From shopping to booking appointments and learning new skills, there’s so much we can do online. That’s why websites have become an essential business tool – but where do you even start when it comes to building your own website?
Here’s where you can breathe a sigh of relief, because you don’t need to know how to write code or play with pixels in order to spruce up your pocket of the internet. But with that said, you do need to have some level of involvement in the process when you work with a web developer. That way you can ensure your website is customised to your branding and business goals.
To get you started on your website, we’ve put together a list of things you need to do as a client. Before we dive into that, however, we want to double down on the point that you don’t need to be an internet whiz to set yourself up with a professionally designed website.
That’s important because we understand that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed to the point of doing nothing. Outsourcing the heavy lifting allows you to focus on keeping your business running while a code-savvy designer whips your digital presence into shape.
Plus, if you can get started on these five things before your project kicks off, you’ll save yourself both time and money.
Know what you want to achieve
Depending on what your business is, you will have specific objectives for your website. These will all boil down to increased profits, but can take a variety of different forms.
For example, our client The Good Property Company wanted a website with more information, so she spends less time answering common questions with prospective clients. This frees up her time to work elsewhere in the business.
Your objectives may include:
- More enquiries
- Higher conversion rates
- Fewer abandoned carts
- Adding better customer service features
- Improved search engine rankings
- Sharing information with clients and customers
- Improving the quality of leads
- Better integration with software such as a CRM or booking system
Setting these goals is important for a number of reasons. Firstly, your goals will determine what type of website you need and its functionality.
Secondly, planning a website can be like going to the supermarket for a loaf of bread and coming out with a trolley full of groceries. By knowing exactly what you want to achieve, you can define your must-have and nice-to-have features, and avoid the trap of adding unnecessary features that will cost you more to build and maintain.
Finally, these goals will help your web developer to steer your project in the right direction from day one, ensuring the project runs smoothly.
Think about your budget
Right now you might be thinking, ‘But I don’t even know what a website costs.’ That’s fine, but it’s also important to have a think about how far you can realistically push your budget.
This loops back in with the goals we just touched on. Discuss your goals with your web developer and will help you build a list of must-have and nice-to-have features. If cash flow is limited, you can also look at building the website in two stages, launching with a basic site initially and adding to this later on when you have more funds.
Other things to consider are who will maintain the site and hosting. If you require external assistance to add content and make updates, factor this into your budget. In terms of hosting, we recommend choosing a local provider who offers a good level of support. This means that if there are any issues with your site, you’ll be able to resolve them quickly and easily.
If you’re anything like our design team, this is probably right up the top of your to-do list. Why? Because this is the fun part!
It’s important to note here that this list isn’t in a perfectly linear order, so you can do this at any stage of the planning process (and maybe even more than once). For example, as you are looking at what other businesses are doing, you may realise that there is more you can be using your website for, which will change your list of goals.
When you are looking for website inspiration, think about the following:
- What are people outside of your industry doing? Can you get ideas from them to set yourself apart?
- Is there are a particular design style you are drawn to? And are there designs you really dislike?
- Have you discovered functions you feel could be beneficial for your business?
Places to look for inspiration include Behance, Pinterest and competitors’ websites (… and can we also suggest our portfolio of web design work). Looking at big brands is also useful, as these companies have large teams working on their sites, placing them a step ahead of the pack. You may be able to take new ideas from these brands and appropriate them to your business and budget.
When you find things you like, take screenshots to share with your web developer. This will get you both on the same page immediately.
Look for a copywriter
All the tips in this post are based on our experience of designing websites for our clients. This one comes from designing our own website, which was a completely different ball game.
We were (and still are) so close to our beloved design studio that we couldn’t get our messaging clear – we constantly muddied our key messages by trying to say everything at once, and all the different ideas just cancelled each other out.
So we brought a copywriter on board and now we are really clear on our messaging. And the other benefit was that the copy actually got done, because copywriting tends to be one of those tasks that is pushed to end of the to-do list. When this happens and copy is thrown together at the last minute, chances are the content isn’t doing your business the justice it deserves.
So as you are working out your budget, we recommend including copywriting in it and then finding a copywriter early on to ensure the content is ready on time. It’s also important to choose someone who you can have an open conversation with, so that the writer can add personality into your copy too.
If search results are important for your business, this is also a good time to think about SEO services too.
Work out a realistic timeframe
Think of your website like a lavish overseas holiday. Designing or redeveloping your website is something that you only do occasionally, so you want to make sure you get it right.
When setting a timeframe, you need to allow yourself sufficient time to get the following elements right:
- Finding and briefing your designer
- Design and functionality
If you aren’t organised, then your timeframe can blow out. And the reality is that when you run a business, unexpected things happen that can delay projects. So if there is a special event or reason why you need to launch, speak to your developer about what is possible and be honest with yourself about how much time you can commit to the project.
If you need a website up quickly, a more realistic option is to create a landing page (a simple one-page site) that gives you a presence while the rest of the website is developed.
As a general rule of thumb, we recommend you allow at least a month for your website to take shape, and that’s with all imagery and content supplied on time.
Feeling overwhelmed by that list? We’re not about tough love, so feel free to contact us to discuss how to get ready for a website project. A chat helps you to clarify what you want to achieve and how to get there. We’re also a connected bunch and can refer you to photographers, SEO specialists, hosting providers and copywriters, so you aren’t going it alone.