nor be nearly as effective as a page that displays numerous photos of all your dishes on offer.
Again, this also depends on your aim. If you are a buffet eatery who seeks to attract nearby college students for lunch then showing as many dishes as possible could make sense. If you are a high-end artisan gelato bar though, then showing just a couple of dishes with filtered photos and then linking to a menu may be wise.
Then, if you are a takeaway coffee shop with a business model built on serving a couple of quick and simple drinks for the morning rush, then forgoing photos or a menu link entirely for a simple bullet-point style display in plain text (styled in CSS granted) of your 5 drinks on offer may be ideal.
A Special Word on Surprises
On this, a special word: keep your website free of surprises and ensure all content is ‘there’ when possible. This means pop-ups, redirects (when you click one link and then see your address bar change to some random site you didn’t expect to go to) and broken links – now and then something you link to shall go offline (and that happens and is OK) – but there is software to guard against this, and once you get notified of it be sure you fix it right away.
Basically, when people visit your website they should have the feeling that ‘what they see if what they get’. This doesn’t mean the site need be boring or dour – you could be a luxury car dealer, a jeweller, or a exotic tourism company that charges many thousands of dollars for your goods or services – but be sure your navigation around your website feels easy and intuitive, like being outdoors and on a sunny afternoon, and not a surprise-laden house of horrors that leave people nerves every time they go visit.
On this, a special word: PDF’s and other surprise downloads can be very sketchy. Certainly, if you have documents you need offer to a site visitor, such as a restaurant with a menu to download, or an accountant with tax forms that clients needs then it is totally OK to include a link to it.
This said, just be sure you clearly label any link that starts a download with some indication of what will happen once its clicked. A simple line of text below that says (click to download) will do it, and that’ll ensure people who use your site know what they get when they click a link, and don’t get peevish at all the pops up which grandma totally says could be full of a ton of viruses.
So, in sum: if starting your website keep it simple, keep it navigable, and ensure it has no surprises. Overtime you can look to add extra content – and the sheer diversity of extra features and functions you can add is essentially limitless – but at the outset just as you need learn to walk before you can run, so too is building off the fundamentals sage.
Best of all, a website with 3 simple pages like this can usually be built very fast, and this can be an important consideration for a existing or new business yet to have a website (but overdue in getting one up and running).
So, if in need of a new website, now you know what you want, get in touch with a web designer – and while it may take longer than just one play of Start Me Up to get the project finished – you’d not be sick of the Rolling Stones by the time it is done (and who could ever be sick of the Stones?).firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Edkennedy01