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Doing it right
Posted by Peter Labrow on 6 September 2010
If you doubt the value of developing websites to higher standards, then it’s worth considering the very real benefits.
When designing websites, as with so many things, there are good and bad ways to go about things.
It’s the difference between a chest of drawers that’s hand-made with beautiful dovetail joints and one that’s flat-packed; ready to be assembled by you. There’s a clear difference in price between these two items – but also a difference in quality. One will last for years and be a continual pleasure to use. The other does the job, but it will be taken to the tip within a few years. Each has its own place in the market – and nothing wrong with that.
With website development, the difference in quality isn’t always evident to the customer. Two websites may look similar, but the HTML that’s under the bonnet can be radically different, as can the care and attention that’s gone into building them.
But if they look the same, why pay more for something that only experts can tell is ‘better’?
This chart, from Google Analytics, shows you one of the reasons. It shows the visits to one of our customers’ websites. You’ll notice that around April, the traffic to this website tripled.
Prior to April, the client had a perfectly serviceable, if a little old, website. Indeed, we designed it, about eight years ago. As such, it embodied eight-year-old thinking at a code level. Times change – since then, there has been a big move to website standards (which we have embraced), correctly structured HTML (which can be tested) and semantic page structure. There’s also a clearer understanding of how search engines operate – Google now publishes extensive guidelines on the best way to develop a website.
So, when we redeveloped this website, not only were the changes visual, they took place at every level and within every page. The changes included:
- 100% valid, semantically structured HTML
- 100% new content, written based on research into the customer’s targeted search phrases
- New website structure designed around both users and search engines
- Moving to a content-management system that renders very search-engine friendly website pages
- Search-engine friendly URLs (plain English page names)
Of course, it wasn’t as simple as that – but those were the key ingredients. In effect, the visual design you see is based on creativity, but underpinning that is a structure that’s based on research and standards.
In addition, when the new website went live, we added in automatic redirects from old page addresses to the new news, effectively telling Google that ‘this content has been moved permanently to here’.
The results speak for themselves. This care and attention resulted in an almost immediate tripling of traffic to the website from Google. In effect, 200% more people are finding the website.
It’s not one quick trick that’s done this, but a lot of crafting at every stage of development. Yes, it resulted in a website that took a little longer to develop and it may have cost a little more – but it’s paying for itself far, far more quickly.
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