Building a brand new website can be incredibly daunting. If tech isn’t your thing this can feel like a huge mountain to climb. So you might want to instantly outsource it and get it built for you, only to find that it’s going to cost a bomb and use funds that you don’t have – especially for a brand new business where purse strings are always super tight in the beginning.
And what’s more, even if you DO outsource it, you’re still going to need to do a few things first so you can tell your website designer what you want.
So let’s not panic about not having a clue where to start.
I’ve outlined 8 simple steps to planning your new website out.
STEP 1. WHAT DO YOU WANT THE WEBSITE TO DO?
You need to be clear on the purpose you want your website to serve. Your website can do a lot of different things but if you’re just starting out or maybe need to take a fresh look, it’s important that you have one clear goal. Other goals can come as you grow.
Will it be a shop/retail (real or virtual products), in which case it’s easy – you’d want sales.
If you offer services, you’d likely want leads. Then you need to think about what format you want those leads in – e.g. email enquiries, phone calls or email sign ups. Maybe all of them.
What if you run a blog? In that case you’d want to have as many eyeballs as possible reading your posts and articles but if you’re looking to monetise it, you’ll need to ensure that is a key goal, whether that’s ads, paid features, affiliate links etc.
Whatever your purpose is, it’s important to make sure you have a way to measure its success so you know if your website is doing what you want it to do. For more information on what you should be monitoring, check out my article on 7 key metrics you need to monitor on your website.
STEP 2. PURCHASE A DOMAIN NAME
There are a few rules when it comes to your domain name.
1. Match your business name as best as you can – this is an obvious one.
2. Keep it short and easy to remember – super long strings of words in your domain name can make it hard both to recall and to type in. Keep it memorable and brief.
3. Avoid hyphens – sometimes if you find the domain you want isn’t available, you may be tempted to add a hyphen. Whilst this works, it does make it difficult for people to remember and you might find you lose that visitor to a competitor who secured the domain without the hyphen and we don’t want that!
4. Suffix – this is the bit at the end of the domain, like .co.uk, .com, .org etc. This can indicate where your business is located or what kind of business you are. I can see your confused look so let me explain a bit more.
Lots of domain suffixes are country codes. E.g. .uk is UK, .de is Germany, .fr is France. The best rule to stick to, is to choose a suffix that addresses where your audience is located. The .org suffix stands for ‘organisation’ but is generally used by non-profits and charities. The other one you’ll be familiar with is .co.uk. The .co bit means commercial so for a business trading in the UK, having a .co.uk domain is a good idea. There’s a handy list here that will help you to pick the right one – https://pc.net/resources/internet/domain_suffixes
5. Where to register your domain name – when you register a domain name, what you’re actually doing is renting it. Then, you’ll renew this rental agreement to continue to use it. If you decide not to renew, then it becomes available for someone else to use. There are lots of places where you can register your domain. Here’s a few I recommend.
6. Check matching social channels are available – this can be a real pain if you find the perfect domain name, only to find that the exact same name is already used on social media accounts. There’s a really handy free tool you can use to check lots of different channels at once. Try it out – https://www.namecheckr.com.
If you find the name you want is already used, you can either adopt a completely different domain name (not recommended) or, you can be a little more flexible with your social naming. Adding hyphens here is okay as any searches within social channels will pick yours up with or without a hyphen and it’s just as easy to connect to from your website.
STEP 3. CHOOSING A WEBSITE PLATFORM
What’s a website platform? Without going into different codebases (whaaat?) I’ll explain it simply. A website platform is the base (platform) on which you build your website. These days, that means using a platform that has a CMS (Content Management System) which allows you to design and build without code.
But choosing the right website platform can be tricky. You’ll want a platform that works for you AND not only works for you today, but will also work for you in 3, 5, 10 years time. It needs to have an interface you can work with so its easy for you to update and make changes.
Depending on your goals (see step 1), there may be other systems you want the website to integrate with – email marketing, booking systems – that kind of thing. Not all website platforms integrate as well so check it fulfils what you need.
Is your chosen platform scalable? Most of the ‘big’ ones are quite happy to be built on over the years, expanded upon and new bits added. However, not all are set up for this. Lots of website hosting companies offer their own ‘website builder’. I would recommend avoiding these completely. They rarely integrate with other systems as easily, they can be very restrictive regards to design and the worst bit is that you can’t move it to another hosting company if they suddenly increase their prices.
Often it comes down to personal preference. Many people like to opt for solutions like Wix and Squarespace. If you’re building an ecommerce site then look towards Shopify or WordPress where you can also use the free plugin Woocommerce. My preference is WordPress as it ticks every box regards to ease of change, cost, scalability and integration with other systems. If you want some advice, jump into my Facebook group and ask.
STEP 4. YOUR WEBSITE BRAND IDENTITY
This is really important and needs to be visible throughout your website. It’ll help make your website unique – even if you use the same platform and template as others. The good news is that I have a couple or resources that’ll help you.
STEP 5. MAP OUT YOUR WEBSITE STRUCTURE
When you first start out, you’re not likely to need a massive website. But it may grow as you add new products, new services, new blog posts, or more information and it can quickly get out of hand and become a sprawling, uncontrollable monster.
The best way forward is to map out your website structure, including the key pages you want. Some are obvious (like the homepage) – others you may not have thought about but are important.
The diagram below is what I recommend for a basic site. You’ll need to add others you feel are important.
As you add more pages and content, add it to the structure or at the very least keep in mind where new content will go so it’s easy to keep track of.
STEP 6. GATHER YOUR WEBSITE CONTENT
This is the most time consuming part. And it doesn’t matter if you’re getting someone else to actually build the site for you – this part will still mainly come down to you.
You’ll need copy for each page planned. If you’re not good at writing copy, then hiring a copywriter is a really good idea. I know some really good copywriters so if you need one, get in touch.
You’ll need images too as this will help break up blocks of copy. There are some great sources of royalty free images (try https://pixabay.com, https://unsplash.com, or https://www.pexels.com) but consider using your own images or have a photography shoot done – this is particularly good for branding and is a really worth while investment.
STEP 7. BUILD YOUR WEBSITE
The building process will depend on what platform you’ve chosen. Or, if you’ve outsourced this job, you won’t need to worry about it.
The first task is to set up a holding page – like a ‘coming soon’ page. This will stay in place until you’re ready to launch your new website to the world. Sometimes, a holding page can be used to get leads or build your social audience even before you launch!
Next, build your pages. Yeah, it’s a bit of a brief instruction but there’s a lot more to do than I’m able to put in this post so I’ll save the detail for another time.
I tend to start with the website header and navigation, then the footer. These are the bits at the top and bottom of your pages. Get those bits sorted first and then you do the bits in between the header and footer – the pages themselves.
Oh and while we at it, make sure you have an SSL (secure Socket Layer). There are still websites that don’t and this flags up a big security risk. Browsers will alert users to unsecured websites so make sure you have one.
STEP 8. TEST YOUR WEBSITE BEFORE YOU LAUNCH
This is a step that people often forget but it’s really important that your carefully crafted and fancy new website actually works as you expect.
Get a few friends to test it for you and feedback. Don’t be afraid of the feedback – any comments or opinions they have are valuable. If they represent your target audience, even better. Their feedback is gold dust so pay attention.
Here’s a few things to look out for and test;
- Overall design – check your branding is clear and consistent
- Navigation – how easy is it to use
- Mobile, tablet and desktop view – is your site fully responsive and works across all devices
- Broken links
- Missing or broken images – these are just ugly
- Email sign up – make sure it works and any automated responses trigger properly
- Contact forms – make sure it works AND that you get the message to your email inbox
Then all you need to do after that is launch your fabulous new website into the world! And monitor that initial purpose and goal of course. Good luck!
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