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Preparing to Build a Website

2018-08-14T16:31:33+00:00July 26th, 2018|Tips & Tricks|

That feeling is the worst. When you know you need a website, but figuring out where to start makes you want to get back into bed and scream into your pillow. But read on, dear pillow-screamer. We have some questions that will help you refine what you want and some practical steps to create a website (or at least get started). Here’s what we’re going to walk through as you scroll down:

  • Define Your Website’s Purpose
  • Determine Your Website’s Vibe
  • Develop Your Website Plan

Let’s get started so you can move from “I don’t know where to start” to “Here’s where I’m going!”

Define Your Website’s Purpose

It’s tempting to think of your website as just another business overhead-ache, but spend a couple minutes thinking through what it does (or needs to do) for you. It’s time well spent, and will help guide many other decisions ahead.

PSST! If you’d like to have all the info we’re about to throw at you in a printable checklist, you can get that riiiiiight here.

To help uncover your website’s purpose, start with a few questions:

  • Who will visit your website? Potential customers ready to buy? Past clients needing support? Interested consumers with many questions? Your friends? Your competitors? Job seekers? The list could be long, but begin by identifying the main population(s) your website exists to serve. Then, narrow this list down to the 2-3 most important or significant groups and make all future website decisions based on what those groups need/want.
  • What do you want them to do after they visit your website? Click the “buy” button? Feel warm and fuzzy? Pick up the phone and call you? Fill out a contact form? Knowing what action you’re encouraging your visitors to take helps give your website focus, and will also help streamline your sales and onboarding process.
  • What type of content do you envision on your site? Full-screen compelling images? Tons of text? Photo galleries? Recent news? Calendars and schedules? It helps to write out everything you might ever possibly want on your website in the next 10 years. Once you have that list, go back through and cross out all the items that (1) (realistically) don’t make sense right now, (2) no one (other than you) actually cares about, or (3) are just too much work to pull together.

Thinking through these big-picture items will direct your project and prevent you from wasting money on something that isn’t supporting your business or serving your customers well. With these questions answered, let’s move on to something a little more fun.

Determine Your Website’s Vibe

Since your website is one of the biggest ways your brand is represented (outside of a physical storefront), you’ll want to strategize about how your brand should be incarnated on the web.  If you already have brand guidelines, those will serve you well here.  Here are a few additional topics to explore as you define your website’s personality in the brand lineup (so actually like it when it’s done!).

FRESH TIP

A logo & branding process should be one of the first steps you take when starting a business or organization.  Having a consistent look that captures your vision concisely is a huge part of helping customers know you’re legit and professional.  Not sure where to start? We know people. Hit us up.

  • Look around. Click through your competitors’ websites, your favorite store’s website, and even a few random websites. As you go, make a (yes, another) list of things you love and of things that get on your nerves. Notice things like how pieces of content fit together, whether the font is easy to read and whether you have to scroll or click too much.

  • Adjectify. Write out adjectives describing your brand and how your website should look (or make people feel). Great adjectives for this list include words like: bright, clean, inviting, warm, professional, structured, concise, pink, fresh, citrus-y 🍋, authoritative, amusing, intense, cartoon-y, and many many more.
  • Brand new? If you just finished a logo & branding process, you likely have a nice list from a designer of all the fonts, colors and patterns comprising of your brand imagery. If it’s been a few years, hit the search button in your email – that PDF is probably hovering somewhere just below the surface. And while you’re at it? See if you can dig up a vector (.ai, .eps, or .pdf) version of your logo. You’ll need all these things at your fingertips during the website build process to ensure you stay true to your brand & vision.

Develop Your Website Plan

The next steps to create a website could take you in many different directions, depending on your priorities. If you’ve come up with answers to the previous questions, you have a great foundation no matter which path you choose. To determine where to head from here, think about how business or organization feels about the following facets of a website project:

  • How much time you spend on it. To be sure, this project will take some time no matter how you slice it. You (or someone very involved with your business) are the only ones who know your audience and your business intimately enough to give the project proper direction. But you can choose whether you spend 4-5 hours communicating with a designer and reviewing their work, or whether you want to spend a heftier amount of time doing most of the work yourself. The hours required for a DIY website vary widely, but an average 5-page website build will normally take 20-30 hours of writing, building, editing and testing.
  • How much money you spend on it. Unless you’re totally just dabbling in something on the side, your website will likely have a price tag that falls somewhere between the price of a tank of gas and the price of a car. Big difference, eh? There are a couple free options – but they will leave you with an address like “yourcompany.wordpress.com” rather than “yourcompany.com”. Not particularly professional, but great if you’re just testing a concept or trying your hand at blogging. If you’re planning to make any money off of your business or website, spring for the domain name (~$20/year). Once you have a that, you’ll need to decide which range your budget is in: $50-$999, $1,000-10,000, or $11,000+.

  • How much ‘fancy’ you pump into it. Now, let’s take a moment to differentiate between fanciness and quality. You can absolutely have a high-quality site that is simple and elegant (not going to lie, these are our favorite – and they’re exactly what most small businesses need). However, building a website that’s in-step with some brands calls for creative direction and artwork outside the scope of “simple and elegant”. If you know there’s nothing short of a site that’s fit for display at the Louvre that will work for your business, or if you have very unique needs around your site’s content and functionality, there are people out there who do incredible work in these areas – you’ll just need to set aside a bit more cash and a longer timeline to work with them.

Now that you’ve decided where your priorities lie, let’s talk options. Below are 3 directions you can move from here. Let’s explore.

  • DIY: Friends, it is great to live in the era of Squarespace. And Wix. And Weebly. If you have some time on your hands, a fairly low budget and love learning new things, you should start here. There are so many great resources available to you, so if you can get your content organized, set a few timeline goals for yourself and pick up a few new skills, you can make magic. Since you asked (or maybe you didn’t), our favorite DIY Website option is Squarespace. The other options certainly have their strengths, but our experiences have been best with the this particular platform. If you’re building a Squarespace site, expect to spend between $100 and $200 for a year of their services. Not too bad!

FRESH TIP

If you mostly feel good about building the site yourself but still feel like you could use some professional direction, we got you. Meet DIY + DL (DigitaLemonade): you do most of the work, but with the help of our step-by-step instructions followed by a session where we help you clear roadblocks and finish off the details. Read more about this cost-effective way to create a professional-looking website.

  • DIFM: Let’s face it, sometimes DIY is just too much with everything else you have going on. Many small business owners want to shout, “please just someone do it for me!” when they think of their website. If you have a business that’s been buzzing for a few years now, or if you’re trying to get something off the ground while still working full time, head down this path. It can be really valuable to spend a little time communicating your vision to a web pro and then letting them run with it while you do other (more important!) things. You get a pretty new website, and all you have to juggle are a couple meetings and a few emails rather than THIS:Scrolling through Code | Preparing to Build a Website | Steps to Create a Website

    If your time is precious and your budget is in the $3-10k ballpark, the Do It For Me option will be a great fit. If you don’t have a web person you love, let’s chat.

  • AGENCY: For those of you who answered the “fancy” question with something like “I need the digital equivalent to a sequined Academy Awards dress”, your home run will likely come from a design agency. The works of art that these folks crank out are incredible, and they have a whole staff who each specialize in specific website elements – from graphic design to writing content. Many design agencies start with price tags in the $20-30k range for their websites, so it’s not a small investment. However, if you’ve been in business for awhile and want something to knock people’s socks off, or if you’re part of a startup with some capital and an ambitious growth plan, you’ll love working with a group like this. Need some recs? Feel free to reach out – there are a couple groups we respect incredibly and we’d love to put you in touch.

Do you feel more prepared for your website project now? We hope so! And more than anything, we want you to know that websites don’t have to be scary or frustrating – you just have to find the right plan for your business, blog or organization. Arrange your thoughts, plan the steps to create a website and you’ll end up with a website you love.

Cheers!
DigitaLemonade