Launching a website is an exciting step for any business, organization or professional. Having a website can help legitimize your business and reach new customers or clients. For someone who’s never touched a website before, the process can seem daunting, frustrating and complex.
Regardless of whether you’re going to build a website yourself or hire someone to do it for you, being prepared and knowing what you need to do before taking on the project will save a lot of time and headache down the road.
I’ve looked at a few mistakes that I’ve seen (and yes, even made) over the years and compiled this quick list of everything you need to do before you start a website!
Determine The Purpose of Your Website
Chances are that if you have a business, non-profit or are some type of professional you’re going to want to build a website!
Sit down and ask yourself these questions:
Who is this websites target audience?
What kind of people are seeking out the product or service you are offering? Will you target a specific geographical area or are you going to market worldwide? Knowing your audience will help you determine what content and features you want to add to your site.
What will people type into Google to find my website?
Figuring out what people might type into search bars to find your business or products is key in determining what type of content to put on your website and building an SEO strategy. If your business is already well established, you might want to just focus on showcasing your business name and what you do. If you’re newer and lesser-known in your field, focus more on creating content that focuses on the products and services you offer and include the keywords people might search for!
What features do I want to have on my website?
Thinking about features you want on your website establishes clear goals from the beginning of the project and also helps set realistic expectations. Take a look around at other websites and see what type of features would benefit your site. Think: is this something I can build on my own, or will I need to hire a developer to do this?
Knowing what features you want on your website also allows anyone you’re planning to hire to build a website an opportunity to give you an accurate quote/timeline for your project.
Buy A Domain Name
If there’s one thing I beg people to do before you build a website, it’s purchase your desired domain name as soon as possible. I typically recommend buying a domain name that either matches your business name or is a phrase or saying that is a part of your brand.
To check domain name availability, I usually recommend searching GoDaddy and if you’re ready to purchase a domain, they usually have great deals when you register for at least two years. Regardless of who you purchase your domain through, try to avoid purchasing any “recommended” addons as these aren’t required and are usually all provided free with hosting. Typically a domain name costs about $20/year.
Why do I tell people to buy their domain name as soon as possible? I’ve seen people build Instagram accounts, logos, business cards and even get vehicle wraps with domain names on them, but when you go to the “website” it actually turns out they don’t even own that domain, let alone have a website. That opens the door for someone to “steal” your domain and puts all the time, effort and money that you spent building a brand and buying marketing material to waste.
For a hilarious look into why you should buy your domain ASAP, check out nissan.com and see if you can figure out why that isn’t the website for a huge global car manufacturer.
Set Up an Email
This is sort of a bonus tip more than a must-do task but I always recommend setting up an email that uses your newly acquired domain name and using that email address for everything related to your business, even before you build a website. Customers and clients will have a lot more trust in communicating with someone using a business email and using email@example.com looks way more professional than firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can usually set up free emails with your hosting provider (if you have one) but I usually recommend using Google Workspace to set up your account. Google Workspace is pretty cheap with plans starting at just $7.80 a month and lets you set up a Gmail account using your own custom domain name. As a bonus you also get access to Google Drive, Docs, Sheets: basically everything you need to run your business.
Get Content For Your Website
Before you start to build a website, I recommend at least gathering up some content in advance. Typically any website project that has gotten delayed (that I’ve been a part of) has been due to a lack of content being delivered from the client. As it turns out, creating content takes a lot of time and effort! I now recommend to all my web design clients that they start finding content for the site as soon as possible. Even if it’s just placeholder content, we at least get a rough idea of what is going to end up where.
Above all else, make sure you have a high quality version of your logo. One of the biggest mistakes I often see is people build a website that is pixel perfect and then add a blurry version of their logo at the top!
Determine Your Budget/Timeline
One of the biggest factors in any website project is your budget and timeline. As far as timelines are concerned, for smaller projects a hired developer is going to build a website almost as fast as you can get them content. If you’re not going to hire a developer, prepare for your timeline to be long. As a developer, I’ve picked up projects that have been ongoing for years. Unless you’re willing to sit down and really learn the platform you’re using to build your site (more on this below), get ready to spend some serious time building a website.
To build a website, McLaughlin Web Systems typically quotes around $1,200 to build a basic website. At this price point we offer full website design (1-2 pages), development and testing/optimization. Pricing to build a website on bigger scale differ based on pages needed and features. Regardless of price, we also provide a full basic SEO setup including setting meta descriptions, page titles and helping you optimize content based on search keywords related to your website/business.
Beyond basic brochure websites, you’ll find web design agencies that charge anywhere from $20,000 all the way to $100,000 for large scale websites. Chances are a smaller scale website will get your business up and running.
Not ready to make the jump? Page builders like Squarespace and Wix offer “pro” plans starting at around $15/month.
Pick a Website Building Platform
If you plan to build a website by yourself there are a pile of platforms that make the process relatively easy. WordPress is the most popular CMS in the world, powering almost 40% of all websites in the world, but many people that are building a website on their own can find WordPress confusing and hard to work with.
I would recommend sticking to Squarespace if you plan build a website by yourself and have no design experience. You also check out this article if you want to see the best options out there and compare all the major page-builders. The big advantage that Squarespace has over competitors is it has a ton of pre-designed layouts and elements; especially useful if you’re new to designing websites! The main drawback is that you may be limited to what you can do with Squarespace’s page builder.
At McLaughlin Web Systems we use WordPress to design and build websites. The big advantage of using WordPress is that almost anything is possible. Beyond that, there are tons of ways to extend your website: we can add e-Commerce stores, booking platforms and blogs. Additionally, WordPress integrates with almost anything. With over 50 thousand plugins, WordPress has a huge ecosystem of developers, designers and companies that offer WordPress support and extensions.
Regardless of how you’re going to build your website, picking one platform and sticking with it will save you a lot of time when it comes time to build a website. The big mistake people make is flip-flopping back and forth between website builders. Sticking to one and watching a few videos and reading articles on it will teach you all you need to know about your preferred page builder!
Build a Website
Now that you have everything in place to build a website, it’s time to sit down and hammer out your site. Building a site on your own? McLaughlin Web Systems is always ready to give any tips or advice you need for your project. Looking to hire a developer? Get in touch today to chat with us about how we can build a website for your business and to get a free project quote!