Creating a new website can be intimidating, especially if you’ve never done it before. As an agency that builds websites every day, we know what is required to make the process successful. We’ve compiled some tips that will not only save you time, but keep you focused on your goals to create a site your audience will want to visit.
STRATEGIC THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
1. Prioritize Your Website Goals
Understanding your “must haves” and “nice to haves” is important as you begin to frame your site. Your budget may not allow for extensive functionality and add-ons, so prioritizing will keep you focused on meeting your goals while keeping you on budget. The most important question you may want to ask yourself before you begin creating your website is –
- What is the main objective of your website? What do you want your website to do? (Provide information, Educate, Promote services, Scheduling, E-Commerce, Fundraising, Data capture, etc.)
2. Frame your Website
Remember, that first impression is the last impression and you only get one shot, so make it count as your website is usually the first point of contact with your potential customers. The most important thing to keep in mind when thinking about design is your audience. The look and feel of the website needs to appeal to them, Otherwise, why are you building it? Consider looking into the following questions
- What are some websites in or out of your industry that your team really likes?
- What are some successful competitor sites and what are they doing right?
- How will the site look on desktop vs mobile devices?
Content is a key aspect of your site and shouldn’t be overlooked. Your content must be informative, readable and easy to follow.
- What is your audience searching for? What do they need to know?
- What is the best format to use to get the information across as clearly and concisely as possible?
- What visual elements are needed to help tell your story?
- Is someone on your team writing the content and providing images/video or do you need to contract that out?
You must define the elements required for your visitors to easily consume and interact with your content. No one likes a website that is not user friendly.
- What kind of functionality do you need to make it work?
- How are you capturing visitor/user data?
- Do you need forms? If so, how many and for what purposes? Where should they be placed, how should they function, and what fields are necessary?
- Do you need e-commerce? If so, what platform do you plan on using?
- Which payment processor will you use?
These are just some of the critical questions that need to be answered before you begin building the framework of your website.
TECHNICAL ASPECTS TO KEEP IN MIND
3. Choose A Domain Name
Here’s something that isn’t flexible – you have to have a url secured before you start developing your site. Here are some tips on deciding a url:
- Keep it short, clear and recognizable – you want it to be easy to recall, communicate and publicize. And remember, this also could be your email address. Imagine trying to fit “firstname.lastname@example.org” on a business card.
- Make sure it’s not easily confused with another url – you don’t want your potential users to wind up on someone else’s site
- Make sure it makes sense. Don’t sacrifice length for recognition! And don’t be afraid to use descriptors. For instance, grtsygrt.com means nothing to most people, but gertsyogurt.com is instantly recognizable.
- Buy the plural versions as well as other domain name extensions such as .net. This will prevent confusion for your visitors when trying to find your website down the road.
4. Choose Good Web Hosting
A good website host is the foundation of all websites. And many think any hosting service will do, but that’s not necessarily the case. Choosing the right hosting platform depends on how many visitors you have and how your site is being used.
Do your research – some platforms use shared hosting, which means you’ll be sharing space with other sites. If you have relatively low traffic, this might be adequate, however if you expect to have larger amounts of traffic, shared hosting could affect your site load times and other functionality.
Do you already have a preferred website host? If not, you can always reach out to us for recommendations based on your needs. For more details on choosing the right host visit our blog, “Are You Using the Right Web Hosting for Your Business”.
5. Don’t Forget About Your Email
Setting up email addresses with your new domain can be fairly technical – DNS records are a whole other animal. No one wants their lines of communication disrupted when they launch a new site.
Your first decision is what email client to use – there are many choices, such as Gmail or Outlook. Compare what is offered with each platform and make an informed decision based on your business needs. Will you be using Google Suite for sharing documents? Gmail syncs seamlessly Google docs, sheets, etc. Are most of your users on macs or PC’s? Do they prefer an online or desktop interface?
Choose nomenclature for your email addresses – this makes it easy to set up emails in the future and for people to easily get in touch with you.
For example: FirstInital.LastName@yourdomain.com
6. Decide on Your Website Platform (Custom vs. out of the box)
Deciding on an off-the-shelf or custom solution for building your website depends on so many different factors. The main differences are ease of use and hosting requirements.
Off the shelf solutions, like WordPress, are easy to create and manage while offering an extensive amount of design and functional capabilities. While custom solutions can be very specifically tailored to your business needs, they can be cumbersome to build and maintain. They also require higher-end hosting to support specific server environments optimized for the programming languages the site is built on.
7. Optimize Your Images
If you’re building a new website, chances are you’re also creating collateral,ads or other promotional materials. Most likely, the image files you used for those print pieces may be too large to put up your website as is. Large images will substantially slow down your site, especially for those viewing it on mobile devices. This can cause frustration with your users and negatively affect your bounce rates.
Spend the time to optimize your images before placing them on the site. If that’s too time consuming, you can always set up a CDN (Content Delivery Network), to make loading images and videos faster. You and you visitors will thank you.
8. Make it Secure
Website Security is extremely important. If Facebook can get hacked, you can too.
There are a number of plugins that make securing your site really easy. But one size does not fit all. In some cases, it may be necessary to build a custom solution to protect your user’s data from hackers.
So much of security is about prevention and risk management. Always have a contingency plan for when things go wrong – regularly scheduled back-ups are your best friend!
9. SEO, SEO, and More SEO!
Last, but certainly not least, is SEO. Even if you don’t know much about Search Engine Optimization, you probably at least know that it’s an important part of running a business.
Compelling content is nothing if it’s not searchable. Without SEO, people can’t easily search for and find information/products on your website.
SEO is not a “fix it and forget it” practice – it requires ongoing research and maintenance:
- Research of keywords and their search volumes and difficulty scores
- Identifying search intent
- Consistent posting of new content
- Maintaining referring domains and backlinks
And as algorithms change, so do practices and processes. SEO is a full-time job to keep your website at the top of the search pages.
Building a website for the first time? Want to update your existing website?
We can help. Reach out to us for a free website consultation today.