Kristin Pruis • June 2, 2014
Feeling overwhelmed at the thought of creating your own website? Here are some tips to get you started.
1. Determine Your Website Goals
When developing a website, to chart your course without any clear direction is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. If you fail to begin with a clear vision of what your goals are, then decision making throughout the development process will be more complicated and the impact of your website will be more difficult to measure upon completion. Typically, you can segment the goals for your website into two categories: quantitative and qualitative.
This first category of goals encompasses not the measurables of your website, but rather the items that give your website design its personality and identity. These goals will influence everything; from the content you serve, to the layout and design. Included here would be items such as:
- Providing information about products and services
- Creating credibility and establishing industry expertise through blogging
- Becoming a go-to resource for helpful tools and insights
- Showcasing your community involvement
Now, start thinking about two things: 1) The specific, measurable goals you would like to reach, and 2) A timeframe for reaching them. If you aren’t sure where to start, take your best realistic guess, closely monitor your metrics and then revise, if needed.
Here are some examples of quantifiable data you should monitor on a regular basis (weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually are typical evaluation periods), constantly striving for significant gains in each:
- Visitor traffic to website
- Contact form submissions
- Search engine ranking
- E-commerce sales amounts
- Conversion rates (site visits to sales)
- White paper downloads
After setting your goals, you will need to determine what the required elements are and integrate them into your website. Development of a easily navigated site map, implementation of a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy and creation of a blogging schedule are all excellent examples of action items to accomplish this.
2. Decide on Hosting (and the technical details.)
In essence, the host is where your website will “live” on the Internet. Size, functionality and cost should all play a key role in determining where you will host your website.
Depending on the platform you use for your site, hosting may come built in, or you may have to search for hosting from another provider. Different websites with different goals will have different requirements of their hosts. Will you need a robust e-commerce platform? Will dynamic content feeds be a more substantial component? Or will you require robust database capabilities for information storage?
An additional item to consider is your own technical skill in website development and website design. Will you be able to, or want to, easily update the website yourself? Or will you have a web developer or web designer manage it for you?
Some very popular and very reputable hosting sites to check out, at least as starting points, are:
Keep in mind that if you work with a web designer, developer or agency, they will often help you make these decisions by determining what option(s) best suit your individual needs.
3. Explore Website Design Options
The design of your website is going to be determined by two primary factors: who is designing it and the overall budget for the project. In many cases the factors of who is designing it and the overall budget are directly related.
For the “who is designing it” factor, you will find three main options: large marketing or design agencies, local freelance graphic designers, and online DIY website development services. If your budget can’t afford to enlist the services of a large marketing or design agency, try researching local freelance graphic designers that will provide more personal services at a more affordable rate in your area.
The third option, online DIY website development services (e.g. WordPress, SquareSpace), will afford you the least opportunity for customization but typically allow users with some computer savvy to take on web development themselves. Even these DIY website design solutions may require the expertise of a professional to ensure your website is targeted towards your business goals and consistent with your brand.
Apart from deciding the actual components and elements you want to include on your website (e.g. image sliders, blog feeds, pricing), you will also need to have a firm grasp on the visual aspects of your brand and business. Failure to do so runs the risk of not distinguishing yourself from your competitors and not standing out in the market. Starting with a unique brand and identity, will set you apart visually and guide messaging related decisions. If you are interested in learning more about brand and identity development, check out these 5 smart tips for branding your startup business.
4. Craft Your Brand Message
Content and messaging is one of the most overlooked aspects of the web development process. In order to truly resonate with your audience, it’s crucial to give due diligence to the content on your site. A common mistake I see on websites is when copy, the text of the website, is centered around the products/services and spoken from a perspective of “We do…, “We offer…,” or “Our product does…” This is the online brochure, or car salesman, approach and while there are appropriate places to list facts, figures, features and benefits, this is typically not a successful way to hook your visitor.
Many human decisions are largely influenced by emotional triggers. Why not appeal to what’s really driving the force behind your prospects’ decision making process? Avoid using generic “boilerplate” copy. Instead, tell a story with your messaging. To get your brainstorming started, ask yourself these questions and begin creating your copy:
- How are others lives made better from what you’re offering?
- What insights do you know about your audience that you can relate to?
- What is the “Why?” behind your business?
- What is unique about what you do?
5. Measure & Optimize
Measuring your website performance against the goals you established in the beginning should be an ongoing part of maintaining your website. Today, this is made very easy to do with great analytics tools offered from different websites like Google Analytics or HubSpot. If you aren’t stacking up against your goals then you may need to reevaluate your marketing strategy.
Create an excel spreadsheet to record your monthly numbers. This will help you see the bigger picture of how your efforts are affecting your chosen metrics. You may see that you aren’t ranking for the keywords you’ve targeted or that your blog subscriptions have gone down. Adjust and focus your efforts where they require the most attention and repeat the processes that return results.
Want to know more about how to create your own website or the perfect website design? K Design Co. can help get you started. Visit K Design Co.