If you think you can get by in the modern business world without a website, think again. Content marketing speaker Marcus Sheridan explained it best when he said "In today's information age of Marketing and Web 2.0, a company's website is the key to its entire business." Not everyone has the tools to employ fancy design teams, but with these key tools, even first-time Web developers can create smart and sophisticated websites.
Content Management System Demystifies Web Coding
Unless you've got a strong grasp on computer coding, you'll need a content management system. WordPress, Joomla, ModX and Drupal can all help programming novices create smart websites and add new content to keep it fresh. Businesses can create multiple accounts for content managers, who can all update the site in real-time from their own workstations.
Using a content management system out of the box will give you a functional site, but it'll lack any real personality. You can add some pizzazz by downloading the plugins associated with your preferred system. It's possible to create an adequate website using only a content management system, but it pays to have a few more tools in your design kit to take your site to the next level.
Boilerplates Help You Code it Right
Think of boilerplates as templates that'll guide you in the best coding practices. You might make a site that works without one, but your navigation model might be lacking or your load time extreme.
Web users typically make just three clicks and spend an average of eight to 10 seconds looking for information on a website. If you can't deliver results within these demanding parameters, you're likely to lose valuable customers. Are you confident you can deliver?
If not, it's worth investing in a template tool like HTML5 Boilerplate, Bootstrap and Foundation. There are boilerplates available for a range of programming languages including HTML, CSS and jQuery. Use them regularly and you might even pick up a few coding tricks.
Graphic Design Software Helps Images Look Their Best
You can take images from your digital camera and upload them straight onto your site using your content management system, so why do you need graphic design software? Simply put, these programs make sure your images are used effectively.
Graphics programs like Adobe Photoshop, Xara Xtreme and Corel PaintShop Photo Pro help you crop your images so browsers can focus on what's important. It'll also help you resize them and adjust their resolution so they load quickly. Google says that websites that load in 0.9 seconds have 20 percent less traffic than those that load in 0.4 seconds, so it's important that all Web images are optimized.
Use these programs in tandem with specialized Web graphics software like Pixel Dropr and Xara WebStyle. These will help you create the buttons, navigation bars, bullets and backgrounds that'll give your site a professional edge.
Social Media Tools Promote Interactivity
Most businesses today typically have a website and a handful of social media accounts, including pages on Facebook and Twitter. You can maximize the effectiveness of all these online portals by integrating them.
Several online tools make it easy to incorporate social networking features into your website. Every 20 minutes, Facebook users share 1 million links with their friends. The average Facebook user has about 130 followers, so you want to make it as easy as you can for your Facebook loving fans to share your content. Add This and ShareThis are two great tools which add share buttons for a range of social media to your site.
There are also plugins for adding the Facebook Like button and a Facebook comments box for more personal interaction. You needn't worry about opening up this dialogue, as the plugin comes with moderation tools which allow you to block any offensive messages.
There are 1.19 billion active Facebook users and more than 215 million active Twitter users, so chances are your customers will feel comfortable and enthusiastic about using these features on your site.
Responsive Web Design Tools Optimizes Your Site for All Browsers
Responsive Web Design took off in 2013, so if you're not using it, you're already behind the curve.Thankfully there are myriad tools available to help you catch up.
Responsive Web design is an approach that automatically optimizes your site for the best viewing experience on a range of screen types. A site that works well on a desktop computer isn't likely to look good if it's simply transplanted onto a small tablet or an even smaller smartphone. Responsive Web design does all the hard work so users enjoy the best browsing experience, no matter how they like to surf the Web.
Mobile Web users can't be ignored, as 40 percent of all Web traffic comes from these devices. If current trends continue, we can expect mobile traffic to account for an even larger market share in the coming years.
You don't need to be a seasoned coder to adapt, though, because there are a host of online tools that can instantly convert a standard website into one featuring responsive Web design. Responsive Nav, Responsive Tables, and Adaptive Images are all useful tools for this purpose.
Search Engine Optimization Tools to Improve Online Rankings?
There's no point spending time developing a website if no one sees it. With 93 percent of online experiences starting from a search engine referral, your search engine ranking really matters. Three-quarters of Internet users never scroll past the first page of search results they see, so that's where you want your website to be. Search engine optimization tools can help you improve your online rankings and increase your Web traffic.
Getting citations, or online mentions, in the past, was one of the best/easiest ways to boost your search engine ranking, but Google is cracking down on previously popular tactics like article directories. That said, to make sure your information (like website address, location, hours, etc.) is correct and accessible to searchers, especially those with local intent, first-time Web developers should use a site like GetListed or Yext to update, enhance and monitor your business listings across the Web.
Incorporating meta tags and keywords into your website is another popular tactic. Free Meta Tag Generator can instantly create meta tags to paste into your site, while the Google AdWords Keyword Planner will help you decide on the most effective keywords for your site.
With these essential tools behind you, you can feel confident developing your first website.
DJ Miller is a graduate student at the University of Tampa. He is an avid gadget geek who spends most his time writing on anything tech related. His specialty is Web design and optimizing sites for mobile devices and ultrabooks. You can follow him on twitter @MillerHeWrote.