Your first website: key steps for starting out

Are you about to venture into the online world for the first time? You know you need a website, but don’t know where to start?

Be it a business or personal website, there are some key steps you can take to make the whole process easier, for yourself and any web designer you may engage to build your website. Here are a few tips from someone who has been in the business for over twenty years, me!

Know the purpose for your website

Ask yourself what is the main driver for your website — is it to:

  • Promote your business;
  • Enhance your personal profile;
  • Build a community for the articles or books you write;
  • Market a large event;
  • Showcase your art or photographic portfolio; or
  • Sell your products.

The answer will decide the type of website you need, for instance: a blog; e-commerce site or Etsy store, event site and campaign, a local business listing and website or an informational personal brand site.

Each of these utilise different marketing strategies and technologies. Knowing the main driving force for being online helps you and whoever builds your website to identify the best fit and plan out the required work.

Identify key goals

Once you are confident with the purpose of your website, the next step is to think about the key goals and what you want to achieve. It might look something like this:

  • Engagement — people talking about you, your business, common interest, or something you’ve just published. This could be in the shape of a forum or engagement on social media and will need to include the establishment of a follower base.
  • Lead Generation — you want people to contact you or your business. Think about some numbers as well, how many leads you want in a month to get people on the phone or walking in the door.
  • Direct Sales — number of purchases made directly from your website. Also think about where your market is, will you be selling locally or internationally? This can impact on the language used across your website and the timing of any promotions.

When you’ve gone a little further in the planning of your website, you can be more specific about your goals, for instance, the number of followers you want on Facebook within 3 months. However, at the start, you might not even know whether Facebook is the place to be to achieve your key goals. Baby steps.

Consider the look and feel

Finally, you should consider a design theme or ‘look and feel’ for your website. I always ask clients for their thoughts on layout and colour up-front because it can determine how much time should be put aside for design.

It doesn’t need to be too specific at this stage and the type of website will determine the style to a point, eg: a commercial law website will use a different style to that of an artist’s portfolio.

The 3 main things to look at are:

  1. Layout — the organisation of the website parts like the title, logo and body content. Some websites suit menu-driven content and others suit grid layouts.
  2. Colour Scheme — the colours used in your website need to be consistent, and fit with it’s style and personality. Colour evokes emotion so think about how you want your audience to feel: relaxed and calm or energised and motivated.
  3. Type — the typography or ‘fonts’ used on text contribute to the mood of a website. They can be formal and crisp or softer brush and hand-written scripts.

Look at marketing collateral you already have. You may have a logo and business card that uses certain colours and fonts or a branded product-line.

If starting from scratch, I recommend finding a couple of websites you like which also have a similar purpose to yours.

FloraHues_150Another tip is to find a photo that sets the mood you want for your website and sample the colours from it.

On the Design Seeds blog, there is a large collection of colour palettes inspired by photos.

Mostly taken from nature and landscapes, you may just find something here that sparks your imagination.

Remember: you only need the basics now.

Your web designer will be able to recommend a suitable look and feel for your website, but it certainly saves time if you can provide a starting place.

It takes time

Which takes me to the next point. It takes time to build a good website or online community.

By good, I mean a website that will deliver on those key goals. Any old less-than-good website can be delivered fairly quickly, but you won’t have engagement, people won’t find you on Google and you won’t get your leads or sales. Your website will exist, but it won’t be working for you.

Take the time to think through these initial steps, stay focused on your goals and your online presence will produce the results you want.

In other words, “It won’t happen overnight but it will happen.



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