1. The first step is to strategise.
Define your goals, and everything else will flow from there. Work out exactly what you need your online presence to achieve – now and going forward. Completing a formal marketing strategy is a great way to drill down into this, and there are a bunch of great templates available online that make it really easy.
2. Do you need a site? Or can it wait?
In a perfect world, every small business would have its own website. But when you’re starting out, the budget is often tight and there are a million potential demands on your cashflow. A great way to tackle this problem is to plan a staged approach to online – starting with free options like Facebook and Google My Business. Depending on what you need your web presence to achieve, these platforms can be fantastic ways to show your face online whilst planning and budgeting for a dedicated site of your own.
3. Buy a domain name.
Purchase your domain name early – they are cheap to buy and getting the right one is important. A good domain name should be short, relevant, easy to spell and also to type. Consider adding keywords or your location to help you get found in search results. Decide which top level domain is best for you – .com, .com.au – or something completely different. Buying a domain name well before you plan to build a website is a perfectly legitimate strategy. Not only does this ensure you snag the perfect name, but it prevents others from snapping it up in the meantime.
4. Planning – ask yourself some questions.
So you already know what you want your site to do. But assessing things like your budget and how much time you are able to allocate will help you decide on the best solution for creating the site. Also – taking the time to think about the details now will mean you have all the answers when it comes to briefing a professional designer or developer.
Plan not just for the short term, but consider how your site might evolve over time. Websites are easily adaptable, and you can use this flexibility to grow your site with an expanding business, or to deal with short term cash flow by having your site built in stages. Download my nifty Ultimate Website Planner to help you really nail the planning phase of your site.
5. Consider branding.
Ideally, your identity should be in place before you design your site. If you don’t have the budget for a professional rebrand or logo design, carefully consider colours, typefaces and other graphic elements. Cross reference with any existing marketing material you have (like your business card) to make sure they are looking consistent. Check out my 4 rules for small business branding – there’s some great tips in there for branding on a budget.
6. Get hosting sorted.
There are plenty of options out there – research and find the one that suits your budget and needs. Many DIY website builders offer hosting as part of their fees, and some web designers (including Powdermonkey Design) also offer design packages that include hosting.
7. Content creation.
What does you website need to say? How does this content need to be divided up into sections or pages? What images need to go on the site? Either create this content yourself or consider hiring a professional copywriter or photographer to do it.
If you choose to DIY though, find yourself a trusty editor. Make sure you get a second pair of eyes on your copy to check for spelling or grammatical errors, which are notoriously hard to spot in your own work. If you are using your own photos, be brutally honest with yourself – are they well lit, well composed and of good resolution? If the answer is ‘no’, it might be worth hiring a web designer who is also skilled at photo re-touching to give your images a bit of a lift (hint: I know someone!) Another great option is purchasing stock images, or downloading free ones from Pixabay or Unsplash.
Obviously, knocking off someone else’s images and copy from elsewhere on the ‘net is a big no-no!
8. Design & build.
DIY or hiring a professional? Web designer or web developer? When opting to DIY, consider the time involved as well as any ongoing fees. Another thing to think about is the possibility of a total rebuild if you later decide to hand over to a professional, and how this will work. For example, if you choose to create your own website with WordPress it’s easy to hand it over to a professional designer when the time comes. But when using DIY package builders such as Wix this can be trickier.
Also – If you get your site professionally designed but plan to add content yourself, consider the platform your designer is using. Can they provide a solution that allows for simple edits, and do they provide any training or support you might need?
9. What else do I need?
Last but not least, it’s time to think about the little extras that go along with a website, such as an SSL certificate, security, email accounts, updates and backups. Will your web designer be sorting these out for you, or do you need to organise them yourself?
Taking the time to check all the boxes when it comes to website planning can help you to decide on the best solution for creating your site. But it can also help keep costs down when paying a professional to design your site, or to save time and heartache if you opt to build it in-house. Either way, you will have a web presence that is optimised for when you are now, and where you plan to be in the future.