With the incredible leaps and bounds that web technology has taken in the last few years, it is easier and cheaper for companies to get online. Solid frameworks like CakePHP, Joomla! and Drupal are even starting to bring back the fun to developing compelling, revenue generating websites. Before you go off jumping to get your web site started I've put together a couple hard earned tips to help make sure that you get started in the right direction.
- Use the most widely supported framework. Take a good long look at which framework supports the features (most come in the form of third party modules) you want for your site. You can always customize the look, but building functionality within these complicated frameworks can get frustrating. Skip to the bottom of this article for a link to our most commonly used modules for Joomla! based web sites.
- If you need to manually enter over 20 items (products or articles), it pays to take a look at the database structure. This is a more advanced tip, but for example we recently developed an ecommerce website with over 500 products. During the development process we had to constantly update the products and change specific settings. To manually enter each product product 10mins (500 products x 10 mins = WASTED TIME), so we took a look at the database and wrote a script to enter the products directly for us (all within a day). Outsource this if necessary but your time is worth more than data entry.
- Stock images are your friend. Pictures and sharp images sell your company and products online and professional photographs are available for as little as $ 1. Do yourself and your customers a favor and put done the Kodak! (link to a few stock photo sites below)
- Have a specific online goal. If you want to sell product, sell product, if you want to promote your company, promote your company – but focus on one thing at a time. Make sure that you have a clear primary goal and after that is completed feel free to add secondary features but only after you are getting what you want most first. Remember just because you CAN not mean you should.
- Do not make it hard for you customers to find you. Submit your site to main online directories (especially DMOZ.org – Google uses them to build it's website database).
- Do not have a ridiculously long URL (what people have to type in their browsers). Make it easy and as short as possible and never ever use dashes (-) in your URL (domain name). When picking a name it is best to say it out loud like you were telling someone about it, if it sounds confusing or the spelling could be confused, change it where possible.
- Perform basic SEO (Search Engine Optimization) on your site. This means that your site should at the very least have clean urls (no index.php? Id = 2 & jid = 89) and that all of your titles should use the tags (so Google knows they are important).
- Flash or no Flash. This is a point of contention, Adobe just released to Google an algorithm that can now index and read Flash movies so that Google can return them in the results page. It probably works, but working with Flash is not all it's cracked up to be; it's hard to update, it takes longer to load and the interfaces are usually unique (read: new and different to the visitor who has a 3sec attention span). I'd stay away, but again review your online goal maybe Flash fits.
- Sooner the better. This is a basic tip, having something online is better than nothing. If you do not have anything right now, go to wordpress.com and start a website. Get something online so in the case someone is looking for you, at least they will be able to find something. If you hire an outside company, make sure that they can get something online for you within 10 business days, not only will this keep them on-point on your project but it will also give you an idea of how visitors and customers will use the site.
- Your customers are your friends, let them tell you how they want to buy . Remember extremely you are building a website that pleases your customers, whoever they may be, so do not forget to get them to review the site. A lot of the feedback you'll get will have to be thrown out, but look for those recurring themes in the comments and try to address them.
For a list of our commonly used Joomla features visit our website.