12 Website Essentials for Your Blog or Business
There are many considerations that go into making websites good and effective tools for communication, inspiration and community building. When it comes down to building a website, it is important to realize that we make websites for people like us. People who look at websites have certain expectations when viewing content online, whether they realize it or not, so it’s important to make visiting your website an easy and enjoyable experience. If you are a blogger or business owner serious about your online performance, read on to make sure your websites have these main things.
1. A Customized Domain Name
One of the first things to invest in for your website is a domain name. A customized .COM or .ORG is essential for any blog, business or organization looking to promote their content (also it’s also okay to get creative with a .co or .blog, etc.). It shows professionalism and also makes finding your website much easier. I recommend searching GoDaddy for your domain names. Other hosting companies have options for domains as well, so it may be good to shop around for a bit too.
Searching for a domain name can help narrow down your blog name or the focus of your website. Try to pick a name that is unique, recognizable and your own. It may also be a good idea to purchase several domain names that all link back to your main website so that users can access your site, even with spelling or grammar errors when trying to search your site. For example, my domain is GINA-ALYSE.COM, but it may be beneficial for me to purchase GINAALYSE.COM or variations of my name to make them all redirect to my site. Always build with your readers in mind!
2. A Great Hosting Service
In addition to a custom domain name, a great host for your website is crucial if you want to take your blog or business to the next level. I recommend BlueHost, where I purchased my hosting to move from Blogger to WordPress. With your own shared hosting, not only can you do unlimited things with your website, you have access to great people who can help you with any technical support for your website. BlueHost has given me great support so far, and has helped me solved critical problems for some of my website projects.
3. An Engaging “About” Page
Another important part of a website is an about page. If I stumble upon a new website, perhaps a blog or a communications agency with an internship program, I always look for an about section. It’s one thing that most people look for when trying to get to know the people behind the blog or business. I’ve seen blogs without about pages, and it was really hard for me to get to know them as a person. I always love knowing what stage in life people are in—whether they are designers, college students, entrepreneurs, parents, etc. Whatever background information that is relevant to your blog is important in your about page. Make sure to make it inviting to readers and include necessary information for people to get to know you or your business better.
4. Contact Information
This may be another obvious one, but having contact information on your website is crucial! I’ve visited websites where it was so hard to reach the business owners, that I had to rely on methods like Facebook messaging, which can sometimes be unreliable. Having an email address or contact form is beneficial so people can easily contact you. In addition, you may want to add a phone number, address, or other good ways to contact you.
5. Consistent Branding
Another must-have for your website is consistent branding and design overall. Work with a designer to make your website easy-to-use and on point with your brand. Going beyond your logo, your website can add so much character to your business or blog. Think about colors, patterns, icons, photos, and other design elements to really tell your story through your website. If you are interested in getting your hands dirty in website design or development, check out my post on Designing Your Blog for WordPress.
6. Social Media Icons
In addition to contact info, also include social media icons. Your website is a great place to promote your social channels since it is an easy way for people to find your social media content and connect with you. Think about the channels that make the most sense for your brand–whether it is Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Snapchat, FourSquare or Instagram. Pick your most-used social media sites to promote on your page.
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7. A Branded Favicon
One thing I love seeing when I visit a website is a branded favicon. What is a favicon? It’s the small icon that appears in your browser’s tab that displays your website. It is also the icon that would appear on your phone or tablet if you make your website its own button on your mobile device. A lot of times these icons are blank little pages or an icon from your hosting provider. Having your own favicon design adds a level of professionalism and character to your site that is important in making good first impressions with your website. Check out: How to Create a Custom Favicon for Your Blog.
8. Easy-to-Read & Easy-to-Find Navigation
Navigation bars are crucial to websites, and it’s so important to make sure you have a streamlined navigation that shows the most important pages of your website. Having multiple navigation bars or too much information in the header of your website may confuse readers or make information hard to access. I suggest limiting navigation bars to two at max, but try to have one consistent navigation across all pages of your website. Perhaps consider putting more links to pages in the footer or sidebar of your website.
9. Email Newsletter Subscription
Email marketing is still important for many businesses, large and small. Through email, you can reach a select group of people important to your business, blog or organization. You can send deals, updates, stories or other more exclusive content. Having a place for people to sign up on your website is such a key call to action for your visitors in order to connect with you further and build your brand. Check out Sarah’s tips on 5 Ideas for a Killer Email Newsletter.
10. Branded Photos
This last one is a fun one–you should have a good selection of photos on your site. This means different things for different people. If you are a blogger, having at least one strong image per post is important in order for readers to stay engaged and can visually picture the story you are telling. For businesses or other types of websites, showing your products through compelling, authentic photos is pretty necessary. Give your website visitors an experience, and immerse them in your brand through high-quality, original images. You can try to take photos yourself or hire a photographer for a good selections of photos to implement on your site. For bloggers, check out Madison’s Photography 101 post to bring your blog to the next level.
12. Calls to Action
No matter the goals for your website, your site should clearly define a call(s) for action on each page. There should be a flow of action throughout your website. For example, your home page should have a clear way of getting to know more about your brand. Then from there, visitors may want to know what you write about or what services you provide. Make sure you direct them to this content. Afterwards, you may want them to sign up for your email list, follow you on social media or get in contact with you. Again, make sure there is a clear call to action on every page of your site.
Your website is your home on the internet. It’s where you are in charge of your brand and your brand’s image. Make it the best you can.