How to Start a Website – Step 1: Functional & Reliable Website

Step 1 in the Series: How to Make a Website, 3 steps to a high performance website

This is the first step in creating a high performance website. We believe every serious business should ensure their website is functional and reliable.

This article lists a series of characteristics a functional and reliable website should have. It is not intended to be a technical tutorial on how to start a website. Developing the skills to create a professional website may take years.

A functional and reliable website should meet the following criteria:

Supported by a CMS or Platform

It is highly recommended to use a Content Management System (CMS) or Platform (like WordPress or Joomla). There is a huge variety of options out there and a good CMS would give you certain advantages.

You should use a CMS because it will allow your organisation to have complete control over its website without the need to pay excessive and recurring development fees for almost daily, routine website updates.

It enables non computer savvy people to make website changes, allowing content to be added much more quickly and efficiently.

Secure

This means that your website doesn’t get hacked. The reason we place “Secure” right after “Supported by a CMS or Platform” is because one of the most effective ways to keep the website secure is by having the CMS up to date, including all their plugins and add-ons.

It is highly recommendable to make a full backup of your website before running updates. Make sure you integrate both CMS updates and backups in the same process, to minimise the risk of hacker attacks as well as the risk of damaging the website with non-compatible updates.

Multi Browser

The most popular browsers out there are Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Safari (there are many others). Please confirm that your website is displayed properly on these popular browsers.

If possible, test it from different versions of Internet Explorer. You would be surprised at the number of websites that fail to display properly in Internet Explorer.

Mobile Phone Friendly

Visitors browsing your site from mobile phones and tablets account for up to 40% of your website traffic. The mobile and tablet versions of your site should make browsing from these platforms an enjoyable experience.

This is not an option anymore. There are different technologies out there, but we prefer responsive design, which is the most popular and trending technique.

To test if your website is mobile phone friendly, open it from a mobile… if you need to zoom, it means your website is not mobile friendly.

Error Free

“Page not found, 404 Error.” Is probably the most common error amongst websites. This happens when a link in your website points to a page that doesn’t exist.*

There are many different types of errors; Javascript Errors, SSL errors or other errors such as when a visitor uses the form in your contact page but you don’t receive an email.

You should fix these kind of errors before proceeding with anything else on your website.

*This is a very basic explanation of 404 errors, please check the Wikipedia article about HTTP 404 for a complete explanation.

Good design

Good design is visually appealing, it uses appropriate fonts, its elements are properly distributed on the screen, it uses a harmonious colour scheme and the right images and taglines.

Good design avoids funny looking colour contrast, out of place sections, unreadable fonts, clutter and noise.

At this stage, don’t worry about creating some fancy design to be admired for. The idea is that visitors don’t notice the design, they don’t think “Oh yuk! this is really ugly”.

If you want to find out more, the guys at Canister have created a complete article explaining how to recognise Good Design.

Spam Free

The blogs sections in websites are a common target for spammers who inundate comments areas with spam messages. Having a spam free website is important as it shows professionalism and attention to detail.

Content Up To Date

The content on the website should be up to date. It should not contain any old articles that aren’t relevant anymore, old testimonials, discontinued products, etc. The copyright should be current. If the last news entry is 4 years ago, it makes the visitor question “Is that business still around?” “Are they still operational?”

Ask yourself; is the actual content of the website up to date? Are the products on the website actually still for sale? Are the blog posts or other content still relevant?

Fast

If a website takes more than 5 seconds to load, you have a problem that needs to be fixed. Even if you have the most amazing looking website, it won’t give you any results if its loading time is bad.

You can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to test the speed test results for Mobile and Desktops.

PageSpeed Insights

Tracking Visitors

Finally, you should start collecting your visitors information; how many visits you have had, how did your visitors find your website, where are they physically located, which pages in your website did they vist, which words did they type in Google to find your website, and the list goes on.

We recommend Google Analytics, because it is a free tool that allow you to collect that data.

At this point in time it is not about acting on the data, but collecting the data ASAP.

Next Step

You can visit the next 2 steps of this series.

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