Are you thinking of building a new website? Or redesigning an existing one?

Whether you’re building an entirely new website or redesigning an existing one, the process can feel clunky as the thoughts we initially have for content is not necessarily a linear experience.

Most people can find getting a website from initial concept to completion can be a stressful process but it doesn’t have to be! In this instance preparation really is key. Here are my steps for making the process as stress free as possible:

Step 1: Hire a website designer

This may seem obvious but many people have transferrable skills and if you know your way around a computer well there’s no reason you can’t use the software for building websites. A few tutorials and you’ll be on your way.

However (and it’s a big one), building a successful website involves so much more than just a design on the page:

Content: creating content can be tricky – you know what you want to say on your site but are you saying it in a way that appeals to your ideal client? A successful website will often need a lot more images and text than you originally planned. There can be a variety of reasons, one being you need a minimum number of words per page for search engines to ‘rank’ the page and not simply ignore it. The text will also need to contain ‘key words’ and phrases relevant to the product/service you’re trying to sell. Sometimes we need to tweak the text and crop or add images to make a design work on the page.

Images and text need to be optimised for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) otherwise your website won’t be found on internet searches.

The user journey (how a user interacts with your pages and content) must be considered; is your content and design clearly directing your users to the end result you’re hoping for?

Call to Actions (what you want your user to do when on the page – for example: contact me) need to be strategically placed otherwise your users won’t know what to do when on the site (never rely on people using initiative, people experience these things differently).

Menus and Navigation need to be well formatted and in the right places including top, side and bottom menus as well as anchors in larger posts and pages so you can skip to specific content.

A website designer will be able to support you with all these parts of the process. In some cases recommending photographers and copywriters if needs be.

Step 2: Hiring the right website designer

There is a vast difference between a website which has cost £199 and one which has cost £1199. As a rule, if you’re paying a basic price, expect a basic service. Whilst the £199 website may look good, does it convert leads to sales? How was your experience working with the developer? Did they have experience of building sites for the industry you’re in? What is their knowledge of SEO?

Ask to see examples of their work so you can see whether their style suits what you’re looking for. You can also ask to see testimonials as this will give you a good feel for how they work with their clients.

I can’t speak for everyone but when working with clients I start with a Skype session or a phone call to make sure we’re a good fit and to discuss requirements for the site.

Here’s the process when working with me:

Book a call/Skype session

During this session we’ll discuss:

  • Website requirements: number of pages + main purpose of the site.
  • Comparable websites the client likes, including what they do/don’t like about them.
  • What content is needed
  • Timescales – when I can expect to receive content and when they can expect to see a first draft of the site.
  • Technical requirements: Hosting/SSL Certificates/Domains and email accounts.

Email

After we’ve spoken I send a summary email outlining what we discussed, pricing, timescales and my Terms of Service.

The Build

Once we start building the site clients are updated weekly as to progress, including video walk throughs with explanations about the design. Clients can give feedback on their likes/dislikes until we have a website which everyone is happy with.

Step 3: Creating Content

Content comes in 2 forms: Images (and sometimes videos) and Text.

Text needs to be written for all the pages (or sections) of the site with a clear indication of where it should be placed. Putting it all in one document with the page title above each section can seem simple but is beneficial because when you read it through, you will be able to see whether the tone of the text flows across all the pages of the site. Consistency really is key as the more consistent you are, the more confidence the user will have in you and engage with your product or service.

The most successful website images are those which have been created specifically for the site. This involves commissioning a photographer/graphic designer/illustrator with a brief of what you are looking for. If you have chosen a website designer before creating content for the site they may be able to recommend people for these roles, they’ll also be able to advise what sizes and styles images should be created in to make the most out of them on your website.

Step 4: Collating the Content

Sending files across various emails can result in images getting lost/content not being laid out as expected. Waiting until you have everything together and putting it in one place for your web designer to access is best. Bearing in mind that emailing images compresses them, using an external service is the way forward. Popular services are:

Your designer may have their own system, so do ask them how they’d like to receive the content and ask for any guidance you may need for uploading the information.

Step 5: Branding

When building a website you’re also building a brand and if you want to be taken seriously hiring a designer to create your logo and any other elements of your branding will really help you launch your site with a bang! Your website designer will usually be able to recommend at least one branding expert who can help.

Once you have your logo, your branding designer will also create branding guidelines which include the hex codes for colours used on the website as well as recommendations for fonts. They will often handle Social Media branding too and can create headers for Social Media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter and advise on icons for the website which link to the Social Media platforms you’re using.

Step 6: Functionality

What would you like your website to be able to do? Would you like an online shop? The opportunity to link with scheduling software? Hook up to your existing database of clients? There are so many options which can be explored when building a new site.

Create a list of ‘must haves’ and ‘would be nice to have’ and discuss these with your website designer. They will be able to offer their experience and help you make a decision on the best software and platforms available for your website.

Step 7: Legislation

If your website uses cookies (and most websites do) you will need to make your audience aware of it when they first enter the site. This involves having a cookies policy and a notice providing the opportunity for visitors to accept cookies, turn them off or leave the site.

If your website handles data, such as information received via a contact form you will need a privacy policy which is GDPR compliant. The privacy policy must be available on every page of the site. You can create your own or ask your website designer for guidance with the policy. (Pro tip – if you put a link in the footer it automatically appears on every page).

Conclusion

I know this sounds like a lot and for many people the overwhelm is real. However, if you get this sorted before you set up your website you’ll be in for a much better experience than if your website designer has to keep coming back to you for more information meaning you need to make decisions on the fly. My top tips are:

  1. Check out sites you like the look and feel of, make a note of them and share them with your designer.
  2. Create the content before starting the build.
  3. Ask the professionals you’re working with (website designer, photographer, branding specialist etc) for support whenever you feel you need it.

If you would like to discuss developing a new website or redesigning an existing website you can contact me by clicking here.

Want to know more about websites?

If you’re interested in learning more about websites including:

      • Editing website content
      • Building layouts
      • Creating websites from scratch

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