Creating a website - before you start work
efore I start I am going to assume you have found a website builder to help create your website, if you haven't, there are plenty around that do the job. We recommend Squarespace, Weebly and Wix for starters, these sites don't give users ultimate control over building a site - web designers don't use these systems - but they are a good start to getting online.
OK, so let's say a little about why you need to give you site a little thought before you even start work.
Creating a website takes time and money, and, on that basis, you need to be able to justify its existence like any other decision you make in life. Spending time on preparing your site is worth its weight in gold once the site goes live.
Let's face it; writing a book and leaving it on your desk is a pointless exercise.
1. Why do you want a website?
This is important! If you don’t know why you want a website, then how will you know if it’s doing its job?
We recommend you come up with some clear objectives, for example:
- Find new customers
- Provide information
- Create a brand
- Promote your business
- Answer customers' questions
- Create a blog
Whatever it is, be clear about the purpose.
2. What do you want it to do?
Like point number one, you need to establish what you want visitors to do on your website.
- Call you
- Email you
- Fill in a form
- Think hard about using Display Networks, they require serious thought and management
- Visit pages
- Complete a survey
- Contact someone else
A website used to be a glorified brochure, today it is required to get visitors to do something. Make sure you decide what that should be.
3. What are the landing pages?
A landing page is the page visitors land on when they type something into a search engine and click on the result.
In other words it’s not necessarily your ‘Home Page’; it could be any page which answers the search term they have entered.
You may have some views about what those terms are, but, better than this, we can help by asking Google what terms are actually used for your business. (You can do this yourself in Google Trends or Google Ads)
So a plumber might find the following terms are used:
Set your website up to reflect the search terms people actually use when searching for a business like yours.
4. Who are your customers?
You need to know who your customers are. Why? Because that way you can gear your website to target—and convert—the right people. Two examples:
Commercial Cleaning Company
This company only clean the premises of large companies; they do not do residential properties. This means that potential visitors are more likely to use desktop devices to find the company and we will ensure the website looks great on large screens.
Children’s Party Company
We establish, before the design starts, that 82% of potential customers will be using a mobile device to find the company, so we gear the design to work brilliantly on devices like tablets and mobile phones.
Also, think about the type of person who will buy from you (the persona) —young, old, conservative, wacky—let’s build the site for them. It will increase the chances of converting visitors to customers.
5a. Website design
Over the years web designers have discovered the best way to engage with website visitors, in fact there is a whole new skill they employ when designing a website, it’s called UX or User Experience.
UX has established a bunch of principles which should be considered on every site and it is based on what people do in real life:
- Visitors don’t read much
- You have 8 seconds to grab a visitor’s attention
- The website should be clear and simple
- The navigation should be easy to understand
- Information is provided for a purpose. (The ‘so what?’ principle)
- Include ‘Calls to Action’
If you already have branding, then, of course, we can use that when designing a site, but remember to design the site to do its job.
5b. Website design
So, now we’ve discussed the basic rules that need to apply to your website, how we apply those and what content shall we include?
As we are now producing pages to answer search questions posed by visitors, we need to simply answer those questions; as in the case of the plumber, let’s deal with the questions in order:
- We fix water leaks, 24 hour callout, 5 year guarantee, number
- Our skills
- How to deal with a leak before we arrive. (Find stopcock)
- Organisations we belong to
Notice how we deal with the page using the principles of UX; simply answering the question—’Yes, we fix water leaks’ - followed by a reinforcement of why the visitor should call you.
5c. Website design
So, what about colours, fonts, images and all the other things that we designers call ‘look and feel’?
Colours all mean something; red is vibrant and passionate, orange is energetic, so the colours on the website should reflect the image you are trying to convey to your potential customers.
There are thousands of lovely fonts we can choose from (except Times and Comic Sans of course!) and, again, those fonts should be simple and easy to read on all devices. Multiple fonts is a ’no-no’!
Nowadays, designers don’t like ’stock’ images—lots of multi-ethnic people shaking hands is so...noughties. Instead we like real models, real situations. If you have images of your work, use them!
6. What will my website be called?
Every website and every web page has an address—you can see this at the top of your browser. A website address might be:
https://www.ziggerwebdesign.co.uk (see what we did there?) and one of the pages on that website might be: https://www.ziggerwebdesign.co.uk/features.html
The name of the site in this case is ziggerwebdesign.co.uk and this is known as the domain. Notice our domain has both the name of the company and what we do as part of the name.
When selecting a domain for your company, it is important to remember that visitors will either know your business name or not. If they know it (Zigger), then you need to make the name short and snappy, if they don’t and are using a search engine to find you, it helps if you include your service in the title. Tricky? No, dead easy to fix.
Simply buy two domain names, one long and descriptive, the other short and snappy, then name your website using the long name and attach a web forward to the long name. This means that whenever a visitors type in the short name, it will be directed to the (long name) website.
Ask your domain provider how to do this.
Our customers are often terrified of coming up with the words for their website, but they shouldn’t.
Using the principles we have already discussed—’people don’t read much’, ’keep it simple’ - you don’t have to write a thesis. Just bear some key points in mind:
- Keep paragraphs short and punchy
- Apply them to answering the questions posed by the search term
- Include the search terms for the page
- If you want to provide categories, keep them simple too
- Check grammar and spelling
If you aren’t looking forward to the task, employ a copywriter—or we can help!
8. SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
SEO is a term most of our customers have heard of but don’t particularly understand, so here’s a brief overview:
When a search engine looks at your website, it classifies it by measuring hundreds of metrics—number of pages, visitors, age etc—it also looks at the words used so it can decide what it represents. These can be broken down:
- The name of the website
- The title of each page
- The titles used on every page—these start at H1 for the largest (and most important to the search engines), down to H6 for the smallest (and least important).
- The normal wording on every page—paragraph text
- The words that describe the images—’alt text’
- The title and description of each page—these appear on search engine results
Your website should include all of these elements to best represent itself to the search engines. (We can help!)
9. Promoting your website for nothing
The bad news is that unless you have a very niche business, (‘we sew buttons on dog trousers’) a new website will not leap to the top of the search results. For that you need to promote it:
Include the address on your business cards and stationery, tell people, attend networking events, put up posters, advertise locally.
- Create a sitemap
- Tell the search engines
- Add Google Analytics
- Add your profile to online directories
- Set up Google My Business
- Ask customers for reviews
- Create social media pages
For full details see our blog on the subject.
10. Promoting your website - chargeable
The reasons Google is awash with money is Google Adwords. (or Google Ads as it’s now known).
Google Ads is a very good system for promoting your business online, and the reason is—it works. However it is complicated and can lose money so be careful. Read our blog on whether it’s right for you.
Our advice is, unless you are willing to spend a lot of time and effort learning how it works, you are better off using a specialist. They know what works and what doesn’t, and will be able to promote your business cost-effectively and efficiently.
We have been dealing with the system for over 10 years, call us on 07875 096483 if you need help.
11. Managing your website
One of Google’s key concerns is how often your website is updated; a moribund site is a bad one. This means that it is important for you or your web designer, going forward, to keep it relevant for your potential customers by:
- Changing text and images
- Adding pages
- Add links to social pages
- Add feeds from pages like Twitter
- Refresh designs and content
There are two types of websites—those you can update yourself and those your web designer can change. We recommend you start your site using the second method and change when you are confident about making those changes. Websites evolve over time and we actively encourage our customers to keep things up to date and relevant.
There are two billion websites in the world and yours will just join the throng. Don’t give up though; there are plenty of free and paid-for things you can do to make yours stand out from the crowd:
- Niche your site. Even if a lot of companies do what you do, try to specialise in something that makes you stand out
- Localise your site. Small businesses have an edge over larger, more established businesses—they are local—and people like dealing locally. Make sure you have included copy which reflects this
- Be friendly. The days of ‘brochure-speak’ is over; adopt a friendly can-do tone on your site without over-selling yourself.
- Consider paid advertising. It works, just be careful.
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