If you are thinking about a new website or redesign in 2014, there are some things to keep in the back of your head. Here is a quick guide to help with your discovery stages.

Crawlable Navigation Above the Fold
The navigation holds the main checkpoints that users will hit as they move throughout your site so it should be visible above the fold, whether it is at the top or in the sidebar. If using a dropdown style menu you will want to ensure that your navigation’s links are loaded before JavaScript! If the links are loaded with JavaScript, search engines will most likely not be able to crawl your navigation and users won’t be able to find you.
Engaging Design
Many people enjoy bells and whistles, but don’t get carried away when designing your site. Having an appealing layout that professionally spreads your message is key to gaining your users attention and trust. Users will not stick around long if they don’t feel comfortable.
Design-wise, sponsormybook.com, is very clean, easy-to-read, and has lots of great conversion points but it is a single-page site which is bad for SEO. To see what not to do, check out this horrific MIT site.
Friendly Interface
Keep in mind that your users need to be able to find your content quickly and painlessly or they will leave for the next search result. Plan your site structure carefully to ensure a hassle-free user experience that will lead to conversions. After all, your site was created to make you money! Read about responsive design for other ways to make your interface more user-friendly.
Optimized Content
Your content will play a major role in the success (or lack thereof) of your site. It should be clearly organized, easy to read, and to the point to keep your users’ attention. Optimizing the headings and copy with keywords will help put you in the search engines. Don’t forget about your content’s hierarchy. If the user can’t find what they need by scanning the headings and subheadings, they may not move to the paragraphs of text.
Conversion Points
Ask yourself, “What do I want people to do on my site?” On top of buying a product (if you’re e-Commerce), you may want someone to download a menu/brochure, fill out a form, or join your mailing list. Users are looking for your guidance so they do not have to think. Your job is to deliver these conversion points in an inviting way with clear calls-to-action.
Effective Search Function
A search bar can be a very handy tool for quickly locating information if it works. I have come across too many search bars that don’t work properly. As mentioned before, your users will want to find the information they seek as quickly as possible so make sure it works or get rid of it! There is nothing more annoying to a user than not being able to find what you need.
Cross-Browser Compatibility
You may have heard the saying “Not all browsers were created equally.” It is unfortunate, but true. Ancient browsers like Internet Explorer 6, 7, and 8 need a little extra help handling newer advancements. Not only that, but everything needs to be spelled out so that these browsers don’t have to make “guesses.” Testing your site in all the major browsers is a MUST to confirm that your entire audience is viewing the content correctly.
Web-Optimized Images with Alt Tags
If you have never been in the creative industry, you may not know that print resolution (300 dpi) and web resolution (72 dpi) are quite different. Optimizing the size of your images for web will lower page-load times while still maintaining a level of quality.
Besides making your images accessible to screen-readers for the visually impaired, a properly-named alt tag is imperative for SEO. With correct alt tags on your images, you can see rankings in searches for Google Images. Just something to keep in mind when you are coming up with text for your alt tags.
Analytics Tracking
Ever wondered how many users viewed your site in x-amount of time? Tracking your analytics with something like Google Analytics will give insight to this and many other things. You can also track goals for your fresh conversion points. Be careful, it can get addicting! My first GA installation led to me compulsively checking to see how many visitors I had. That is pretty depressing, especially when the site is so new that it isn’t even indexed by Google yet and I am the only person that knows about the site!
A sitemap can be used for different things but most often it is used for making someone or something aware of your pages. You can create a page that hierarchically displays all of the pages on your site. You can also create an XML sitemap to help Google track down pages its bots didn’t find during the standard crawl. For more information about sitemaps, check out Webmaster Tools.

Help Us, Help You

In conclusion, solidifying these ten things will give your site a head start in the race to success. If you’re thinking about a new site or redesign for 2014, let us guide you through the process. Get started by contacting us to request a free quote and discuss how we can turn your idea into a success story!