I have previously written about Why You Need a Website and How A Website Adds Value. Today’s blog post will walk you through things you need to think about and gather before you create your website. If you already have an existing website you can also adapt these steps to revise your current site, just remember some of the steps may not be relevant if you are just revising your site.
DIY or Custom
I feel that one of the best places to start is by deciding if you are going to use a DIY site builder, such as WordPress, Wix, or Weebly, or if you are going to have a custom site built by a web designer/developer. If you use a site builder your next step is to pick which option you would like to use and if you would like a custom site you will need to pick your designer/developer.
The reason I put this as your first step is that knowing this will help you when you purchase your domain name and hosting.
If you are starting from the beginning you should not need to worry about creating a responsive or mobile-first site, that should be the standard for any new site but it never hurts to ask just to be sure that is what you are getting. If you are revising your site one of the requirements for anyone that you hire is that the site revision should include making it responsive.
- Site Builder – often you can bundle the domain and hosting purchase with the software you are using to build the site. This allows the company you use to do some of the setup work for you.
- Custom – Talk to your designer/developer to determine if you should purchase your domain and hosting or if they will make that purchase on your behalf.
A domain name is part of the URL for your website, you can find the domain after the https:// or www. Your domain name is made up of two parts the second level domain and top level domain. The second level domain is going to be the name of your business, the top level domain, is sometimes known as the extension. Some common examples of top level domains are:
The first thing you will need is a domain name, this is your web address and what people will type into their web browser to find your business’ website. You can use a domain lookup site to see if your domain is available, there are many options, you can simply search for ‘is my domain available’ and you will find a lot of sites that will search your name for your. I often use this one when I search for a domain name on behalf of my clients. When you ‘purchase’ your domain, really you are pretty much renting it since you do have to renew every year, and the company that you purchase your domain will also offer to host your site for you for a fee, see more about hosting below.
Gathering Your Information
I could debate if this section should be the first steps in creating a website or if the three steps listed above should be the starting point. The reason I put this here because you may want to reserve your domain name so that no one else can take it regardless of if you are ready to build your website. If you have questions about purchasing a domain to preserve the domain for your business but you are not ready to build the website feel free to call or email me and I can discuss your options.
Purpose Of The Site
Why are you making this website for your business? When working with a client I break it down into two broad categories.
- E-Commerce – you are opening an online store and want to sell something
- Informational - you want to provide customers your hours, location, list your services, examples of your work, how to contact you, general information about your business.
There are several costs associated with a website, some are annual fees, one time fees, and monthly fees. I have listed common ones below.
- Domain Name
- note you should obtain an SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate for your domain. This is something you would be able to add when you purchase your domain and or hosting. Many companies provide an SSL certificate with the purchase, however, if you are planning on having an e-commerce site you will want to upgrade your SSL certificate beyond the basic.
- Site Builder Software and theme or Designer/Developer fee
- note the purpose of your site can affect this cost.
- Website Hosting
- Copywriting (optional)
- Photography (optional)
- Bank and Credit Card Fees (for E-Commerce Sites)
There are different types of images that you will need to collect for your website. Images can help solidify your brand, make your site more interesting and show examples of your work. There are different types of images to use, the two most common are photos and logo.
You can use a design service to create your logo online, I used VistaPrint (my review is here) or you can hire a graphic designer. The photos you would need on your site should be of the best quality you can afford. There are plenty of stock photos that are available for use with various fee structures or you can hire a local photographer. Regardless of if you use stock photos or hire a photographer you need to ensure that you have the rights to use those photos on your website. Types of photos you may want to include on your website are:
- Portfolio of your work
- Headshot of you (and your employees)
- Business Location (if applicable)
This is one area that can cause people to draw a blank; writer’s block is real. When I am having a tough time getting started I like to use the snowball method for writing, which means I start with the easy stuff and as I get that done I gain more momentum to tackle something a bit harder and so on. If a blank page has your mind blank start with listing your operating hours and how to contact you, including social media if you have one for your business. Next write about the services you provide (aka what do you do?). Finally, the most difficult part is to write about you, tell your future customers why you are the person they should hire, how long you have been in business, etc. You can get some extra credit by creating an FAQ page or a blog. A word of caution about a blog, if you do one it is best to make sure you can do one consistently.
Now is a great time to gather all the information you need to create your site or look over your existing website and note the changes and updates you would like to make. At Blue Shutters Web Design, we are here to create your web presence as well as update your site as your business continues to grow, to keep it current and easy to use. Contact us to discuss how we can work together to create or update your online presence.
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DISCLAIMER: This advice is general in nature and not to be taken as personal professional advice. This blog does not provide legal advice if you need legal advice, please contact an attorney directly.