So you’ve decided to start a website? Awesome! But what now? Where do you begin? Below I have put together a few helpful tips in moving towards not only getting that website up and running, but doing it successfully.
Many people throw their hat into creating a website and never really have a game-plan other than “I know I want to own a website”. This can be catastrophic, especially if you are paying web designers and fee’s for hosting/domains, etc. Don't waste your money and time when you can spend a few hours to map everything out before you begin and set the ball rolling in the right direction.
1. Determine the PURPOSE of the site.
In this first step, you need to determine what it is that you want to achieve with your website. Are you trying to reach your clients strictly to inform them of your services and to have them contact you directly? Are you planning on selling items through your website in an online store? Or do you want to create an online social community?
2. Determine your AUDIENCE.
“Everyone” is not a good answer for this. You want to know who your “biggest fans” will be so that you can better serve them and create rapport among their friends and family as well.
3. Research the COMPETITION.
Know who you’re competing with in this industry. The established competition has a lot that you can learn from as they’ve been doing this (hopefully successfully) for a while now. Look at what they offer their clients and how they package themselves and their presence on the web. Make notes of what you like and don't like as a potential client of theirs (not as their new competition).
4. Begin to gather and outline CONTENT.
Begin to throw together ideas for what you want your website to include. Articles, products, contact information. The more content you have on your site at launch, the better. Google and Yahoo will have more information in order to rank your website during their evaluations for their search engines.
5. Decide what FEATURES your site will include.
This goes back to the first two steps. What is it that you are trying to accomplish and what will help you reach that goal effectively. Do you require an online store? Forums? Member profiles? There are many options available to your new website to bring your clients back repeatedly to your site. (See what Advanced Website Features are available)
6. Design a SITE MAP.
Remember those “tree graphs” back in school our teachers used to have us create? These are actually incredibly useful for this step. Begin to imagine what menu items you want your website to include and any “sub menus” as well. Typically, a website consists of the following to get you started:
(Product Page of some sort)
With this site map you’ll be able to layout where your content will be located and easily accessible to the visitors of your site.
7. Share your DESIGN thoughts and ideas.
How do you want to present yourself to the public. Do you want your site to be young and edgy? Sharp and professional? Think of your favorite brands of products. How do they present themselves on the web? Color? Black & White? More images or more text? Write down examples of styles you like and share them with your web designer. These will become extremely valuable when they are designing the look and feel of your site for you.
8. Determine how frequently your site will need to be UPDATED.
This will help you choose whether or not to do the updates to the website yourself, or if you would prefer to hire a web administrator to publish updates to your site for you. Some people enjoy having total control and professional understanding of their website while others chose to focus more on creating the content and managing. Most websites today are designed using a CMS (Content Management System) of one sort or another. Wordpress, Joomla, Drupal... these are just a few of the CMS programs that are out today. They allow you to publish articles and menu items easily with very little training which in turn allows you to manage your own site yourself.
9. Choose a TIMELINE.
Decide how quickly you need your website to be active and discuss this with your web designer. Arrange goals to be met at certain points along the way. You don't want to rush this process as this will be an extension of who you are to the online world, so give yourself time to discuss the website, but keep goal oriented.
10. Determine Your BUDGET.
Finally, determine how much you are looking to spend for the site design and maintenance. When starting a new website, you will need to consider a few monthly expenses. Website hosting (where your website will be stored and shared with the internet) and your domain (www.yourwebsitehere.com) are the most important as your site can not be shown to the public without these. Ask your web designer for help on choosing these as quality ranges greatly with different providers.
Also, if your designer comes back with a higher quote than what you expected, open a discussion with him about it. A lot of times there are alternatives that can achieve the same goals that you are looking for.
Good luck with your new venture! If you need any help or advice, please feel free to contact us. We're here to help in any way we can!