Websites – what a rabbit hole they can be.
We first innocently start looking around the inter-webs getting inspired about what we want our site to look like.
Then we start looking at domain names, hosting and website platforms (CMS). And then what about SEO? And what on earth should we write?
Next thing you know months (or years!) go by and you are still making do with something that doesn’t truly represent the vision you have for your business.
I’ve recently gone through this experience with a full re-vamp of my site.
Now mine got a bit more complicated as I had a lot of stuff to bring over (and stuff I did not want to bring over!), but I’ve learnt a lot through this process.
And now I’m here to break it all down for you.
This time I engaged a website developer to help me.
But my first site I built myself.
And I’ve worked on plenty of websites in my corporate days – working with some good developers and some not-so-good developers.
And then there are the sites I’ve worked on for my clients.
I’m sure I haven’t seen it all, but I’ve certainly seen a lot.
So, lets skip some of those hard lessons for you and look at the 13 steps to creating a website that you love and that loves you back.
STEP 1: LIST OUT THE PAGES & THEIR PURPOSE
Brainstorm all the pages you want on your site.
First there’s the standard Home, About, Contact & Blog plus your Services or Product pages.
But then there are the extras. Pages like email sign up pages, sales pages, feature pages or thank you pages.
And the e-commerce pages like checkout, cart and order confirmation.
Once you have them all listed out (I recommend in a spreadsheet), you want to begin by giving each page a purpose. This answers the question – what do I want someone to do when they visit this page?
Some are obvious (e.g. product page = make a purchase) but some can be up to you. The important part is that you have an obvious next step for your website visitor to make.
Then we build your site around those.
Start with focus. Always.
This will make everything else easier.
STEP 2: LAY IT OUT
Once you know the pages you want and the purpose of each, it’s time to create a website wireframe or layout.
This is where you start to identify what you want to go where and how you want it to look.
Do you want a big or small header image?
What sort of menu would you like?
Do you want an announcement bar?
Where do you want to your email signup form/s to go?
What do you want to go on your homepage?
Do you want a sidebar on your blog?
If you are an e-commerce store, how do you want to display your categories?
Typically, there will be 5 main page layouts you want:
- General Page
- Services or Product
- Landing Page (no menu to distract from the goal of signing up or purchasing)
This is the time to have a look around other websites and see what you like.
Take screenshots or save them as bookmarks. And make notes about what you like and what you don’t.
(Sidenote: don’t look too much at competitor’s sites. Instead look at complimentary businesses. For example, if you are a kid’s nutrition specialist look at baby sleep consultant sites).
Whether you hire a designer or not this will help you get what you want out of your site.
STEP 3: COLLATE YOUR BRAND ELEMENTS
Hopefully you have built some strong brand collateral already. If not, check out this blog
At this step, you want to pull together all the resources you have and identify anything that is missing.
In particular, you’ll need:
- Colour palette: 3-5 Hex Codes
- Fonts: 1 Header, 1 Body and 1 Feature
- Photos: Ideally branded photography but stock photos are ok if needed (For more on personal branding photos read this post.)
- Branded copy: word bank, brand statements and benefits statements
- Personality: words that describe how you want your website to look and feel
This will form the foundation of how your website will look.
For more help:
STEP 4: CHOOSE YOUR CMS AND/OR THEME
This can be a scary part, but you’ll need to do your research here, as this could be what limits you in the future.
I’m of the opinion that if you are building your website for the long-term then you should go with something that has all the capabilities and integrations you want – now and in the future.
However, if you are just trying to get something up quickly to have an online home first, I am not against using the entry-level platforms like Wix or Weebly. A live website is better than no website at all.
The 3 website platforms I recommend are:
- Shopify (for e-commerce)
- WordPress.org (what I use) (With WooCommerce if you are e-commerce)
The key differences with the above are that Shopfiy and Squarespace are closed platforms. That means they can be simpler, you get good support and are ensured security. However, you are limited in what you can do with them.
WordPress, on the other hand, is an open-source platform. This means anyone can design plugins and extras so you can do pretty much anything on WordPress. If you choose carefully this is a very powerful thing.
With WordPress, you can replicate the drag and drop builder capabilities of Squarespace through the use of themes & visual builders like Thrive, Beaver Builder or Divi (what I use and recommend).
The key here is to do the research about the features you want now and may want in the future, and make sure your chosen CMS can do what you expect in a non-clunky way.
STEP 5: CHOOSE YOUR DEVELOPER/DESIGNER (OPTIONAL)
Once you have chosen your CMS and your preferred theme, you can choose to DIY (some are really simple and fun to use) or outsource to a designer or developer of your choice.
Different designers and developers specialise in different CMS platforms so you first want to find those who specialise in the one you are after.
As mentioned in my intro, there are some good website designers and some not so good ones so it is important you do your due diligence and not just go with a friend of a friend.
Instead, go to people in the industry that you trust and ask for their referrals.
Check out a few websites from their portfolio and make sure they can do what you are after.
And ask questions about each of the inclusions of their packages. For example “SEO Friendly” could just mean that they have installed the SEO by Yoast (free) plugin – there’s a lot more to SEO than that (but that’s for another day).
The biggest thing to check – that you have complete access to the backend of your site and full administrative rights.
Some website developers can lock you out of certain features which can make it extremely difficult for you to make changes without paying them a lot of $$$ or them just saying “no we don’t support that”.
Even if you don’t want to do any design yourself (totally ok), it’s important that you have the ability to switch designers easily in case you are unhappy or you just outgrow your current site. You don’t want to get stuck (trust me, I’ve been there it’s not good).
For more help:
Do you know I now have a team that work with me to do website design? Find out more here.
STEP 6: WRITE YOUR COPY
Good design is built around your copy and images, so we want to get that to them early. In fact, many designers won’t begin until they have your copy.
So, it’s time to start writing your core pages: Home, About, Services/Products, Contact and any other important pages.
This can be incredibly daunting but just start.
Don’t expect that your first version will be the final one. Just get the words out in a Google Doc and edit ruthlessly later.
There is a lot to do with copywriting (another whole book here!) but I’ll give you two pieces of advice here:
1. Focus on your benefits and the outcomes your audience can expect (not just features)
2. Go back to the purpose of each page from step 1, are you clearly leading your web page visitor to the next step and the action you want them to take?
For more help:
Blog Post – About Page Copy by Jay Crisp Crow
Course – I can also highly recommend Jay’s Crisp Copy Class program. I used it to write my site. Learn more here. (Affiliate Link)
STEP 7: SEO KEYWORD RESEARCH
At this stage, I’m not talking about keyword research for all of your blogs, etc but at least for your key pages.
You should choose one keyword or keyword phrase for each of those pages. And don’t use the same keyword phrase on more than one page.
Go for more competitive keywords on your higher-level pages (e.g. home) and get more specific the further down the menu you go.
Once you’ve chosen your keyword phrases go back to your copy and make sure to weave them in.
Put it in your Title, Header, URL and First 100 words where possible (don’t destroy good copy for the sake of keywords).
You also want to let your designer know the keyword phrase too, so they add it to your image descriptions and image alt tags.
For more help:
Course – The 10 Day SEO Challenge from Kate Toon. This is a great introduction to all things SEO (and at a great price). Check it out here.
I’ve also done Kate’s big Recipe for SEO Success course which is just amazing if you want to go all in. Learn more here.
STEP 8: ORGANISE THE TECH STUFF
Now for the really fun part. Sense the sarcasm.
If you have never had a website before this should be easy.
If you are moving hosts, etc it can get more complicated.
Your website developer should be able to help you with all of this if needed.
There are 3 key things you need to get your website live (apart from the CMS) and they are:
- Domain name (main URL)
- Website hosting
- Email address
Normally you can get your domain name and website hosting from the same place. I use and recommend Siteground.
If you are in Australia and want a .com.au domain you will need to register the name via someone like GoDaddy as only certain registrars can do .com.au.
I would recommend you get both the .com.au and .com versions if possible (and redirect from the one you are not using to the other).
You also want to make sure you get privacy protection so that you don’t get your email address put on the public registrar (and therefore get bombarded with spam emails).
For hosting, where possible don’t just go for the basic level. Get a little bit more storage and speed by going for a mid-tier plan or above.
Finally, you will want to get an email address that has your domain name at the end. Not only does this make you look more professional, but it will help you avoid going in to the spam boxes when you send out emails. Google for work is a simple solution for this and you can get an email address for as little as $5/month.
STEP 9: GET DESIGNING
Only at step 9 are we at the stage of actually designing your site. But because you have put in the work ahead of time this should be easy – depending on how much of a perfectionist you are!
If you are working with a designer, this is where they do their magic. Hopefully bringing your vision to life.
If you are doing it yourself, try to enjoy the process and not put too much pressure on yourself to have it done in 24 hours.
Expect that it will take longer than you think.
But also, don’t allow yourself to be endlessly fixing up bits and pieces. Because here’s the thing with websites: they are never done!
You will (and should) always be improving, adding and optimising.
STEP 10: ADD THE DETAILS
These are the pieces that many people forget but are the important elements that complete a website.
There are also some extra SEO elements to add. You want to make sure you have a custom Title Tag and MetaDescription for each and every page & post on your website. This is the text that will appear in Google Search so this is important. For Shopify & Squarespace they have an inbuilt function for this. For WordPress, I recommend the SEO by Yoast plugin.
Finally, if you are including email signup forms on your website, you will need to integrate them with your email software provider. Most should integrate seamlessly and for WordPress have their own plugin.
For more help:
STEP 11: TEST EVERYTHING
You are almost there! Now it’s time to go through page by page and have a final proofread and click all the links to make sure they work.
If you can have a friend or your VA also go through it as often, they’ll catch something you won’t.
STEP 12: HIT PUBLISH
This is it! Congratulations you now have your website complete.
Don’t freak out (too much) at this stage and worry that something isn’t quite right.
As I mentioned above, you’ll always be improving things.
And the best way to know what’s working and what isn’t is to put it out there and see what happens.
STEP 13: ADD TRACKING
Sorry, you aren’t quite finished yet. There are a few more things to do to make sure you are tracking your website correctly and also being crawled correctly by Google.
First, setup your Google Analytics account (analytics.google.com). This free service from Google allows you to find out how many people are visiting your website, their demographics, where that traffic came from and then what they are looking at once they are there.
To connect Analytics to your website you will need to insert some code in your header.
You’ll also want to setup a Google Search Console account and submit your sitemap so that Google begins to crawl your site.
Google Search Console will also show you if there are any crawl errors on your website, what keywords you are showing up for in searches and much more.
You should be able to just connect this via your Google Analytics account.
Finally, whether you are interested in starting Facebook Ads now or “someday”, I would recommend installing the Facebook pixel code on your website to track your visitors. This is because it can hold up to 180 days of tracking information and if you did ever want to begin ads that 180 days of website visitors you could retarget with ads.
For more help:
Blog Post – How to Understand your Google Analytics
Blog Post Series – Facebook Pixels by Bianca McKenzie
There is a lot to creating a website and it is not a small feat. But hopefully, this post has given you a good overview of what you need to do and a good pointer in the right direction at each step.
If you want help with your website (or overall marketing strategy), make sure to check out my online marketing services (including done for you websites) here.
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