Are you ready to create your first website? Is it time to refresh the site you already have?
A website project is a significant undertaking, but if you break it down into steps, you’ll feel less overwhelmed and help keep momentum going.
Whether you choose to work with a website designer like me, or you prefer to tackle your site as a DIY project, here are the main things to look out for as you move from idea to completion:
- Decide the main purpose of your website.
- Figure out the titles of a few key pages.
- Consider your skills & comfort level with technology.
- Decide how much of the work you’ll do yourself… Consult with potential professionals, if you need to. (Here are some great questions to ask.)
- Choose the platform (technology) you’ll use.
- Make sure you’re clear on your ideal visitor, the action they should take, and the key impression or feeling you want to convey before you begin constructing your site.
- Start to gather words, images, photos, links, social media profiles, and testimonials/reviews you’d like to include.
- Decide how you want to be contacted through your website, if at all.
These first 8 steps are explained in detail in my Website Starter Kit, which you can download for free. Get yours here.
- Create an account, and/or install the technology you chose in step 5. Depending on that choice, you might need to purchase hosting at this stage, too.
- Create your first few pages. A small number of pages will be much more manageable at first.
- Add text to these pages. Remember you can iterate: it doesn’t have to be perfect initially! Avoid adding too many words: most readers will skim your website copy for key points.
- Choose the font for your text. A single font is fine, or you can pick one heading font and a complementary body font. Never sacrifice legibility: a beautiful font may be hard to read.
- Choose the images you’ll use, and add those. Remember that nothing lets a website down faster than poor images. Depending on your industry, investing in great photos may repay your outlay several times over.
- Choose your website colors. Again, you can tweak these as you go, just make sure you stay consistent. Pay attention to the images you’ve used when you pick other colors. Remember that good contrast for your text against your background is vital.
- Incorporate links and social media profiles.
- Publish a draft version, if your technology allows this.
- Check how your website looks on a smaller screen. It’s worth doing this before you finalize the elements on each page. A simple layout which looks good on mobile is far better than something complex which doesn’t behave on a phone.
- Get feedback from 1-2 trusted people.
- Amend your words, images & layouts according to your results from steps 16-18.
- Identify words which your ideal visitor may use to search for services like yours. Make sure you incorporate some of these in your text, but always write for humans before robots.
- Nonetheless: give your website a short, meaningful description (in a meta tag) to help search engines know what you do.
- Add your contact information and/or set up a contact form, if you’re using one.
- Place a copyright year in your footer. And pop a reminder in your calendar for the first week of January, to update it!
- Add a favicon if you’d like (the tiny image which displays alongside your site title, in the browser tab).
- Remove any branding which shows the technology you used (for example, powered by WordPress or made with Wix). Unless you’re using a free service, it should be possible to take out these credits.
- Will you be offering an email list signup and/or a lead magnet to encourage people to join your list? Set these up now, keeping your fonts and colors consistent. Or, treat this as a secondary project, once your main website is live.
- Test your email signup form and/or your contact form.
- Create a pop up and/or top banner message, if wanted. I typically use Mailmunch for these, but you have many options.
- Proofread all your text carefully. Ask a friend to do the same: they will spot things that you don’t.
- Check all your links. Ideally, links to external websites should open in a new tab or window.
- Claim your website for Pinterest, if you wish.
- Add the code for Google Analytics to your website.
- Repeat step 17. Do not take shortcuts with how your website behaves on a mobile device.
- As well as checking your site on smaller screens, ideally you’ll also test it in different desktop browsers.
- Purchase a domain name, if you wish. My preferred provider for ease of use and transparent pricing is Google Domains.
- Edit the DNS records of your domain, so that your website is now live.
- Check again that everything is working, including any pop ups and forms.
- Submit your sitemap to Google, to improve your chances of being found.
- Backup your website, either using the technology you chose, or (at a minimum) by taking screenshots and saving text & images in one place.
- Make a careful note of the color codes you used, so your entire brand can stay consistent. Expand this to a brand stylesheet / mood board, if you’d like.
- Update any social media profiles so they coordinate with your website branding and link back to your website address.
- Design and order coordinating business cards and other print collateral.
- Share your new website with clients, family & friends. Celebrate your finished site by posting on social media. Add your website address to your email footer.
- Make a calendar entry to review, refresh, and backup your site. Depending how much content you have, every 3-12 months is a good interval.
Hopefully you realize these items are intended as a checklist, not a detailed how-to guide!
Some of the steps are extremely fast, while others will take you (or your website designer) much longer. Most of my clients report that they find step 6 incredibly useful, and few of them appreciate in advance how much value I will add for them, as we move together from step 1-44.
If you’d like someone to coordinate the whole project for you, offering friendly accountability and marketing expertise as we collaborate on your site design, you can view my website packages here.
Would you like a free 8-step Simple Website Starter Kit?
With clear explanations and impartial advice, you'll feel ready to make decisions on the purpose of your website, choosing a platform, and the main content you need.