Earlier I rang a potential client who I’d bumped in to the day before, about her website. She didn’t have one, but wanted a new site so that she could sell her products on it. Deciding you want a website and then having a website is quite a big jump. There is a lot to think about in the gap between those two things.
So how do you get from WANTING a website, to HAVING a website?
Get clear on what you want. The key question to ask is “what is your website for?” – it might be for a number of things, for example, to showcase your expertise and your offering, to build your list, to give people information about your pricing, to help you look professional, to give you an online extension of your bricks and mortar business – and none of these are wrong answers – you might even be nodding along to every suggestion – it’s a good idea to decide on the main purpose of your website so that you can ensure that the focus is on that.
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The next thing to decide is which pages you need. This step is really important – miss this part and you might end up with something which doesn’t do the job and then you’ll need to revisit it and spend more money on it. You’ll have a home page because, well, everyone does – but it can be ANYTHING, it could be your blog, it could be your sales page – if it’s an actual home page then what do you want to include on it? Then which other pages do you need? Common pages are Services, Products, Shop, FAQ, Contact, Blog… do you need a blog? Will you update it? Do people need to find you? should you include a map? Give this a lot of thought. The best thing to do is to write down everything that you think you need and then condense it into as few pages as possible. What can you get rid of? What can you not do without? What is a nice to have rather than an essential? What will the people who visit your website actually be interested in? How can you structure it so that you don’t have everything showing at once and you can take your users on a journey rather than a guessing game for the right place to go? If you have a shop then you need to consider the journey that a customer will take. You can take a look at other websites and see how others have done it for inspiration.
Once you have a list of the pages you need – you need to make some decisions on what you want on each page. Will it just be words and pictures? Do you want to include a gallery or a map or a form or a way for people to sign up to something? Do you want your images to get bigger when you click on them or scroll through? Do you need a timeline that scrolls from one end to the other? Do you want to have links to other pages?
Write all of this down so that it makes sense and keep it handy.
Once you know what you want, you can spend some time creating content. You might do this yourself – you might not – in which case you’ll need an amazing copywriter and a fantastic photographer or illustrator. I am not either of these things, but I can include some useful links and recommend wonderful people who have these skills. If you take advantage of the skills of others then your website will most certainly stand out and convert better than if you don’t.
If you’re doing this yourself then take your time with your copy, get someone else to read what you’ve written and check spellings as a minimum. For photographs – use natural lighting and take a lot so that you will have at least a few that look pretty good. Photographs can make or break a website – if they are dreadful then people might not even get as far as reading your copy.
If you haven’t done this already then you need to purchase your domain name and your hosting. You can’t have a website without these. Think of your domain as your online address and your hosting as your rent. You need to rent the space you’re putting your website in. I use lcn.com but there are so many options out there. If you are building your site yourself then you may want to choose hosting with apps so that WordPress or whatever you’re using is automatically installed and you can just get on with it. See the next point for more on this!
Step Five. DIY Route.
At this point, you will hopefully present all of this to a website designer – or have gone through this process with them, which can be invaluable – but if you’re NOT going to hire someone else to do the work for whatever reason, then here are the next steps.
a. You need to decide where you are building your website. There are so many options, Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, Shopify… but my preference is WordPress. It’s just over and above the best option because not only is it easy and can be free (handy if you’re starting out), but there are SO many themes available that your website can look pretty wonderful very quickly, there are so many plugins available so you can make it do whatever you want and it’s incredibly adaptable as your business grows. So this section is going to be about WordPress.
b. You need to choose a theme. To start off, do a sketch of how you want your website to be structured. Do you want an image across the top? Do you want three columns or one? Do you want the logo to be centred or left justified? Once you’ve given this some consideration and had a think about your colour scheme then you can search for a theme which is as similar to your idea as possible. You can use the feature filter to help hone this down – although there are LOADS of other places where you can go to buy amazing themes which may be even better. Spend some time on this, but not so much time that you never actually move on to the next step! Once you’ve found the theme you want then you can install it and get to work. This is not a tutorial on WordPress, so I’ve found a useful video that you can watch to find out how to do that part! Then you can customise your theme, add your content and start telling people about it! Allow plenty of time for this part as it will no doubt be a learning curve with many hours on YouTube.
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Step 5. Professional Route.
If you made the decision to hand over your website to a website designer then here is a what you need to do.
a. Choose a person to work with. There are a LOT of website designers and developers out there. You can barely walk through the door to a networking event or click into a business-orientated Facebook group without tripping over one – so you need to make sure that you’re happy with the person that you choose to trust with your online presence. Look at their website – do you like it? Look at their portfolio – what do you think of their previous work? Read their testimonials, ask around for who other people have used and are prepared to rave about. You might even want to have a chat with them to see if they are on your wavelength. Then use all of this information to make a decision.
b. Give them the information you’ve collated, your pages and what they are, the content you’ve written and the images – show them other websites that you like the style of so they get a feel for the kind of work you want. Then sit tight.
c. Your designer will come back to you to show you their ideas and their progress at varying points between your initial exchange and the deadline.
d. You will end up with a swanky new website and a bit of training showing you how to use it so that you can update it when you need to.
Tell everyone. Shout it from the rooftops, plaster your url everywhere, get people to visit it and do whatever you can to utilise your website for the purpose you determined on in step one.
Do you have any tips for creating a website? Please pop them in the comments below!
Amy Purdie is the founder of Whiteacres (where you are now) she can help your business become irresistible to your ideal clients so that they can’t wait to work with you.
Amy has been enjoying designing logos, brand identities, illustration, print work and yes… websites – since 2007 fuelled mainly by tea and chocolate.