It’s the end of 2020, and we all know that having a website is crucial to any type of business. As someone who builds and market websites for a living, I see this is hard to face the issue for many business owners. Mainly because a lot of people simply don’t have the skills to build one for themselves.
On the other hand, you do have the option of hiring a developer to build your website, pay a content writer to populate and someone else to market.
Usually, the costs associated with these services will keep this option out of reach for many small businesses and startups.
But, honestly, even when people have this done for them, their websites tend to have an unsuccessful outcome. This is mainly because they don’t really have a solid plan. Most cases, all these are done by different people who have no knowledge of the business goals.
To tell you the truth, building a successful website with a good plan, mostly involves some basic research and strategic planning. So today, I want to list down the few steps I take into consideration before building a website for myself and my clients. If you already have a website, take this as a checklist to find out what you may have missed while you were building your website and try to implement into it in the future or in the re-development phase.
Either way, by having this handy list you will be able to save a lot of time, money and frustration in trying to build an online business or a website. So let’s get down to business!
Step 1: Strategy
This is the most ignored and frustrating stages of any business. But, once you get past this, you will find how useful it is to have a foundation. This will be your stepping stone for everything else you need to do. One of the major problems I have seen with my clients is that they don’t know what they want. They obviously, know that they want a website, mostly because their competitor has one so they think they need one. But, they don’t have a clear understanding of whats the purpose of the website is. Taking the time to map out the functionality, the information they want to display on the site, about themself or the business is important. After all, the entire world will see what goes on their site. So, spend some time to write down these things beforehand.
The goal here is to create a successful website. To do that, you will have to spend quite a bit of time thinking about who you are, what your business goals are, core values, mission, vision, and what you are the problems you are trying to solve. If you don’t know what these things are or haven’t thought about these things, then how is a freelancer you hired on Fiverr going to build this for you?
Imagine your website as a physical store, and each person passing by your store is a potential customer. What’s the vibe you want to give when they walk by your store? Would you have a welcome mat at the doorstep? maybe a sign that showcases your best offers?
Always keep in mind that everything you put up on the website will reflect on yourself or your business. Your messaging should be clear and professional or it’ll be a confusing mess. This is why you need to have a clear strategy for your website.
Step 2: Customer Journey
By the time you get to the 2nd step, you should have a clear understanding of your business goals, values and what you want to do with your website itself. Another important aspect as I mentioned earlier is to have a clear understanding of the message you want to give your visitors. Now it’s time to figure out how you want the users to navigate through your website. The most important page of your website is the Homepage, always keep in mind what will be the first impression of a user when they visit this page. Another key component you need to keep in mind is who your targeted audience is. Who will find this information, service or product useful? Almost all the information you lay on your website will be based on this.
For example, recent data indicate that the younger generation spends more time watching videos on platforms like Youtube, TikTok and Instagram. So it’s best to include video content on your website compared to written content if this is what your primary audience consists of. This way the user will spend more time your website and digest your content the way they ideally prefer.
The goal is to consider your primary visitor or target audience and create your website in a way to increase stickiness. Once your narrow this down, you will have an understanding of what type of content you want to include in your website. But, never forget your initial message; since it’s the foundation of your website strategy. Envision the way how you would want the users to navigate through your website, from page to page.
As you plan this along, you have to consider the user experience, the best way to tackle this is to map out all the pages you want to include. More of a mind map of your important pages and how they would connect with each other. Having these things written will help you get a bird’s eye view of your website. I like to write in a notebook or piece of paper, I am old school like that. If you prefer using mindmap tools or even MS paint to draw something out, feel free to do so.
The goal here is to get an idea of how you would want your site structure to look like, just the top-level pages and categories that will go on your main navigation. Once this is out of the way, start breaking down individual sections of your website.
Make sure as you are mapping out these pages, you are conscious about the user experience as well. The users should be able to find these pages quickly and easily.
Step 3: Wireframes
This is my favourite part, this is where you will start sketching out the wireframe. Again, I like to do this on paper before I use any tools. But, feel free to use anything at this stage. The goal is not to go into detail, but to keep things as simple as possible. Each page of your website will have a purpose, your role is to draw this out and figure out how you would want the user to get to this objective – usually, it’s to make a purchase or fill a form. Always keep in mind that you don’t want to confuse the user. Shoving unnecessary information, things and distractions will only drive the user away from the goal. A confused user will not buy, fill a form or click a button.
Step 4: Content
Content is the king! this could be in written form, video, images or even audio recordings. This is the core behind any successful website, the content you build is what going to help you build a brand voice, improve traction and convert. Content is also one of the most important factors when it comes to improving search rankings and getting organic traffic from websites like Google, Bing and Yahoo. I always tell my writers to write content for a human being, and not for bots. So, keep in mind the target audience, values and business goals you had written down earlier. These will come in handy when you start working on your content. It’s best to have your content in all forms, but, don’t just do one type of content and be done with it. It’s best to have a good mix of written content, images and videos. But, don’t do it for the sake of it, just keep your brand voice in mind. Make sure you do your research, find quality images or produce your own if you have the budget or the skills to do so. One of my favourite sites to find stock images are from Unsplash.com, there are some great photographers on that site providing stock images.
Step 5: Design
Though the design is an important part of your website strategy it is also tricky. Because usually people often go overboard on this and not enough on user experience and other important areas. I see most cases that people try to do too much and too many things on design this sometimes becomes a bottleneck and they just ditch the strategy and go crazy with their design. I can completely understand, you want your website to look pretty and appealing. We like visually appealing things and you want your website to look better than your competitors. In my opinion, the key is to keep things simple. You want to design a website that is not only visually appealing but also to make sure the users would find it easy to navigate and go through your content. Always keep the goals in mind, from interacting on your site, filling a form, or making a purchase. That’s it.
You may also want to keep in mind, the consistency of your design, brand, goals and content. These things have to go in hand-in-hand with each other. Inconsistencies will only confuse the user and drive them away from your website. Once you have a mock design, go back and compare your notes with step 1, 2 and 3.
Step 6: CMS and Functionalities
Now comes the part where you decide what functionality you want to include on your website and how you want to manage them. This is where you organize your website the way you want, if this is not done properly you will find some major issues running your online store or business. Take some time, talk to your designer, marketer and developer and find out what functionality they believe should go into the website and why. What you can automate and what plugins you can install to cut downtime and cost. There are a few basic platforms you have available in the market you can use from the get-go.
I like to use WordPress if its a basic website. For eCommerce, I prefer using Shopify or Woocommerce. All these have their perks, limitations and costs, I’m sure we can talk about that on another day. But, do your research and find out what fits your bill. Once you have some idea about what’s the CMS you want to build the website on, think about the functionality.
Again, here comes pen and paper. List down the functions you have included in your wireframe, design and mocks.
This is where all these steps come in handy. Once you have this list, see if your CMS can handle these or do you need to re-think on the platform you had picked?
I cannot emphasise more, always think of your user. If you can compromise a super cool function you thought of before over user experience. Ditch it. if your user cannot navigate through your site to go your goal, that’s not a successful website.
Take your time, work with your team and experts you have in your arsenal to find out what’s the best shopping cart, marketing tools, plugins, integrations and CMS that will work for you without compromising on the user experience and business goals. As a personal preference, I always go for the simplest solution I have available.
Step 7: Optimization and Integrations
This is something you need to do from the get-go, else you will have some issues at a later point. Not a lot of developers know this either. Just as you want users to navigate through your website seamlessly, you also want the search engine bots to index them as well. According to a study conducted by BrightEdge, over 40% of revenue is captured through organic search traffic. These are users with intent, so make sure your website is integrated well with search engines. If you don’t your website won’t look good as it should on search engine result pages. You can accomplish this by making sure you have implemented a good search engine optimisation strategy for your website. This should include things like on-page optimisation, Local SEO strategies, Schema tags, Google Analytics implementation and Webmaster tools integrations – for both Google and Bing.
Another important integration is social media. This is a no-brainer, everyone has social media accounts these days and every business needs to have one too. Make sure you have a good understanding of how your website links will look like once it’s shared on social media platforms. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter has guidelines and pieces code you want to include in your web pages. Look at, Twitter card implementation and Facebook OpenGraph integrations so you do not miss out on these opportunities.
Step 8: Review and Testing
I know it’s easier to get all hyped up on your website launch and jump the gun. Take your time and test out your website. Make some sample transactions, fill some forms, click the buttons, check on multiple devices. I usually advise sharing the link with at least ten people and get their feedback. You can also make a quick survey using Google forms and send it to a few loyal customers to get their feedback on your new website.
But, don’t always rely on what others say. Take your time and test it out with the goals and strategies you had listed down earlier. Compare your notes, see if you have everything in place. See if you are solving the problem that you intend to do using this website. You don’t want to spend your marketing budgets on to a broken website, or a website that doesn’t convert.
Thank you for reading my guide, I hope you enjoyed as much as I did putting this together. I hope this helps you in your future or current projects. Feel free to leave a comment or ask any questions you may have, I’ll be more than happy to help you out in any way I can.
As always, stay safe and stay awesome!