Website creation is extremely important for any brand. It doesn’t matter how big your business is, having a website is a standard touchpoint for all of your audiences. That is to say, you can start your business without one, there is nothing wrong with that, but the more credible you get, the more important it is to have one. Having said that, a website can be used for many different things.
Think of it as your modern business card. You can do without it, but it is much better (and more credible) for your business to have one. And to touch on a quick language change above, there is a difference between your business and your brand.
We live in the digital age, and while having a social media account is all fine and dandy to help you with your reach and increase your audience base, the goal of any entrepreneur isn’t to keep people on social media. You want to get people out of a platform that is filled with millions of users and billions of distractions, and take them to a place that is all about you and then. And let’s not even get started on your dependence on social media.
I previously wrote an article on The biggest mistakes to avoid when creating your brand and there is an entire section in there about depending on social media. Take a look at that for more info on the topic. Otherwise, in this article, I am going to talk about the basics of creating a website for your brand.
So, you want to create a website. There are so many tools and free services readily available on the web for you. Use the resources available at your disposal. Now, I am not saying learn how to code, but you should at least know what is involved in creating a website.
In fact, forget about coding at all, unless that’s something you’re interested in. Most modern website creation platforms are all visually based. This is what we used to call WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get). When the term first came out, it wasn’t exactly true as you had to go in and tweak the code for pretty much every customization that you made. Now, though… it is so much easier!
Having said that, I do want to clarify a few things…
Don’t go with the basics
Customize as much as you can
Learn how to or pay someone to customize even more
Outside of that… the first thing you need to keep in mind is that website creation takes time. Yes, all of these new platforms, themes, and templates definitely speed it up. But speed isn’t always the best. Especially when you end up with a website that looks exactly like ten others (some of who may be your competitors) with some different text.
How long will it take? Well… anywhere between a day and a year. There are too many factors to take into consideration during website creation in order to get an accurate estimate. This can include the number of pages, graphics, the amount of content, different features, your own skills (or whoever you hire), and so many more.
A few years ago I found an article that tries to quantify the timeframe for website creation and it was updated again. You can take a look at it here for more info, but here’s a quick summary of his timeframe…
Consider how soon can you or your web designer start working on this and how much time you can dedicate to it.
If working with someone else, ask them for their process to get a rough estimate of how long it’ll be before you can review the work.
Think about how picky you want to be between the review and launch stages, and if you want to do any promotions for your launch.
And while in the article these three are more geared towards hiring someone to create your website, they do apply if you decide to do it all yourself too. He breaks down website creation into multiple stages that take around 12 weeks to get from concept to completion. Personally, I think this is a pretty good time frame.
Having said that, using themes and templates and then modifying them, definitely speeds up the process and can drop you down in half (I have previously completed a full website design and development in a week with the discovery stage taking almost a month before that).
For all of that, I want to clarify that I think website creation is broken down into three main steps before you even think about platforms, or cording, or hiring a web designer…
Structure your content
Look for something you like
Get it done with the right designer
STRUCTURE YOUR CONTENT
What is your website going to be about? What do you want to display? Is it a portfolio or a service? Is it for your brand or a place to rant online? Start writing everything down and group it. Grouping, in this case, means you are starting to structure it and create a site map.
A good way in knowing how to structure your site is by looking at your competitors’ websites or even other websites on the same or similar subject. For example, it is pretty much a standard for all portfolios to have an About me and somewhere to display the portfolio pieces. The content displayed there could also give you ideas for what to write on your own, but make sure you don’t copy anyone else!
When you are working on structuring your website, I do want you to get into the headspace of your audience and users. There is an unspoken (?) rule of three that I like to implement in pretty much everything I do, but it’s especially easy in website and app designs.
Think of it this way… where do you want your audience to end up on your site as a final step. For example, if you’re selling services, making the payment would be a good final step to have. Your goal is to get your audience there within three clicks or less. No matter where they start on your website.
Now… when it comes to payments with all of the confirmations and additional steps, it can be hard to get to three steps, so combine all of the payment confirmations into one and think of it that way.
Here are two examples of a three-step to the final goal…
Your audience lands on your homepage where you have a link to your latest product, click one leads to the landing page for that product, click two leads to the sign-up or purchase button, click three is a combination of or the single payment button.
Your audience lands on one of your blog articles from social media. Click one leads them to your lead magnet landing page, click two leads them to a form to fill out, and click three leads them to a thank you page where they can download your free resource.
Having said that, most of your audience will take the longest route possible to get to the final step, especially if money is involved and they don’t know you. In the first scenario, they may click through every single page on your website before ever getting to the landing page. That doesn’t mean you should add extra steps. In fact, if you can remove steps or confusion (for example, remove all other links on your landing pages, so they can only go to the next step), then do it!
LOOK FOR SOMETHING YOU LIKE
There is some nice stuff out there, right? Usually, at this stage, you already have an idea building on what you want your website to look like. So keep browsing. At this point, you can stray a little further out from your competitors and industry. Look for anything and everything that you like and save it, either as links or as pictures.
Keep in mind that at this stage, your content and structure may start changing. If you see another site similar to yours that just has the best header, you may want your site to have that type of header now. You may find out that you planned for too much content and not enough space, or finally have decided on the exact number of pages you want. But the most important thing at this point is to know how you want it to look and function. Think back to the three-click rule!
GET IT DONE WITH THE RIGHT DESIGNER
Now that you know what you want to say and how you want it to look, all you have to do is get to website creation. You can either do it yourself, if you feel confident about the time and skills required, or you can look for a designer. If looking for a web designer, you can find them on social media, company websites, work blogs, classifieds, message boards, and many more places.
The trick here is to be clear and concise with what you want in order to get the right designer for you. And be picky! This is your project and this is your website. If it’s not going in the right direction, stop it. The most important thing at this stage is communication. If you’re working with someone else on your website creation and you lose touch for a few days, get it back. If they lose direction, point them in the right direction.
WEB DESIGN VS WEB DEVELOPMENT
Now, having said all of that I do want to clarify something… there is a difference between a web designer and a web developer. Some can do both, some can’t. Here’s a quick description of each so you know what you’re looking for and what to ask potential partners.
A web designer is a person who helps your website look the way you want it to. This includes anything from banners and sliders to fonts, colours, graphics, and more. This is the person that you would tell them what you have in mind, and they would make it.
The process usually involves the creation of wireframes, the visuals based on your brand strategy, and the adaptation of the previous into a digital version of your first website draft. Some web designers have enough knowledge of development to be able to create everything for you from scratch. Sometimes though, your website would require some more specific coding and for the web designer to bring in a developer.
A web developer can use HTML, CSS, jquery, PHP, or other computer languages to write some weird letters and numbers. Next thing you know you just need to add text and images and have a beautiful banner for your website. The developers can also create your website from scratch without the use of templates, so you get completely custom website creation.
One of the most important things that a web developer can do for you is to figure out the hosting. This includes servers, domain name, bandwidth, etc. If that stuff means nothing to you, then getting a developer will definitely be worth it. If you still don’t want to use a developer, you can find information on this depending on your website’s progress. The process of finding a host and server can be a little daunting at first, but it is needed in order to give access to other users on the Internet to your website.