How I Build Websites (A loose manifesto)

Here’s some loose and evolving thoughts about how I build websites. I’m mainly writing this for my own use and something I can point potential clients to about what I believe in. It may be of help to others as well. I’ll continue to update this post as other ideas/thoughts/statements/beliefs come up.

  • I believe in simple, clean, fast, purpose built websites. I will not be clogging up the pipes with vapid stock photos or meaningless cruft. The websites I build have one purpose — information delivery. I build and design them to fulfill that goal. If you want fancy, you can find that everywhere and pay a price far higher than I charge for it. I don’t do that and those that hire me hire me because I don’t do that.

  • Before I even begin to build a website for a client, I engage in a deep conversation around two simple questions: Who is coming here and what are they looking for? I design the entire site around the answers to those two questions.

  • Anyone coming to a business website is looking for information. With the answers to those two questions in mind, I build for the purpose of delivering that information to those people with as few clicks as possible (preferably none).

  • Every time you add a page you add work for the visitor. One more barrier between them and what they want. One more thing they have to look for. One more thing they have to click. One more opportunity for them to just give up and leave. Therefore, make it as few pages as is possible and sensible.

  • An example of the above that I often give to clients during our initial conversation is restaurant websites. Almost every restaurant website could be two pages. Home page: Hours, location, number to call for a reservation or further info. Page two: Menu (In HTML, not PDF, with prices!). That’s it. I can’t think of a single restaurant website that I’ve seen that needs more than that. Yet, almost every restaurant website I visit is way more complex than it needs to be.

  • These days, almost everyone is coming to your site from a mobile device. This is especially true if your visitors are from outside of the United States. Build with that in mind (not only mobile friendly/responsive but especially choice of font types and sizes). Test everything — every page, every link, etc. — on a smartphone. Make it look good there.

  • Most businesses should hire a copywriter and editor long before hiring a web designer/builder. In fact, most should worry far less about the design of the website. People are coming for information, not how pretty it is. Focus on the words first.

  • Many web designers love to use custom frameworks and page builders to make your site “pretty”. This has the side result of making the back-end of your site confusing and your ability to update and add content to the site yourself more difficult. More job security for them, perhaps. I don’t do that. I’m not building a custom theme or messing around with some premium framework. My job security comes through your peace of mind and satisfaction. If you are happy with how things work, you’ll come back in those (rare) instances you need a major change or can’t intuitively figure something out yourself.

  • Towards that end, I build using one of the WordPress default themes and making customized modifications to that using a child theme (Additional CSS, FTW!!!). The advantages being that it is always kept up to date and compatible with the latest versions of WordPress and can be easily fixed if there’s an issue without blowing things up. More importantly, it means it is easy for you, the customer, to keep up to date. That also makes it easy for any other web person you might hire after me. Future proof is a feature.

  • Remember, design is not how it looks. Design is how it works.

If you’d like to see some of the sites I’ve built that incorporate most (if not all) of these principles, check out:

Of course, if you’d like to have me build such a website for you get in touch through my business, Gladhill Rhone Consulting.