8 Things to do Before you Get a Website for your Business
So, you’ve recognised the need for an online presence for your business and have decided that a website (alongside social media) is the best way to do this.
Great! Now, whether you are creating the website yourself or hiring a freelancer/agency to create and launch it, you need to prepare and plan ahead to really get the most out of your website.
Like many things, the prep work is key, when you decorate the most important part of getting a great finish is the preparation of the walls beforehand. It’s the same for a website the first steps before you even begin to build it will help to make the difference between a good website and a great website.
If you are hiring a freelancer/agency, then they should be able to help you with these first steps. So here are the top things I would suggest you focus on before you get started.
1. How do you want your customers/visitors to see your business?
A website is the window to your business’s soul, so the first thing you need to consider is the message that you want to be sharing on your website. This should all be based around your branding, if you haven’t got any branding yet, then you definitely need to create your branding before you start!
This is often an overlooked step but is vital to creating a good effective website that portrays your company the way you want it to.
Consider your business missions and values, the message that your branding is currently communicating to your customers, what do you want a person to think of when they see your logo, or your business name pop up? This needs to be consistent throughout all activities that you do including your website.
2. What are your goals for your website?
What is the purpose of your website? Is it an information hub? Is it centred around building a community? Is it for selling products or services? Or maybe more a point of reference to generate leads? There are various reasons you may want a website, and each one will affect your website layout, design and functionality needs, so getting this clear in your head first is a must.
3. The Customer Journey – Map your Website Out
Now you have a solid understanding of your websites’ message and goals, you are ready to start mapping it out. Often people will just dive straight into designing the pages and content, but without thinking ahead about how your customer may navigate around your website, you’re blindly creating content, which is not useful at all.
If you haven’t already, research your audience, consider things like age, gender, location, occupation, income. Think about your previous and current customers, how did they find you, what was the process/journey from first being introduced to your company through to placing an order/buying a product/service? Gaining a clearer understanding of your audience will then help you to consider how they might navigate through your website.
For example, the customer journey on a website will look a lot different for lower value fast consumer goods in comparison to a service or product of much higher value that often involves much more consideration and research on the buyer’s part.
Considering the journey your customers are likely to take, along with the direction that you want to steer them in, this will then provide you with your sitemap. It’s always good to start by drawing these out, just a good old pencil and piece of paper and start mapping out your pages. However you choose to map yours out think about the main pages and then the sub pages that will be linked underneath each of these main headings, always with the customer journey in mind.
4. Research websites in your industry and more
Now you have a clear map of the structure of your website, before diving into the design ideas, get googling! Look for other websites in your industry and see what they’re doing, what functionality they have and what designs/layouts you like or don’t like. Don’t stop there either, keep it in mind when you’re surfing the internet yourself. You are a customer for other businesses, so when you’re searching for something and looking on a website, think about your experience, think about what you feel works and what doesn’t.
All of this will help to start building an idea in your mind of how you want your website to look.
5. Think About the Design of your Website
Now the fun bit! How your website will look. Branding has a massive impact on how your website will look, and thanks to your strategic planning before hand you should have a very clear idea of how you want your visitors to see your business through your branding.
I find that creating a mood board is often the most useful way of getting started with your design, this can be a hard copy or you could use something online like Pinterest to help you.
On your mood board you can add your brand colours, logo, any screenshots of specific pages that you liked the look of, any imagery that stands out to you. Pretty much anything goes with a mood board, the more you add to it, the more of a theme you will see naturally starting to build.
When it comes to layout again, your mood board can help if you add screenshots of specific layouts you like, you might naturally see that you are drawn to a specific layout from screenshots that have caught your eye. You then can try sketching out similar layouts or your own layouts, to see how they will sit on a page.
Your website plans are coming together nicely now! Next is content, you know what pages you need on your website so start working through your site map logically to create the appropriate content for each of these pages. This is also the time to consider Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), just by simply ensuring your keywords are naturally included within your content is a great start. You can do a little bit of research to help you with your keywords on Google Adwords.
7. Get your Images Ready
Get ahead of the game by organising all your images in folders ready for when you or a web designer starts building your website. This will be an absolute time saver further down the line, and if you’re using a designer, they will absolutely love you for your forward thinking!
Although professional photography is recommended to ensure you get the best images for your website, if that is not an option, there are ways of creating and capturing nice imagery that is suitable.
Stock images are a great way of adding a professional touch, balance stock imagery with your own images and you are in line with a great eye-catching website.
8. Carefully Consider your domain name
Your domain name is really worth some careful consideration, remember to try to keep it short and easy to remember. Domain names aren’t something that can easily be changed so really make sure you’re married to the name before committing to it.
Now you’re ready to start building your website!
And that’s about it! Now you’re ready to get going with your lovely new website. Whether you are doing it yourself or hiring a website designer, like myself, these steps are necessary to help you prepare to get the most out of your website. If you hire someone, they will likely guide you through these stages, but I always find it helpful to know what to expect before I get started! Don’t you?