Designing a new website, whether you are doing it yourself or hiring a professional, can be a daunting task. Domains, hosting, writing your content, choosing a designer and images are just some of the things you have to think about. Most small businesses underestimate the work required to create a strategic website leading to overwhelm and stress.
As a website designer, I try to make the experience as straightforward and ‘no-fuss’ as possible for the businesses I work with. But you can help your designer, or yourself if you’re DIYing your website, by being prepared before starting the actual design process.
It can be tempting to just jump right into the fun part of layouts and designing but I encourage you to hold off and do some solid preparation first. This will not only save you headaches later on, it will streamline the whole process and get you online more efficiently.
1 // What do you need your website to do?
This probably sounds like a silly question but ‘I just need a website’ isn’t going to cut it. A well thought out strategic website can potentially transform your business. In order to do that, you need more than just text and images slotted on the page looking pretty. Your website must have a purpose. It has to be designed to encourage visitors to use your website, not leave because it’s confusing or difficult to use.
A website can benefit your business in a number of ways including:-
- Increasing your brand awareness
- Selling online to a bigger audience
- Getting more enquiries from local and national clients
- Informing potential customers of who you are and what you do
- Helping your clients and audience with a blog
Take some time to write down out exactly why you need a new website and what you want it to do. You’ll then have a better idea of what you need to add to the website and how to focus your content on achieving those aims.An effective website has clear goals and a carefully constructed strategy to achieve those goals.
2 // Plan out your pages & navigation
After working out why you need a new website, you should look at what pages you need to include.
For most small businesses a homepage, about, services, testimonials, location/contact are all that is required. Others may need more in-depth information on individual services, case studies and product features. There is no one size fits all regarding the number of pages, you have to figure out what your individual needs are.
Your website navigation is closely tied to the pages you choose to include. Visitors expect to have a user-friendly enjoyable experience on your website, regardless of whether you have 3 or 300 pages.
Carefully plan out your navigation structure including main and sub pages. Playing close attention to whether the sections you choose make sense to users. If your website has a lot of pages, create a flow chart to outline how each section will flow together.
3 // Will you utilise call to actions?
A call to action is something that you want visitors to do when they are on your website. This could be signing up to your newsletter, enquiring about your services or buying a product. Basically, any response or ‘action’ taken by the user while on your website.
Call to actions tie in with point 1 on what you want from your website. For example, if you want to increase the number of people on your newsletter you would include sections on your website which allow visitors to do that. This could be adding signup forms in certain places on the pages, creating an incentive for signing up and highlighting that on the homepage.
Eye catching call to actions makes it easier for people to follow through and get you the results you want.
4 // Write your content
Content is one of the most dreaded parts of designing your website but it’s also one of the most important. Many of my clients struggle with this part the most, finding it hard to find their voice and get the message effectively. Delaying the content can result in a stretched out timeline and pushing the website live date back significantly.
Having the text content ready before the design stage is essential for most website designers. Not only because it’s extremely difficult to design properly without the content but also because it streamlines the whole website build. There are no delays and everything can be added at the same time.
5 // Organise your photos
Another important aspect of your website’s overall appeal and effectiveness is good images. High-quality photography makes the world of difference to your website. No one wants to see messy, dark and blurry photos on your website – it just doesn’t sell your products and services.
Having professional photos taken of you and/or your premises gives your website a more authentic and personal feel. Booking a photographer and setting a shoot date can take time so get this done before moving on to the design phase.
If time or funds prevent you from hiring a professional photographer, you can source high-quality stock photos from free or paid resources.
- How To Take Better Images For Your Website
- 18+ Best Free Stock Photo Resources For Your Website & Blog
6 // Buy your domain name
If you haven’t already purchased your domain name, you should get that as soon as possible. It’s common for businesses to find that their desired domain name has already been snapped up. If your business is new, it’s best to check right at the beginning to avoid costly renaming and rebranding.
You can purchase domain names from:-
7 // Buy hosting
Website hosting is required to get your website online, it’s essentially where all your pages, files and images are stored and accessed when someone types in your domain.
Choosing the right hosting is vital, I cannot stress enough just how important it is. Not all hosting companies are equal with some being downright awful.
Research website hosting companies or seek out quality recommendations from others. Personally, I recommend Siteground to all my clients as they provide good quality services at affordable prices.
8 // Signup to all third party services
If you’re planning to have newsletter signups, Google Analytics or any other third party service get those accounts setup early on. You can then have all of the forms and codes ready to insert into your website straight away.
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