How to research online to get ideas for your website

google search "web design" has over 6 billion competing results
In the ideas brainstorming tool, we have a question which invites you to provide results from any “Online Research” you may have done. Looking for inspiration from other sites and getting clear on what you like about them can be one of the most useful things you can do for your own online presence. Chances are, if something about other people’s websites draws them to you, that needs to be noted and used for your own site – you too can have an online presence to be proud of.

There is no such thing as an original idea! Online research is a great way to get ideas about things to include in your site, or to get inspiration from your competitors or established websites that you just happen to like. It could be the colour scheme of a gorgeous website, the succinctness of their message, the ease of use, or conversely, the incredible amount of useful resources. A stunning layout with large, clear images may be something you think sets a standard which you aspire to. Take note of what exactly makes you feel so good.

When I am doing online research, I first enter the keywords that I think my users would search for my business under. Enter them in google and see what comes up. Make a note too of how many other sites are using this particular keyword string. It could be thousands or millions. In the image at the top of this page, there are over 6 billion search engine results!  If the results are too vague (for example, not specific enough for your niche, or location), do another search with more specific information.  In the image below, there are still almost seven and a half million search engine results.

google search "web design and support"

When looking at the massive amounts of websites on Google, of course you are not expected to look at them all.  Just look at the ones that you feel you can relate to, or aspire to be like. Actually these need not even be websites in the same business category as yours.  You just need to find websites that have something about them that you really, really love.

Here are some things to make notes about.

First of all, list the URLS (the web addresses or domain names, ie usually starts with www. like of sites you have enjoyed.

Then write down what you like about them for use in your own. This could be that you like the way the site has been set out, the colour, mood, content, forms etc etc.  You may like the sweet little drawings, or the logo style, or the colour scheme, but think what they have written is far too waffly.  Or you may love their content but think they images are not that great, or the font is too hard to read.  Write as much detail down as you want.  I have seen lists of sites where sites were scored and a rating was given to all sorts of things including logo, menu style, colours, fonts, content, wow factor etc.

We are not talking about plagiarism at all, just taking various elements from multiple sources and adapting it to create something you will be proud of.  One site does not usually have everything you want.  You can take different ideas from the many different sites you look at to come up with one SUPER SITE – yours!

Look carefully at each site critically and figure out their purpose (eg to entertain, educate, promote, sell from etc) and think about how effective they have been.  How well did they do?  What can you take from their successes and failures?

If you can get clear on this information, you will make your web designer’s job a lot easier.  Web designers are a pretty intelligent bunch, but sadly not mind-readers, and it will be frustrating (and expensive) for both of you if they have to keep making changes to get your dream site developed, and the worse case scenario is for you to end up with a site you are not proud of.

If you have come to this page half way through answering the idea brainstorming questions, take a little time and head to google, or a business directory or anywhere you will find sites you love.  The other page will stay open for you to come back and write down your answers if you don’t close the tab, so take your sweet time!

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