When you 've decided you need have a website, knowing just where to start can be quite daunting. There are a few simple steps you can follow, to help gather your thoughts and help you to get some focus on what you need to do in order to get your website off the ground. By following these steps and noting down your findings, you will be well underway to know what to bring to your web designer.
1. Who are you building your website for?
Think about WHO you want to get your message over to. If you run a business, is your website needed to gain you new customers?... or do you need to provide a service to current customers? If you run a school, is this mainly for your parents?... or do you need to provide a place for the children to enjoy? If you are building a charity or community site, what do you need from it? Publicity, contact with your community, fund raising?
What we mean here is, start by working out who you are targeting first. When you decide that, you can start to move along to work out HOW to go about doing that.
2. Choose a domain name (web address)
Perhaps this one is easy for you - and your business name is already established. In that case, the easiest way is to use a domain provider website and do a few searches. Providers such as 123Reg and TSOHost will allow you to do searches (but a quick Google will return many others providing the same search facilities).
When choosing a domain name, bear these few points in mind:
- A .co.uk domain is very cost effective at around £5 a year
- Consider buying the matching .com name to protect your address
- Avoid long domain names - people won't remember them!
- Try and make it simple, and easy to pass on
- Avoid a name that another business may have the rights to
- Be aware that there are many new domain extensions such as .business .photography .tech
3. Do some research on similar websites that are already out there
In business, start by taking a close look at your competitors' websites. Who are they pitching their content at? Note down the types of features that you like/dislike. Always remember that the goal is to engage with your website visitors as defined at point 1 above. Find the sites that do that well and learn a few lessons from them.
4. Start to think about your wire frame
Just concentrate on your main, top level menu. Most will start with a HOME option and end with a CONTACT page. Its the bits in between that you need to jot down. This will form your top level menu framework and when building the site, we will work through these one at a time. Once you have that top level menu worked out, consider sub menus that may be appropriate. For example, in a school, your top level may be "Class Pages" with sub menus beneath for P1-P7.
5. Gather up your logos and images
Do you have a company/school/organisational logo? If so, setup a folder on your PC and start to copy all of these assets into one place for passing over to your web designer. If you have a colour scheme in mind, or corporate headed paper that you need to match up to, pass that on too. If you have digital images that will be appropriate in your website, start to get these organised.
If you are stuck for images, we can buy in some royalty free images for an instant, professional look. You can use Google images for inspiration, but quite often you don't have the rights to just take these are re-use them on your own website. There are many stock image companies out there that offer really wonderful, professional images for low cost. For inspiration, call over to Shutterstock or iStockPhoto and get searching for ideas.
6. Work with us to add your content
Once you have your wire frame/menu decided, we'll take your logo (or design one for you) and start to build up the site piece by piece. We will take your ideas and show you some designs that we think will work for you. We build all of our sites using a Content Management System (CMS) which is extremely versatile and flexible - which means we can tweak things as we go until they are right for you. Distance is no object either, with Skype and remote desktop sessions using Team Viewer, we will work together to create your site. Your website will be private until you feel its ready to put live to the world!
7. Now, its over to you
Once your site is launched, your work must continue in order to gain success. We will submit your site to Google and install Google Analytics which will give you vital business intelligence about how your site is performing. You'll need to:
- Promote the site yourselves once it is live
- Get QUALITY links to it from other websites to increase Google “trust”
- Very importantly you need to add good content to it regularly (which we make easy)
This brings you into the area of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). You need to update your site in such a way as to work with Google's search engines to increase your ranking. You'll need to advertise your website as much as you can and try to get others to link to it. All of this works together to increase your ranking.
Hopefully this article has given you food for thought and some direction. Its easy to get swamped with all of the terminology and the number of things to deal with, but we've done it time and time again and can help you through the process.