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What We Learned from Building 300 Websites for SMBs
Last week, I found myself doing something I’ve never done—trying to navigate the scotch aisle at a liquor store (and before 11 a.m. I might add). We celebrated the launch of our 300th website and I wanted to get Chase Wolf—our director of web development—a little gift for the occasion. Since I’m neither Ron Burgundy or somebody’s father, I personally know nothing about scotch.
Not to worry though—I consulted our Charlotte office dad (Tyler Yost). Here were his recommendations:
- Aberlour – 12 DOUBLE CASK MATURED – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED – If you really wanted to, you could go the 16 year, but it’s probably 2x the price.
- The Balvenie Doublewood – 12 year
- MaCallan 12 year… OR 18 year, if you’re feeling fancy.
- Glengoyne 10 year
- Really – anything in the bottom right corner of this chart: link. That’s the stuff that Chase likes.
After presenting Chase with his bottle of the Balvenie Doublewood, I asked him to share with our blog readers what he’s learned 300 websites later and how it’s helped to improve and evolve our website design and development process. Here’s an overview of what he said:
When we first started building websites for small/medium sized businesses, we were a little more focused on conversions than on design or other types of engagement.
While we still think your website should be a sales rep (as opposed to an online brochure!) and we still maximize for conversions, our overall approach is more holistic. Keep reading—you’ll see what I mean.
Our old sites weren’t exactly on the cutting edge of design.
There’s no denying our websites now look better. But design isn’t just about looks! Better design can (and should) also mean better functionality, which in turn provides better user experience.
Our very first sites were not built on any sort of Content Management System (CMS).
Things change and it can be costly to keep things updated when your site isn’t built on a CMS. We’ve adopted a CMS that is flexible to build on top of and is user-friendly to train our clients on.
Early on, we built websites that looked great on desktops (and only desktops!).
The percentage of traffic coming from mobile devices continues to rise. Therefore, we’ve created and adopted best practices for mobile and responsive design, such as fixing certain elements while hiding others.
Our websites contain loads and loads of content. After all, when it comes to SEO, content is king!
The amount of content hasn’t changed, but the way we presented it has. We’ve adopted expandable and dynamic content—which is overall more approachable and creates a better user experience. Friendlier fonts and images add a nice touch as well.
The process for creating our content has improved as well. We now have a more in depth client intake, which helps give our creative team a better starting point.
Post website launch, we went through a round of QA to do basic form and functionality tests.
Sites are bigger and more complex since we first started making them—some with hundreds and thousands of pages on them. Each website we launch now goes through three rounds of QA: a copywriter QA, a design QA, and a dev QA. We check for functionality and content quality, and run form tests and backend checks.
When presenting a mockup to a client, we used to email them an image mockup.
These image mockups didn’t allow for scale or interaction. Recently, we’ve utilized an interactive software that shows you how things will function and can be shared via a link rather than an image. This eliminates a lot of confusion and enables better expectations.
We didn’t used to have an overly refined launch protocol to follow.
After 300 websites, we have developed a refined launch protocol for testing and minimizing down time. We’ve worked with a lot of hosting companies as well as internal client network settings, and therefore know what we can expect when migrating sites. We also schedule regular sites backups post-launch, too.
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