10 Things to consider before you build a website
(Featured image credit: Carl Heyerdahl, Unsplash)
So, you want a website for your business, but you don’t know where to start? Here’s a (non exhaustive) few pointers to get you going in the right direction: things you need to consider before you even start on the design process.
1.What are the website’s goals?
This is one of the most important to know before you start out with a website build. Most sites have more than one goal, and it’s important to know the primary and secondary goals so you can direct your website visitors towards them. For example, your primary goals may be to sell a product/service, but if your visitor is not in a position to buy, then the secondary goal would be to sign them up to a mailing list to receive more information, that way, though your website visitor hasn’t actually purchased from you (yet), you’ve turned them into a lead and they’re more likely to purchase at a later date. Once you know the website’s goals, you know the functions you need onsite. E.g. you need an online shop, or you need online appointment booking software, maybe you need an email marketing platform integrating with your site. Knowing what functionality you need, and how you’ll want your website to scale in the future, will help you choose what website building software to use such as WordPress (.org) or Squarespace.
2. Who is your target audience?
Your entire website is built with your target audience in mind. It needs to appeal to them, and keep them on-page for long enough to learn what it is that you’re about/offering, and why they should buy it/read about it. Everything should be thought out to appeal to your target market, the layout, the copy and the imagery. For example, if your website is designed to appeal to outdoor enthusiasts, your main imagery should be outdoorsy and adventurous. No matter how much you love cats, pictures of cats aren’t going to appeal to your target market – they might love cats too, but that’s not why they’re on your site, so you’ll lose their interest quickly. Given that the images are the things that website visitors notice first, unrelated imagery is going to be a massive turn-off, and lead to a high bounce rate (which means people immediately leaving your site without reading anything). The same goes for copy, everything should be written as if you’re talking directly to your ideal client
3. How easy do you want maintenance of your website to be?
This will influence what software you choose to build a website. Platforms like Squarespace offer an ‘all-in-one’ type approach to website building, where everything you need (with a few exceptions) is done in the same place. Squarespace can sell you your domain (the website address), they host it for you, take care of security, building software and functionality. All in one place, and relatively easy for you to maintain – once you’ve got used to it. WordPress (.org) on the other hand, is much more higher maintenance, in that you’ll need to log in quite regularly, update all the different software and plugins etc, in order to keep your website secure and functioning. However, WordPress (.org) offer more in the way of functionality so there are pro’s and con’s. Corine at Heart and Hustle Studio gives a great overview of choosing between Squarespace and WordPress here.
4. How much can you afford to spend on your website?
Take a look at different options and do some research for this one. Depending on which host you choose the cost will vary, you can get hosting starting from about £3 per month, but it will depend on what you need and how big your site will be. Some themes and plugins also cost but for a basic site, these costs will be minimal. Squarespace offers all-in-one packages, depending on what functionality you need, but I’ve usually found this platform works out more expensive than using WordPress (.org) with a host. Whichever platform you choose, you’ll also need to purchase a domain and these prices also vary – take note of the recurring cost as the first year is often cheaper than what your annual fee will be after that period.
5. Should you DIY or hire a designer?
This is entirely up to you, and it depends on how tech savvy you are, how much you’re willing to learn, and how much time you have to build a website. If you’re wanting to DIY I’d recommend a platform like Squarespace, over using WordPress (.org) because the learning curve is much less. WordPress is harder to learn, though completely possible – if you choose this option, make sure you pick a host with excellent customer service, so they can help you if you have errors on your website. If you want your website to look great, work well, and be hassle free, I’d recommend hiring a designer.
6. Do you already have brand materials?
Branding is super important to incorporate into your website design, so establishing this identity should be your ‘step 1’ before even thinking about your website. You’ll need a logo, colour scheme and font selection plus a design aesthetic that you want to achieve. Even things like brand voice, are important when writing your website copy, so it’s super important you have your branding dialled before you start building. That way you’ll have a cohesive brand, consistent across all your marketing materials, which builds a strong identity, increases brand recognition and builds trust with your ideal clients.
When it comes to colour, I normally recommend no more than three colours on your website (alongside the black and white – or black and white alternatives for a softer look). One of those three colours is usually the dominant colour, used the most often for important things, and the other two are colours that compliment the main colour and work well as little accents or backgrounds. This blog post explains how I use nature as inspiration for colour palettes.
For fonts, two or three fonts is plenty. One for your body font (don’t use a script font for this, you’ll lose people straight away as it’s too hard to read), and one for your headers. If you really want, you can have another for main headers. If you only want one font, that will also work well, and you can play with the sizing and weight of the font for your headings. Adding more colours and fonts than this, will make your design look messy and lack cohesion.
7. Research styles you do and don’t like
This is a fun thing to do before you get started and it really helps you design a site that you’ll love. Find 5-10 websites in your niche/market, and write a few pointers about what you do and don’t like about their website. Do you like their navigation? Layout? Use of colour? Some people like to use video, others don’t, some like pop-ups, others don’t. Make a detailed list, and if you’re working with a designer, it’s super important to be clear on what you don’t like especially. For example, one of my more recent clients, loved simple sites with a linear flow down the page, one dominant colour and made it really clear she didn’t want lots of colours, boxes all over the place, things that flashed or music that randomly played. This level of clarity, makes it so much easier to build a site you know your client will love!
8. What keywords do you want your website to rank for?
Make a list of keywords you want your website to rank for, and incorporate these keywords into your copy. Do some research, what will your ideal client be searching for online, how do you want them to find you and your services. You can use various online tools to help you with this. This blog, gives a great overview of keywords and how to plan them.
9. How will you structure the website for people to interact with it?
Let’s take your clients on a journey, guide them through your site, to the information they need and the products/services that they want to buy. How to do this? A clear navigation, engaging copy, clear layout and strategically placed call to action buttons. Your website can flow, don’t make your website visitors go back to the main menu every time they want to find more information, guide them from page to page. Remember, your homepage isn’t necessarily the first page your website visitor will see, sometimes they’ll land on other pages, so make your website purpose and you’re offering really clear, no matter what page they land on. The call to actions can be linked text or buttons, that guide your visitors where you want them to go next, to more information, to a product, to a contact form to book a consultation call, to an email sign up form etc. You can also get creative with the text on your buttons… don’t just stick to ‘click here’ or ‘learn more’ as these are boring and over-used. Start out pencilling a few layout ideas on paper or a design software, then once you’ve got a basic idea, moving on to building your site using the website builder will be much easier because you know what you’re trying to achieve.
10. Last but certainly not least! How environmentally friendly do you want your site to be?
For me, this was a really important factor in choosing my website software, and hosting platform, and I hope it is for you too. The internet is a carbon emitting monster that goes unnoticed by the side of the rest of the big polluters! BUT there’s plenty we can do to reduce the carbon footprint of our website. By choosing a host like Kualo, your website can be hosted using green energy, which is amazing! Unfortunately, Squarespace haven’t joined the green energy bandwagon yet, and don’t have any sustainability information on their website. For that reason, I chose WordPress (.org) for my website, as it allowed me to host with Kualo, ensuring I’m doing my bit, for the planet. Check out Kualo here – I love them – green hosting with excellent up-time, good prices and brilliant customer service. Plus if you’re a registered charity, you get hosting for free so long as you buy or transfer your domain to them! (that’s an affiliate link by the way, which means I receive a small commission for referring you to the company, at no extra cost to yourself)
So! There you have it, a little list to help you before you build a website for your business!
Good Luck x