Are you about to build a website? Well, while it’s pretty straightforward to get a website live nowadays (you can certainly do it in 48 hours if you just want to get on with it!).
There are lots of factors to think about if you want to make one that’s truly fit for purpose. Follow this 10 step checklist if you want to make the best website you possibly can.
Register your domain name
A catchy, relevant domain name is essential if your website is going to be successful. Brainstorm ideas, think about whether you want a ‘.com’, ‘.co.uk’ or something else altogether, and then register it with a supplier such as this one.
Choose a reliable host
Next, you’ll need to someone to host your website. It’s important you choose carefully, as you’ll need to balance a variety of factors. For instance, consider:
You’ll also need to consider which type of hosting is best for you, such as cloud hosting, dedicated hosting, SSD hosting or VPS hosting for example. Find out more about your options here.
Define your necessary features
Now you’ve laid the foundations of your website, it’s time to start designing how it’s going to look and feel. Think about the functions you need for your site – if you’re running an e-commerce business, for example, your requirements are going to be very different to that of an independent contractor who’s just looking to create a portfolio. You’ll need to think everything through, from responsive design to plug-ins that store credit card details, so spend lots of time in this planning stage to ensure you don’t forget anything important.
Map out your pages
Once you’re happy with the functionality of your site, make a sitemap. Your sitemap is going to outline all the pages your website needs, such as your homepage, your about page, your contact page and any other pages that are required. Structure your main menu and any sub menus that you might have, and remember to plan your side bars and footers if you know you’re going to use them.
Choose your website builder
Next, you’ll need someone to help you bring all these ideas to fruition. Either you can build the website yourself using a website builder and a template, or you can pay someone to do it for you. You may find that independent web developers can offer you a good price, but do consider approaching a design agency – especially if they can help you with combining good design with thoughtfully considered SEO (search engine optimisation) too.
Think about SEO
On that note, it’s never too early to start thinking about search engine optimisation. You’ll rank higher in Google (and ultimately make more money for your business) if you’re ticking the necessary boxes to reach SEO requirements, so ensure that your site is responsive and suitable for users accessing it on any device. Think about page loading times, keyword optimisation and even the security and speed delivered by your host, as these factors (and more) combine to impact on your SEO.
Plan your editorial calendar
Even if you’ve followed every one of these steps and executed them perfectly, your hard work won’t count for much if you don’t have a plan for filling your website with content. Ideally, you should be posting new, good quality content at least once a week on your site if you want Google to pay attention to it, and your users will appreciate it too. For this reason, it makes sense to create an editorial calendar that focuses on producing everything from category content for each of your pages right the way through to relevant topics for your blog.
Factor in promotion
Don’t forget to actually point people in the direction of your website! A good website doesn’t mean much if no-one’s using it, so do whatever you can to direct traffic to it. Think about your marketing strategy, consider who your target audience is and where you can find them online, and think of ways to keep them on your website once you’ve done the hard job of bringing them there in the first place. Add lots of internal links to your website to keep the user clicking around it, and encourage them to sign up your blog, newsletter or email list if you want pretty much guaranteed repeat traffic.
Track and analyse performance
Sync up your website with Google analytics – you’ll need it if you want to track how many hits your website is getting, as well as the demographics of your audience too. You can find out the location of your customers, their ages and genders, and many other important pieces of information that can be very useful for developing your business strategy and online marketing approach. Here’s a handy guide on how to set it up.
Finally, be prepared to continue to improve your website. Like all things, web design moves on over time, and your site can quickly become outdated or no longer fit for purpose. Expect to make improvements at least once a year if you want your site to look and function better than your competitors.