5 Steps to Build a Website
Need to build a website for your business or organization? Wondering where to start? I find myself writing out the same five things for new clients over and over, so I decided it was time to put them to virtual paper once and for all.
These five steps to get you on your way towards that beautiful new website you’ve always dreamed of. Ok, dreaming might be a bit of an exaggeration.
Goals & Objectives
What is it that you want your website to accomplish? Are you selling widgets, are you sharing information, or do you just want a place to display your portfolio?
I find it helpful, no, make that essential, to pencil out a list of pages for the site that will achieve that objective. Something like this:
- Home page
- Product / Portfolio / What’s this all about page
- About me page
- Contact me page
These are the basic pages of content for your website to get you on your way.
Choosing a Domain Name
Your domain name should reflect your business name or what it is you do. It used to be easy to find a short and sweet domain name back in the day. Not so much anymore. The internet is flooded with names so it’s likely that you’ll have to be creative in selecting your domain name.
Make It Easy to Understand
One important thing to keep in mind when ordering your domain name is to be careful not to make it so unique that people will have a hard time understanding it. Try to avoid dashes and strange spellings. In other words, if I tell you my domain name, you should be able to clearly understand it and type it into your browser correctly. If not, well, you’ll end up somewhere else and we don’t want that.
More Than .com
Another thing to keep in mind is that you are no longer limited to “.com” (called a top-level domain or TLD). While .com has been the most prevalent TLD, the growing number of domain name registrations in the world today has opened the door for new TLDS, such as “ .TV “, “ .boutique”, or “ .travel.” There are more than a 1,000 TLDs available now.
You might consider being creative with your domain name. My personal website has the domain name LifeOutdoors.Rocks. It’s different from .com but yet when you say it, it’s clear and concise. Just a thought if you’re thinking outside the box!
A note about domain name registrars: Choose a reputable company who provides good service and doesn’t nickel and dime you for every added service. That cheap domain name may get expensive down the road if you’re not careful. I work with Enom and have been very pleased with their pricing and service.
Once you have your domain name registered, you need a web hosting service. Web hosting is essentially where the files for your website live.
This is another place where you want to choose a reputable provider, not the cheap, do-it-for-free sites. If you have any growth or expansion of your site, you’ll find that free won’t last long.
Reliability, Speed and Service
I’ve worked with several different hosting companies over the years. There are numerous comparisons of hosting providers out there, but it boils down to a few key points: Server up-time, server speed and customer service. InMotion Hosting and Hostgator have been the companies that I’ve found the most success with.
You will also see options for shared hosting, VPS hosting, WordPress hosting and dedicated hosting. Most start-up websites use shared hosting. I won’t go into the nuts and bolts of which hosting type to use here, but have a conversation with your web developer or the hosting company before making a decision on which plan is best for you.
A note about security: Consider adding a security certificate to your website, also known as an SSL certificate. If you are collecting any customer information whatsoever, this is a must. Google is also starting to place importance on sites that carry security certificates over those that don’t. You’ll know a site is secure when the URL says “https” instead of “http”.
Ok, so we have the nuts and bolts of our new website figured out. Well, almost. You need to decide how you’re going to build it. This is called the platform.
There are lots of options available, but we’re going for simple and user-friendly. My choice for the majority of the websites I build is WordPress. It’s easy to use, easy to update, and easy to maintain. Over 50% of the websites out there are built with WordPress. It works.
On to the fun stuff: The theme! Now that we have the nuts and bolts figured out, it’s time to design our new website. I’m pretty certain you don’t want to stick with the creaky old rowboat that graces your homepage right now. (If you’ve installed WordPress already, you’ll know what I mean.)
Start With Other Sites You Like
Now you really have some options. Try not to be overwhelmed here. I always ask my clients to start with other websites that they like. It doesn’t have to be a competitor or someone in your industry, just something that suits your taste and will convey your message well. Consider color schemes that you like; how the home page is displayed. Once you have an idea of what you like, it makes it a lot easier to select a theme.
Free vs. Premium Themes: You get what you pay for doesn’t always apply here. There are some really great free WordPress themes out there. Don’t be afraid to try one on for size first. I’ve purchased themes in the past and had trouble getting them to work properly. Granted, purchased themes generally have much better support so keep that in mind. You can install more than one theme on your site and switch back and forth quite easily. Just do that in the beginning of your design process before you get too far down the road setting up your theme.
ThemeForest has a great selection of WordPress themes and really good support. You can select by topic/area of interest to help narrow it down.
Once you’ve tinkered with a couple of themes, you’ll find them to be similar in how they’re set up so you’re not learning something new with each theme. Plus the WordPress dashboard will look the same from theme to theme, which also helps in getting familiar with the lay of the land, so to speak.
Safe & Secure
My last bit of advice for you as you embark on your website journey is to make sure your website is secure and that you back it up. This is easy to do with what’s known as a Plugin. It’s a bit of code added to your site that allows additional functionality.
Security: I prefer WordFence but there are several others. Block Bad Queries (BBQ) is another good one.
Backups: I use UpdraftPlus Backups on all of my sites. You can set it up to back up automatically to a Dropbox account, Google Drive or email to you. You can also select how often it performs the back up.
I hope this outline gives you a starting point for your new website. It can be quite confusing but having a road map to guide you will get you on your way more quickly. Best of luck and feel free to contact me if you need assistance along the way!
Laura Nowak is a bike-riding, dog-loving, wine-drinking, outdoor-exploring marketing and computer geek based in the mountains of Southern California. (And Vegas. Baby.)
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