The Ultimate Guide To Building Your Website
Stage #1: Plan – I Want to Create a Website for My Business. Where do I Begin?
Before you begin building your site, create a short plan to define the purpose of your site and its main features. Your plan should include the following:
- Purpose Statement: Whether it be to display your portfolio, collect leads, sell your merchandise or something else, clearly defining the purpose of your site will help your decision making process later down the track.
- List of Required Features: Think about what your site needs to do in order to achieve its purpose. For example, if the site needs to display your portfolio, then it must have a good quality photo gallery; if you want to collect leads, you need to have a form and a “thank you” page; selling products? You will need a shopping cart and secured checkout page and so on… You will most likely list a number of required features for your site.
- A layout of your site’s homepage, main pages (as well as an about us/contact us page) and the main menu structure.
- An outline of the content you want to present on each page. It is important to think of the key information and messaging you want to convey to the user on each page. You must also consider whether you will write this content yourself, or pay a content writer to write it on your behalf.
- General branding decisions, including your website’s basic color palette. Don’t have a logo? Keep reading… we will cover that shortly.
- Your selected domain name (usually your business’s name). You will need to find a domain name that is not being used by another website and purchase it from a Domain Name Provider. If you’ll choose to use a website builder such as Squarespace or Wix, they will offer a domain purchase service through them. Check out our comparison of Domain Name Providers to find out more.
Stage #2: Decide
How Should I Build My Website?
In most cases the owner of a small business has so much on their plate that mastering the technical skills required for web development is far from a priority, and the great investment of time and money needed to learn how to build a website from scratch wouldn’t help this case. This is where Web Building Platforms come into the picture. There are two main types of platforms enabling website creation with minimal to no coding required.
- Content Management System (CMS): Think WordPress. Offering powerful functionality and countless features, WordPress is the most widely used website building platform in the world. As a general rule of thumb, WordPress is best suited to the following two cases:
- You want a simple, very basically designed, content-heavy blog.
- You have a lot of custom requirements for your website that are unlikely to be accommodated by the website builders mentioned below. Whilst a very basic website is easy to create on WordPress, you should be striving for more than ‘basic’ when building your business’s online presence. It is likely you would need a developer and a designer to customize the features, functionality and design of the site- additional resources that you will need to budget for if you choose to build your website with a CMS.
Note: there are many additional CMS platforms beyond WordPress, but they are harder to use and offer less features. They might be suitable for specific, more advanced needs than common business websites.
- Website Builder: Website builders (such as Wix and Weebly) are the perfect solution for beginners with minimal technical knowledge looking to create their own designed website. Having advanced light years over the past 3-4 years, website builders offer outstanding functionality and out-of-the-box design and features that would meet most business needs. In many instances, Builders offer a ‘drag-and-drop’ functionality whereby you see the results as you create the site. A wide range of templates are offered and whilst color and positioning can be changed, website builder templates are generally less customizable than those used by CMS platforms.
The decision of which platform to proceed with will come down to a number of factors, including business type, financial resources, time and more. To decide which type of platform is right for you, we’ve compared WordPress vs. Website Builders. Read the full article to find out more.
Stage #3: Select
Which Website Builder Is Best For My Business?
*Want to use a CMS such as WordPress? Skip to Stage #4.
Choosing a website builder may seem like an easy step, but when you begin your search you will be met with a long list of potential builders. And whilst many seem to offer a similar result, the builder you select should depend on your business type and the features you want on your site (you see- there’s a reason we made you plan in stage #1!). Additionally, you will want to consider the price, ease of use, compatibility and a multitude of other factors before deciding, which you can read more about in our website builder reviews .
Need assistance to find the best website builder for your business? WebCreate’s Website Builder Comparison Table is designed to help you narrow down your search. Compare the features, plans, ease of use and more across the top website builders.
Stage #4: Build
How Do I Create My Business’s Website?
Whether you have chosen to create your site with a CMS or a Website Builder, the first step is to open a new (free) account with your platform. Once you have opened your account, you will need to select a template (or theme if using WordPress) which is essentially the layout of your site’s design. Templates are usually categorised according to the industry or business types to which they are best suited. Make sure you take time to browse through the categories that best match your business until you find the template you like. Rushing it here might cost you much more time later on.
Most website builders will allow you to change the color scheme of and element positioning within your chosen template, but if you are using a WordPress theme, you may require the assistance of a developer or designer to customize it to your preferences.
Building your site with WordPress? Find the best WordPress Theme Providers.
Stage #5: Must Haves
Tools And Resources To Streamline My Site Creation Process
Whether you are using WordPress or a Website Builder, there are a range of external tools and resources you will need in order to give your website a professional touch. Note that if you are building your site with WordPress, it is likely you will have hired a developer or designer for the creation process. In this case, they should be able to assist you with the following (expect a higher price than using the online resources mentioned below).
- Logo: Your logo is your business’s brand ambassador- leaving site visitors with a lasting image and more importantly- a way to remember your business. You could use a graphic designer to create a logo, or if you are looking for a more resourceful method, try an online marketplace where you can order a logo online from designers around the world.
- Professional Images and Videos: One of the simplest ways to enhance your content is by including rich, relevant images or videos on your website. Depending on your business type, you may already have a large portfolio of beautiful images you wish to display on your site. Alternatively, you can find high quality stock images and videos online. With a wide range of websites that allow you to access and download millions of images for a small fee (typically $1-$10) , the options are endless!
- Image Editors: Whilst high in quality,the images you download may not always be the correct size (or proportion) to fit your website’s template. Online image editors provide a convenient platform not only for resizing your images, but for adding text or graphics and filtering the colors of your chosen image. And the best part is- you don’t have to be a photoshop wiz to use them!
- Written Content: There is no denying that ‘Content Is King’. Without high quality, relevant content, your website is less likely to be found by your target users. And without the right messaging within your website, those users that do visit your site may not make the desired actions you wish them to make (such as leaving their details or purchasing your top products).
Getting your brand messaging right (such as explaining what your business does and the essence of your brand) can be a lot harder than it seems. You may wish to hire a copywriter to ensure the main copy of your site really hits the mark with users, especially on the Home Page and the About Us page. As mentioned in Stage #1, you will also need to decide whether the remaining content (such as blog articles or a description of your products/services) will be written by you or by a professional writer.
Stage #6: Publish
I’m Ready For My Site To Go Live!
Before you publish your website, make sure to test it in a ‘live’ state. Check the design is right, the content is all there, the elements on the site function as they should and even share your new website with a small test group to ensure it runs smoothly before promoting it to the masses.
If you created your website with a Builder, you will also need to assess and upgrade your account to a premium version in order to connect your custom domain name and remove the Builder’s own advertising from your website. Whilst your site can go live with a free account, both the URLs and the pages of your site will contain branding and advertising of the website builder it was built on, offering a less professional look. For a typical fee of $8-$15 per month, you can enjoy custom URLs, no website builder advertising, hosting and additional features that will enhance the look and feel of your site.
Stage #7: Maintenance
My Site Is Live, What Now?
You’ve poured your heart and soul into your new site, but the fun doesn’t end here! There are a number of steps to take after your site is live to ensure its ongoing functionality as well as further boost your business’s presence online. We have highlighted the steps you should attend to first:
Immediately After Your Site Goes Live:
- Open a professional email address on your website’s domain. For example: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Open a Google Analytics account and connect it to your site.
- Open a Google Search Console account and verify your website. This will enable you to understand how Google ‘sees’ your website, uncover issues and find ideas for improvement.
- Open Social Media accounts for your business.
It is always recommended to run a weekly check of your site to ensure all features are functioning as expected and that all pages display their content correctly. The more thoroughly you check your own site (especially in the mind of your users) as well as information in the Google Search Console and Google Analytics, the more likely you will discover more ideas for improvement and further enhance your website.