Step 1: Define Your Objectives
Defining communication goals and objectives is the first step in building a successful website. It creates the rationale for all activities, sets expectations, helps quantify needed resources, and provides a measure against which to track progress. For those who have trouble identifying your goals and objectives, you can start by asking yourself a few questions regarding your website, including the following.
- What is the purpose of my website? (Blog, E-commerce, Portfolio)
- What do I want my site to look like?
- What vibe/emotion do I want my website to give off?
- Who is my target audience?
- What is my budget?
- When do I want to launch the new site?
By listing out and clarifying your objectives, you’ll have a clearer understanding of your website’s goals. Once you’ve understood those goals, it’ll be easier for you to organize your content and select the best type of tools to help build your website.
Step 2: Find a Domain Name
Now that you’ve figured out your objectives and goals, you will need a good domain name to represent your brand. For those unfamiliar with domain names, they are essentially easy-to-remember names associated with a physical IP address on the internet, like mysite.com. If we pretend that your store’s address is the IP, then your store’s name would be the domain name. Unlike a regular store, only one person is allowed ownership over a unique domain name, and domain names may not be permanently owned, so they must be renewed yearly.
To check and see if your desired domain name is available for immediate purchase, go to TLD LIST to view availability and pricing options. If the desired name is unavailable, it’s possible to negotiate with the current owner and transfer ownership; however, this process can be quite costly and lengthy. If you are one of the lucky few and the domain name you want is available, head over to one of the many domain registrar companies (Namecheap, GoDaddy, Gandi, 101 Domain, OVH) to continue with your purchase. For those looking to build a website with a website builder, you also have the option of purchasing your domain from a website builder's website.
Step 3: Organize Your Content
Once you’ve successfully picked a domain name, identified your goal, and listed out your objectives, it’s time to hit the drawing board and start creating your sitemap. A sitemap is a list of pages, and ideally sections, you want to have for your website; they are usually made in the form of a diagram that shows a high-level overview of the structure of a website and how different information categories relate to each other. Creating a sitemap will help you visualize your website structure, making it easier to proceed with building.
For those unfamiliar with creating sitemaps, a website like whimsical.com offers an intuitive free-to-use tool and training videos to assist you in the creation process. It’s important to review your goals and objectives before creating a sitemap or using a template; a website intended for e-commerce vs. one intended for a blog will have vastly different layouts. Also, remember to save your sitemap; it will come in handy later when you need to improve your SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
After you’ve successfully mapped out your website, it’s time for you to start writing content. Content writing is one of the most effective and simple tools to improve your SEO, generate traffic, and get your brand into the digital sphere. Consistent, high-quality content writing is an invaluable way to connect your brand with consumers and entice return visits to your website.
High-quality content should be clearly written, engaging, informational, and include SEO keywords; SEO keywords are words and phrases in your web content that make it possible for people to find your site via search engines. Before you start writing, it is vital to go through this checklist.
- Review your website goals and objectives
- Research your audience
- Research your competitors
- Plan how the content fits together on your website
Ultimately, you want to write content that people want to read. By going through the checklist, you will better understand how to write and structure the type of content best suited for your website and audience; pair that with some helpful website writing techniques to further refine your content.
Pictures and Videos
Once you’re done making a sitemap and organizing your written content, it’s time to start getting images and videos to compliment your site. For those of you who plan to create an art portfolio, you may have already prepared some files to use. For those who do not have files, you can go to sites like Unsplash and Covver to find stock photography and videos for personal, non-profit, and commercial use. Please visit our earlier article titled How to DIY a Brand Visual Identity for a complete list of free-to-use graphics, pictures, and videos.
Step 4: Build Your Site
At this stage of the process, you’ve created a sitemap, prepared your content; now it’s time to build. In general, you have two options to choose from when building a website.
- Built-from-scratch (hand-coded)
- Built on website-building platforms
If you want to create a website and don’t have experience coding, a website builder is the easiest way to do it. The other option is to build your website yourself, but this requires HTML coding knowledge or hiring a professional.
A website builder is a tool that lets you create a beautiful and functional site without coding or design knowledge. They are usually web-based and allow you to make edits from any device with a browser and internet connection.
Website builders simplify the entire creation process by letting you begin with pre-designed templates, pre-populated web pages, and ready-to-use applications and tools. Here is a list of some of the most common features.
- Online template marketplace: A marketplace that features a wide variety of themed templates for sale or gratis.
- Modularized components: Website builders let you drag and drop common website components, used like building blocks, to easily build webpages. These are things like navigation bars, hero sections, photo galleries, form elements, and more.
- Third-Party integrations: Website builders are plug-n-play compatible with services like lead capture forms, social media feeds, shopping carts, and other marketing and advertising technology (Google Analytics, Facebook Pixel).
- Security: Website builders who provide hosting will also offer SSL certificates to help protect your website from malicious online activity.
- Multi-device compatibility: Reputable web builders will have features that let you design fully responsive websites for multiple devices. The website changes can be applied manually or automatically.
- Hosting and domains: Most web builders provide their own hosting environments to support your website uptime, security, editing, and management. You can connect your own custom domain name (yourname.com) to the web building platform.
- Customer support: Most website builders will have phone support, support document, support forum, and live support chat features to assist customers 24/7.
If you’ve decided on using a website builder, it is best to pick one from popular and well-rated platforms. These website builders offer easy-to-use tools and have a large dedicated user base that contribute a healthy pool of free themes, plug-ins, and training material for new users. For entrepreneurs who plan on selling goods or services through your website, you will want to look into e-commerce platforms like WooCommerce or Shopify.
Here’s a list of popular website building platforms.
- Wix: Good overall website builder for beginners
- Squarespace: Good prepackaged designs
- Weebly: Great for beginners
- Duda: Very customizable
- WordPress: Great for writers and bloggers
- Webflow: Great for designers and customization
- Shopify: Ideal for basic e-commerce
- BigCommerce: Recommended for large e-commerce
Step 5: Pre-Launch Check
Before launching a website, it’s recommended that you first prepare and conduct a pre-launch check to ensure that you have an error-free website. An error in your application will not only ruin the usability of your website but will also affect your brand reputation. Every website should have a pre-launch check crafted to fit its unique nature. We have prepared a list of essential base tests that you should run before launching any website.
- Spelling and grammar check: Use Grammarly to check for spelling and grammar mistakes.
- Image test: Go through all your web pages with images and make sure the images load correctly. Use websites like TinyPng to reduce the size of your images.
- Device-ready test: Smartphones, tablets, and other smart devices have become commonplace tools in our society. Modern web developers need to establish website compatibility to ensure a smooth user experience across all platforms.
- Security testing and protection: Ensure that your website has an SSL certificate to protect yourself and your clients — this is the kind of security used on all banking websites.
- Performance testing: You can run your website through Google’s PageSpeed Insights to see website performance and receive recommendations on making a site faster.
- Beta testing: Allow users to navigate the site and discover any weak points.
Step 6: Drive Traffic
Driving traffic is one of the most challenging tasks of building a brand; it is a complicated process that many website owners struggle to do. To successfully generate traffic, you need to regularly manage and maintain multiple facets of the brand that include areas outside of the website. If you’re looking to increase website traffic with both organic and paid methods, here are some of the best strategies you can use to obtain results.
- Regularly update your site with engaging and useful written content via a blog
- Make social media accounts and engage your audience
- Send monthly email newsletters
- Get your website listed on influential websites and publications
- Collaborate with other content creators
- Run paid advertisements
- Hire influencers to promote your brand
- Cooperate with media outlets
Step 7: Monitor Progress
Finally, you’ve successfully launched your website and primed it for steady traffic flow, better SEO, and an enjoyable user experience. Now it’s time to test the metrics and monitor, analyze, and compare the results of your hard work. To do this, you will need to use a webmaster tool like Google Analytics and Google Search Console. These tools can be used to track the following types of information.
- Daily, weekly, and monthly visitors to your website
- Number of views on each page
- Average time spent on site by visitors
- “Bounce rates”
- Broken links on your site
- Backlinks to your site
- Keywords that lead users to your site
- Web page load speed
- Crawl errors on your website
- Upload functionality and information that can help you increase your SEO
For those looking to become more familiar with Google’s webmaster tools, you can head to Google Analytics Academy and Google Search Console’s YouTube channel free course to learn more.
After reading this article, you may realize that creating a website is not as easy you think. There are many things to consider to ensure that your site is optimized for success. Follow the steps outlined in this article, and hopefully, you will be better prepared to create a successful website.