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Website Design - the Finishing Touches

by Chris Smith

What separates a good website design from a great website design? On the surface they may both look the same but with great design come all the finishing touches, all those little details which make your site look that little bit more professional and, more importantly, perform better.

If you've got a website already has your designer provided all of these?

Favicon Favicon is short for "Favorites" icon and is the little graphic which is displayed when your site is bookmarked. It appears in your list of "Favorites" or Bookmarks, on your desktop if someone places a shortcut to a website there and in the address bar and on the tab in your web browser.

Email When a web developer is setting up your website it's reasonable to expect that they set up your email using the same domain at the same time. This can be done in several ways - forward all mail to an existing account, set up a new mailbox or set up a catch all account whereby anything sent to your domain will be delivered to you.

Email Filters As well as email you should also expect anti-virus and anti-spam filters to be applied.

Email Autoresponders Your email can be configured to automatically respond to incoming mail. This is useful to reassure your website visitors that the email they sent or form they submitted has been received. It can also provide useful information like alternative contact details, when they can expect a response or point them towards an area of your website, e.g. FAQ, or make them aware of your latest promotion.

Sitemap If your site is larger than 7 pages it's good practice to include a sitemap, an easy place for your visitors to go and see the contents of your website at a glance. This is also very good for search engine ranking as it reinforces your site structure and offers more internal links to be crawled.

XML Sitemap A Google XML Sitemap is a small XML data file which lists the pages in your site. It's in a specific format which Google recognises and it gives you greater recognition by the major search engines. The same format is now also used by Yahoo! and Live. By not creating this and submitting it to Google you risk a great delay in your site being indexed and people finding it.

Robots.txt This is a small text file which tells search engine robots which parts of your site they can access and index. It is also used to signpost the XML sitemap file. Without this your sitemap might not be found.

Search Engine and Directory Submission Once your website is finished the next step is getting it found. Some web designers feel that this is where their job ends and someone's else's begins. Others will take this on and actively try to make the website work for their client. A good practice when launching a new site is to submit it to the search engines so that they crawl and index it. It's also advisable to submit your site to as many directory sites as possible. There are thousands out there which accept listings free of charge and this helps to build up incoming links to your site which may or may not help with search engine ranking but will certainly give human web users the opportunity to follow links in to your site.

Marketing Advice Rather than just leaving you to it a great web designer will pass on useful information and advice on how to grow your site and make it as successful as possible. It is amazing how many do the design job and walk away when it is in their interest to create sites which work for their clients.

When buying web development services it's important to check exactly what you're getting for your money. When you have a website designed by Chris Smith all of these finishing touches come as standard.