Professional Website: How to Create a Professional Website
If you run a business or are self-employed, your website is your digital flagship. It presents who you are and what you have to offer, which is why it's important to treat the creation of your business website as a serious undertaking, as opposed to just a side project. In the end, visitors will equate the professionalism of your website with that of your company.
But what makes a site "professional" and how can users with varying budgets, design skills, and programming abilities build such a web presence? In this article, we'll let you know, while also covering all of the components of a comprehensive and authoritative site.
What Makes a Website Professional?
When creating a professional website, it's essential to consider exactly who your visitors will be and what you want the site to achieve. These two factors—target audience and purpose—play a crucial role in the structure of your website. Start by asking yourself the following questions:
- What is the purpose of my site?
- What is the character of my site's typical user?
- For what reasons will potential customers come to my site?
- What kind of reading style will my future visitors have?
- What do other companies in my industry or niche offer?
- What are my requirements for my site?
The answers to these questions should give you an initial idea of what you and your potential visitors will expect to gain from your website. Keep in mind that the definition of "professional" can vary depending on the kind of site you create.
Different Types of Websites
Your project's scope and features will depend on what sort of website you intend to create. There are a few basic website types, the most common of which are:
Professional corporate website
If you want to showcase your products, services, offers, and positions to potential customers—and the world—you need a corporate website. This could range from a simple single-page site to a complex multi-page project. The more extensive the website, the more standards you need to follow to ensure a professional result.
Blogs thrive on high-quality content and regular updates. If you want your blog to make a professional impression, ensure that the individual articles are well formatted, logically arranged, and easy to find.
Professional online store
If you want to sell products, you need a website with an online store. When it comes to e-commerce, professionalism can be conveyed through clear delivery and payment terms and a flawless checkout process, among other things.
A professional portfolio website is designed to present your product or service to potential customers. It's also a great way to showcase past projects and your successes with previous customers. For this type of site, it's important to categorize your projects and sort them under the appropriate industries, clients, or companies.
Regardless of the website type, there are a few basics to bear in mind in order to achieve a professional result.
Four Important Aspects
There are four cornerstones of a professional website:
- Technology & Infrastructure
- Legal & Security
We'll cover all of the above and explain what considerations are most important when designing an authoritative website, using concrete examples to illustrate our points.
First impressions count. And in the online world, decisions are made in the blink of an eye. If users don't like what they see on your website, they won't be coming back anytime soon.
With the right design, you can quickly convince your potential customers that your company is worth their time. We've created a list of the most important design aspects to consider:
Use the right color combination to captivate your website visitors. Color tones should harmonize with each other and ensure that the text and other elements are easy to read. Generally speaking, less is more; too many colors on a screen can quickly overwhelm the eye.
Of course, you should also consider your corporate design when choosing colors. If you have a company logo, it's a good idea to integrate its colors and elements into your homepage. HubSpot is a good example in this regard.
HubSpot's white and orange color scheme is simple and pleasing to the eye.
Choosing the right color scheme is an art in itself. Consider the psychological effects of different colors and combinations. If you design your website using a template, such as those offered by website builders (more on this later), you don't have to make the color selection yourself; they come with ready-made, matching color palettes.
Text Structure & Fonts
The "less is more" concept also applies to fonts. You should use a maximum of two or three different fonts in no more than three sizes; anything beyond that is likely to confuse readers. Create texts that are easy to read and logically structured (e.g., heading, subheading, body text).
Don't overwhelm visitors with too many font styles and excessive text. Okta offers a textbook example of how to correctly do this.
Don't swamp visitors with long paragraphs, especially not on your homepage. Use manageable chunks of text to convey the most important information.
Images, Graphics, and Animation
If your photos, illustrations, or portraits are unprofessional or low-quality, they'll immediately catch your visitor's eye, albeit in a negative way. For that reason, it's worth investing in good photographers/designers or getting high-quality material from stock photo platforms. Your images should be high resolution and fit your website's theme.
Kärcher, a cleaning equipment manufacturer, displays a selection of products on their homepage that leads customers to their product categories.
Ideally, every image (graphic or photo) should offer added value, for example, by telling a story or directly introducing a product.
Structured Menu & Layout
A professional, well-structured menu is the foundation of your website and enables easy navigation. Your visitors should immediately understand what content can be found where, and be able to reach everything of interest with just a few clicks. For example, on the Google Cloud careers page, applicants can use the homepage's navigation menu to find links to all important areas:
Top-quality, logical navigation is particularly important on career pages; prospective applicants should be able to locate essential information quickly.
The rest of your site should have the same clarity and visual hierarchy as your navigation menu. Design your content with detailed descriptions on subpages, and ensure that your main pages have room for the essentials. For example, a grid-based layout aids in achieving a more balanced reading flow, since it divides your website into columns and sections.
A logo is your company's visual calling card; it leaves an impression in your customers' memories. Since creating a good logo isn't easy, it may be worthwhile to have one crafted by a professional designer. They'll put together a logo with your corporate designs and other specifications in mind.
Relatively inexpensive logo designers can be found on freelance platforms such as Fiverr ⇱ or Upwork ⇱.
Logo designers can be contracted at different price points on freelance platforms such as Fiverr.
If you don't have the budget to hire a professional designer, you can create simple or temporary logos with inexpensive, and even free, logo makers.
While you can readily recognize a well-designed website, assessing the quality of its content usually takes longer. For that reason, you'll need to underline your website's solid (visual) first impression by filling it with equally excellent content. Pay special attention to the following:
Excellent Content & USPs
A clearly defined unique selling point (USP) will help you stand out from the competition. In order for your new website to be successful, you'll need to offer an added value that isn't available anywhere else—or at least formulated particularly well on your site. This can be your writing style or a specific service that isn't marketed in your area.
Directing your efforts towards a clearly defined, untapped niche can also make your site stand out from the crowd. Blooloop.com ⇱, for example, is a website centered on amusement parks.
Blooloop focuses on amusement parks.
Since everything has been done on the Internet before, your content doesn't need to be 100% unique. As long as what you offer is of sufficient quality, you can be successful—even in a niche that's already well served. Should you provide readers with high-quality, content-rich text that can rival the top competition (i.e., the top Google search results), then your website will also be considered professional.
That being said, keep in mind that the definition of "professional" can vary from website to website. Be sure to avoid the following faux pas in your content:
- Spelling errors
- Poor style (too much repetition, jargon, etc.)
- Text without tangible benefits
- Outdated information
SEO stands for search engine optimization. Its purpose is to improve how your page ranks in Google searches. The higher your site appears, the more views it will get. In a way, a strong position on Google is proof of high-quality content. This is because their algorithms are quite good at identifying what results are the most valuable for users.
For some Google queries, articles from EXPERTE.com appear on the first page or are even the top result.
There do exist some basic SEO rules that every site owner should follow. For example, texts should contain appropriate keywords that your target audience is searching for. In addition, make sure that your page speed is optimized. SEO checklists can be found all over the web, such as this one ⇱, from ahrefs.
Addressing Your Target Audience
Ideally, you should have a well-defined target audience before creating your page. Keep this group in mind when creating your content. Are your readers on the younger side or are they older? Is your service inexpensive or premium-priced? Will your audience be local or international?
Tailor your content to your target audience and take their behaviors and preferences into account. If you address your visitors incorrectly and talk past them, you'll end up leaving an unprofessional impression, making it seem as though you didn't do your homework.
You can evaluate your website's content with tools, such as Google Analytics. These show you exactly which content is and isn't performing well so that you can adjust your strategy accordingly.
Google Analytics helps you gain insight about your visitors.
Using the insights that Google Analytics provides, you can better understand your visitors and deliver professional content that's tailored to their needs and expectations.
The Internet is fast-paced; today's hot topic might be stale by tomorrow. Up-to-date posts are critical to your success, especially when it comes to new sites and blogs. Fresh and regularly updated content is also well received by search engines and nudges your site ahead in rankings.
If the most recent articles on your site are a few weeks old, or if their information is no longer current, your website's professional image will suffer.
Avoid Excessive Advertising
While advertisements pay the bills, they can also wear on your visitors' patience. For that reason, be careful when placing ads and make sure they don't ruin your users' experience.
Ads should also fit your website's tone and mission. For example, an ad for Facebook on a portal about anonymity on the Internet contradicts the "brand" and therefore, gives off unprofessional vibes.
Consider tabloids like the Daily Mail, which often contain more advertising than facts. Both the volume and quality of their ads create an unprofessional image.
Page-filling pop-ups or ads with shady offers (e.g., gambling) look particularly unprofessional.
Technology and Infrastructure
While the front end of your site should be appealing, it should also have a lot going for it under the hood. In order to look professional, you'll need to meet some basic technical requirements as well. These include:
Short Loading Times
On average, it shouldn't take a website longer than three seconds ⇱ to load. In the event that it does, 53% of users will cancel their visit. For that reason, it's crucial to keep an eye on your site's loading time, especially if your page is full of images, graphics, or videos.
Page speed, a term used to describe a website's loading speed, is vital for a professional site and a prerequisite for a good Google ranking. With our EXPERTE.com Bulk Page Speed Test, you can see how well your site fares:
Use EXPERTE.com's Bulk Page Speed Test to find out how fast your website loads.
Those who neglect their mobile audience might be unnecessarily alienating a huge swath of their site's would-be visitors and clients. In fact, more than half ⇱ of all Internet traffic now comes from mobile devices. If your site isn't optimized for these, it will look anything but professional; texts, tables, and images must be easy to read on a smartphone. Fortunately, many of the modular systems available today are automatically optimized for mobile devices.
Having Your Own Domain
Few things scream "unprofessional" like an awkward subdomain, since it immediately tells visitors that, for whatever reason, you compromised and used a free website builder. For example, at Wix, you can publish your website for free on the condition that it can only be accessed under a domain with the suffix "wixsite".
Website builders like Wix offer free versions of their platforms. However, one of the conditions of these is that you can't customize your website's domain name.
While you may not need your own domain for hobby projects, if you want to leave a professional impression, you really should get a custom domain. Generic ones can be a real eyesore for visitors. Custom domains can be had for as little as a few dollars per year.
Legal Requirements & Security
As a website operator, you have a few legal obligations. In general, you should take the security and privacy of your visitors and customers seriously, even when it isn't explicitly required by law. This goes far in underlining your site's authority and professionalism.
One look at the address bar and your visitors will immediately know how secure their data is on your website. Secure connections are only guaranteed on pages where the URL starts with https:// (a lock icon appears in the upper left corner of the URL bar).
HTTPS is a security protocol that shows that a secure connection exists between the server hosting the website and the browser accessing it. Such protection is confirmed through an SSL certificate, which can be obtained directly from so-called "certificate authorities". SSL certificates are then automatically integrated into many hosting or modular packages. Free SSL certificates are also available.
This illustration shows how SSL encryption between a client and server functions. It guarantees that third parties can't see any messages.
If you're going to operate a professional website, it's important to take your visitors' security seriously. You can test how your website measures up using our EXPERTE.com Security Check.
To avoid copyright infringements, it's important to mark some images, graphics, and videos with source information. Stock photo platforms, such as Depositphotos, where you can download royalty-free images, offer an alternative worth exploring. Costs vary depending on the quality and motif; some images are even completely free.
Having source credits scattered all over your website can look unprofessional, so if you can, use stock photos that don't require attribution.
You can find image and video material for your website on stock photo providers such as Shutterstock or Depositphotos.
Plagiarism is no trivial offense. In fact, it could mean the end of your website. Information obtained directly from other sources should appear in quotations and be labeled accordingly. Plagiarism checkers, such as that offered by PrepostSEO ⇱, can help ensure that your texts are unique.
An "About Us" page offers a great opportunity to share information about your company's mission and history, going far in helping you to establish credibility and trust in the eyes of your potential customers. In some European countries such as Germany, a legal requirement exists to provide your company's contact details.
Be sure that your website includes an "About Us" page.
Depending on where you live, you may need to include your contact details, profession-specific data, and business type.
Privacy policies are usually found in a website's footer; if a visitor is searching for it, they're likely to look there first.
How to Create a Professional Website
We've provided a checklist with the most important elements a professional website should have. Once you've planned your project's most essential aspects, it's time to consider the design and layout of your site.
The way you implement what you've learned so far will depend on which website creation method you use. There are basically three options, which we'll discuss below, along with their advantages and disadvantages.
Self Program It
To program a website, you'll need three things: programming skills, a content management system (unless you plan to program the backend as well), and a hosting service that will store your site's online data.
If you choose this method, you're on your own when it comes to the professional appeal of your website. From design to security, you'll be in charge of your site's most important aspects, unless you outsource them to others.
Flexibility: If you program a site yourself, you'll have endless options, independence, and complete flexibility.
Features: You'll be able to include features that a programmer or site-building platform might not offer.
Design: You're only limited by your own creativity when you self-program your website. There's no need to constantly be in touch with programmers/designers or to work within the restraints of a website builder.
Experience: If you aren't already proficient in HTML, CSS, and FTP, you'll have to take the time to learn them. It's particularly difficult for beginners to compete with the results of a more experienced web developer.
Effort: Even if you have the necessary skills and experience, it takes a lot of effort to program an entire professional website and to be responsible for all of its important aspects.
Have Your Website Programmed for You
If you cannot (or don't want) to program the website yourself, but are interested in maintaining complete flexibility, you can have your website created by a third party. There are numerous service providers online capable of crafting a professional website based on your preferences and input.
To find these specialists, you might want to check the following:
There are many freelance platforms where web designers and programmers offer their services to clients. On Upwork ⇱, Freelancer.com ⇱, and Fiverr ⇱, you can find an expert for hire to match any budget. You can choose to pay hourly or on a per-project basis, with billing occurring directly on the platform.
You'll find freelancers with incredibly low rates on these platforms. Just remember: you get what you pay for. If you want a freelancer to invest time in your site and be attentive to your requests, you should consider more factors than just their rate. Low-quality work will result in an unprofessional result.
Agencies are usually a bit more expensive than freelancers, but they dedicate a team of experts to your project. You won't be tied to one individual, and can also save time by not having to delegate different tasks to specific freelancers.
The best way to find the right agency is through a search engine or comparison portal.
Flexibility: With the right people, just about anything is possible. All you need is a realistic budget and the ability to clearly communicate your wishes and needs.
Choice: Odds are good that you'll be able to find just the person your project needs for a price that you can live with; there are countless freelancers and agencies on the web.
Contact person: You'll always have someone to contact with any questions or requests.
Costs: Pros and reputable agencies know their value and price their work accordingly. A professional website can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $20,000 or more.
Quality: Results can vary depending on the freelancer or agency. There's also the chance that you'll end up paying for a website that you aren't completely satisfied with due to misunderstandings or a lack of communication.
Website builders help you create a professional website, even if you don't have any experience with programming or design. They work on a modular system, meaning that you can add content intuitively and design pages visually by dragging and dropping individual elements.
Website builders such as Squarespace can help you craft your website from pre-built sections and content elements.
Website builders automatically take a number of factors into account, such as mobile friendliness, SSL security, and harmonized color schemes. However, their focus on usability comes at a price; website builders are much less flexible than other website creation methods because you're bound to the platform's limitations and requirements.
A website that's obviously designed using one of these platforms is at risk of appearing unprofessional since it can look very similar to other websites using the same template.
Beginner-friendliness: Website builders don't require any programming or design knowledge.
All-in-one: The most important aspects of your website, including basics like hosting and a domain, are included in one package. Advanced features such as e-commerce and marketing tools are also integrated into the platform.
Pricing: Website builders are relatively inexpensive.
Limited customization: Website builders allow for less personalization than other methods.
Technical weaknesses: Sites created with website builders can suffer in terms of SEO or loading speed.
Cookie-cutter design: Due to pre-made templates and content, sites created with a website builder might look very similar to one another.
EXPERTE.com's Review Winner: Wix
In our EXPERTE.com website builder comparison, we put 10 popular platforms to the test. Wix came out on top owing to its wide range of features and intuitive operation. It's also especially user-friendly for beginners.
Wix offers solid designs, as well as the ability to move content around as you see fit thanks to its drag-and-drop functionality. Their package also includes a powerful marketing platform, and any features that aren't included can be found in their extensive app marketplace.
If you want to try Wix at no cost, you can use the platform's free version. Just remember that your website will be tied to a Wix domain, and some other restrictions will apply. An ad-free website with its own domain (i.e., the basic requirements for a professional site) costs about $10 per month.
In summary, be sure to keep the following four factors in mind when creating a professional website: design, content, technology & infrastructure, and legal & security. Use these as a checklist to help you craft an impressive website for your visitors and potential customers.
When it comes to building a website, you have three options: If you possess the necessary coding and design know-how, you can program the website yourself. This option gives you maximum flexibility, however, you'll need to manage every aspect yourself to make the site professional. If you don't want to program the site on your own and have the financial means, you can delegate the project to skilled freelancers or agencies.
Last but not least, you could use a website builder. This option somewhat limits your flexibility and degree of customization, however, the payoff is how simple it makes building a professional website—even for beginners.