When I first started writing this I intended to have one article, but after reading it over I realized that certain details needed further explanation so everyone could better grasp the ideas conveyed. In my efforts to provide easily understood answers to complex questions, I decided to split this article into three parts. With that in mind let’s begin.
If you make it to the end of the series you’ll have access to some free resources and tools I regularly use to ensure the websites I build are professional.
At one time or another you’ve probably been offered a “Professional” website or seen ads offering this service. But what exactly does this mean? Especially for those who are looking to get a website built or those who already have a website, the term “Professional website” can be confusing.
In this article series, we won’t be looking at a list of good and bad websites or looking at the latest trend. Instead we’ll take a close look at a few key features that pertain to all websites which will give us a better idea of what exactly makes a website “Professional”. And for those of you who already have a website, what signs can you look at on your own website to see if it was built professionally.
Please Note: These aren’t set rules. These are some of the techniques I personally have used as a web developer of 10 years.
The Features of the URL
In order to understand this first point, you must first understand what a URL is. More commonly known as a Domain name, the URL is whatever you type into the address bar and it can tell you a lot about the website. For example https://www.sparrowebservices.com is the URL of this website.
The URL is made up of 5 parts. However, we’re only going to be looking at 3 parts and show you how you can determine if a website was built professionally even before the website has even loaded.
#1. The Scheme: Http or Https
The first part of any URL is what we call the scheme. There are 2 different versions of the scheme but only 1 of them should ever be used. For many years Google has set the standards of how a website should be made, this also includes how the URL should be structured. Even though it’s such a small detail, the ’s’ at the end of http tells the visitor that this website is safe and you can trust it.
Because the scheme http is not secure when it comes to your data, Google has said that all websites should use the scheme https. In fact, Google will penalize websites that do not use this scheme. It has become such a standard feature to have for your website that most web hosting companies include it for free by means of an SSL certificate.
Not having an SSL certificate is also bad for SEO. If visitors who go to your website are presented with a big scary warning message that says “Attackers might be trying to steal your information…” they are going to leave right away. Browsers today will display a message similar to the one in the image below because this is THE standard. It would be like buying a brand new car but seat belts or airbags were not a standard feature. Would you buy it?
#2. The Sub Domain
The second part of the URL we’ll look at is the sub domain. The sub domain comes right after the scheme and is generally ‘www’. However, there are many different sub domains that you can have – for example, blog, support, tv, login etc – but there is one type of sub domain that will indicate that a website is not professional.
Regardless of what you use for the sub domain they are always free to make for the owner of the domain. Thus anytime you see an offer for a free domain what you generally get is going to be a sub domain of the main domain.
So instead of: “https://www.yourcompany.com”
you get: “yourcompany.sparrowebservices.com”.
An alternate version of this could also look like “sparrowebservices.com/yourcompany”
Whenever I see a domain like this I know it’s not a professional website. Now to be fair, some people will start with a domain like this and later get their own domain but don’t stick with a free domain just to save a few bucks every year. Purchasing a domain name is a very inexpensive yearly cost that’ll give your business that extra bit of professionalism and help establish your brand.
#3. File Extensions
The last part of the URL is a dead give away that a website is not professional is the file extension. There should never be a file extension shown at the end of your domain name. When you go to any website you should never see “.html” or “.php” This is a very old and unprofessional way to have your domain name set.
As an example, you should see
“https://sparrowebservices.com/contact.html” when you go to the contact page on my website.
NOTE: An exception to this rule would be if you clicked on an image or pdf. Then you will see the file extension .png or .pdf and the end of the URL.
You do not want the file extension to be shown is because that bit of info can be used by people with malicious intensions to attack your website. It is also standard nowadays to have the file extension hidden.
Removing the file extension is not a difficult process either. Popular website builders such as WordPress have a built-in setting that allows you to easily edit and remove the file extension. You can even edit the URLs of your pages and blog posts in different ways. A good developer will know how to remove the file extension.
So far we’ve focused on just 1 aspect of what makes a website professional. If you’d like to know more feel free to read part 2 of this series What Makes a Website Professional? Part 2. Where we’ll go over from top to bottom, the layout and design of a website and what makes a website professional.