How to keep your website looking good

In a previous life, I worked as a web editor on a local government website, so for this blog post, I thought I would write about some of the ways you can keep your website looking good. My role involved writing, editing, proof reading and approving web pages prior to publication and educating people on web design good practice, brand maintenance and search engine optimisation. At one stage I think the website had around 900 pages, so it could be a daunting task and the team I worked with continuously reviewed the website to ensure web pages and web documents were kept up to date and monitored it in terms of usability, accessibility and compliance with government legislation.

Photo by Hal Gatewood.

First impressions

First impressions really do count with websites. If someone doesn’t like what they see, they won’t stick around for long, so it is important to ensure you keep yours in working order and up to date at all times. Think of your website as your shop window – it needs to encourage people through the front door to browse your wares. Website reviews or content audits are crucial to giving your shop kerb appeal and for good search engine optimisation (SEO), that is a set of practices designed to improve the appearance and positioning of web pages in organic search results (the unpaid listings on a search engine results page.)

Contact information

Contact information of some sort should always appear on your website, namely an address, telephone number, email address or contact form. As a member of The Society of Virtual Assistants, I am required to display a UK mailing address and to be contactable by email too. On a website, it goes without saying that people will expect to be able to reach you online, so displaying an email address or having a contact form is a must have. It also appears more professional if your email address is linked to a domain name, for example toni@vaservices.org rather than toni@gmail.com. I do not display a contact telephone number or an email address but can be contacted via the contact form on this website, which is good for reducing spam email. If you choose to use a contact form too, make sure it is connected to your email address and messages are getting through. You can do this by emailing yourself or asking someone to test the form for you.

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Photo by Viktor Hanacek

Always proofread and check your spelling, punctuation and grammar. It can be difficult to proof read your own work, as after a while you become blind to what you have written, seeing what you think is there, rather than what is actually there, so again ask someone to proofread and sense check what you have written before you publish it. Alternatively, you can use a website spellchecker. Type ‘website spellchecker’ into a search engine and type the address of your website into the search box to get your website scanned for spelling errors.

Broken links are another thing that should be tested for regularly. These can occur on your website, say if you have been re-structuring your website or as the result of changes on a website that you link to and both look bad if not fixed. Broken or dead link checkers can be found online and work in the same way as the website spellcheckers described above. 

Using the copyright symbol on your web pages will emphasise that you take your rights as the copyright owner seriously. The symbol is often found alongside a statement saying ‘all rights reserved’, which means you withhold all rights to the maximum extent allowable under law. You can read more about copyright in the blog post below.

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Photo by picjumbo.com from Pexels.

I agonised over this wording for a long time but as a sole trader, I have chosen to use  ‘I’ instead of ‘we’ on this website. My hope is that it is warm and welcoming and gives the impression that I am talking directly to you and that you get a sense of who I am. By using ‘we’ I feel I would have been giving the impression there is a team involved here which simply is not the case.

Data protection

It is important to ensure your website is GDPR compliant which basically means you have to inform users about the data that you collect from them. On this website I have a privacy statement which advises how I use and protect personal information. There is also a terms of use statement which governs the relationship between me and anyone who visits the website. Currently I do not use email marketing but if I did, I would ensure that an unsubscribe button appeared on any marketing emails, so people could unsubscribe from these any time they wish. You can read more about GDPR in the blog post below.

This was a difficult one for me, as I rarely like photographs of myself but I have to acknowledge that as a freelancer, having a photo of me on my website brings a personal touch, allowing visitors to put a face to the name of the business. My image is a snapshot but if you can afford to get a professional headshot, do that. Some freelancers use a logo instead – it isn’t a hard and fast rule but whatever you decide to use, make sure it is the same on your website, as in any networking groups or social media platforms you use, so people can recognise you.

Carrying out a content review

The ideas above are all quick ideas for good practice but you may want to consider undertaking more in depth reviews too. You could do these once or twice a year as a project or alternatively, setting review dates on your pages and reviewing these at intervals throughout the year, will help make the load a little easier, particularly if you have a lot of content on your website.

If you know you are adding information to your website that is time sensitive, add a review date to the page at the same time you publish it, as a reminder to update or delete the page, when the date has passed. Don’t forget any documents or images that you use on these pages need to be reviewed and deleted at the same time. It is crucial that behind the scenes you keep your documents and images organised and establish a filing naming convention immediately, to make it easy for you to identify your files and quickly find what you need, particularly if you work in a team.

Remember that your website needs to look good on many different electronic devices also, so regularly test how it looks on computers, tablets and mobile phones – take a look at Test My Site by ThinkGoogle for ideas to improve your mobile site.

Photo by Hal Gatewood.

It is important to note that just because you wrote content for a web page once, it doesn’t mean it has to stay on your website forever. You want your visitors to be able to find their way around, not feel as if they are in a rabbit warren. Consider your customer and put yourself in their shoes. Will they be able to navigate their way around your website without all of the inside knowledge of the person who designed it? Ask yourself, do you have duplicate information that could be consolidated on one page? Does your website signpost visitors to stop them getting lost and is it easy for them to return to the homepage? Link titles should take visitors to pages with a matching page title – do your link titles do what they say on the tin? Is the website divided up into clearly defined areas such as departments, events, services or tasks that a visitor may want to complete? Is it accessible to people with disabilities and to older people who may not have all of the digital skills necessary for day to day life? You can read more about website accessibility in the blog post below.

To keep your website fresh, delete out of date content or archive content you think you might be able to re-use or recycle. No one needs to read about Christmas events in July, so replace them with something new. Recognise the difference between what is evergreen content, that is content that needs to be on the website at all times and seasonal content that can come and go.

Photo by Hal Gatewood.

Websites are never finished

Websites are never finished, so don’t fall into the trap of spending time and money getting online and then do nothing more with your website. Maybe allocate some time for yourself each month to look around your website and ask ‘does this still reflect my company’ and if it doesn’t, rewrite the content so it does or delete it – think of it like a fresh coat of paint, new curtains or new cushions. Following the above guidelines will help keep your website looking good and keep it in good working order too, encouraging potential clients to trust you and re-assuring existing clients that they are in safe hands. Still not convinced? Take a look at the websites below for further information.

Sources and further information

© Toni Louise Abram at Izzy Wizzy. All Rights Reserved.

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