There are approximately one billion active websites on the world-wide web.
As start-ups start, and businesses fold, this number changes by the second, but, as an accurate estimate, that's one billion businesses, individuals, not-for-profits, and government services, all looking to claim their piece of the online pie.
In today's digitally-centred society, your website is the first glimpse your customer will have of your business and, if it’s not a good one, it’ll also be the last!
With more available options for website creation than ever before, the competition for site visitors is fierce. That means that in today's digital age, to build a website that is functional, effective, AND gets results, you need so much more than just a good idea for a website.
If you’ve got a good idea for a website, here are seven steps to creating a website that will stand out from the competition and help you achieve your goals.
1. Validate the idea.
Good ideas are only going to take off if there's a need for what you're offering. Before you begin to build your website, it's crucial that you do your research and make sure you're offering something that people want or need.
Without thorough research on your product, market, and economic climate, your website is likely to be nothing more than a waste of your precious time and money as it joins the millions of other sites on the website cutting room floor.
2. Define your target audience.
People are now accessing online resources both earlier and later in life than the stereotypical teens to fifty+ age group. I've seen two-year-old's swiping an iPhone to unlock it, and, on the opposite end of the spectrum, I've seen grandparents with Smartphones developing an expertise in ‘surfing the net'.
This means that before you start to design your website, you need to get down to specifics at who it's aimed at.
If your target audience is ‘everybody', it will appeal to nobody. Narrowing down your target audience to an age range, gender, location, and interests is the start of creating your buyer avatar. Your avatar will be instrumental in helping you design your site.
3. Secure your domain name.
Nothing is more disappointing than choosing your new website name and then realising, too late, that it's already registered.
There's nothing you can do when that happens but go back to the drawing board. Consider registering the most common variants of your domain name too. Even if you don't intend to use them, registering net, co.uk, com.au will make sure that no one can ‘mimic' for want of a nicer way to say ‘copy' your idea.
Companies such as Escrow exist so you can register your domain names safely, securely and cost-effectively.
Registering your domain name isn't the same as registering your business name so don't get confused and think you've already done it. Without a domain name, you simply can't have your chosen website.
You'll also need to arrange website hosting before you can start to build your website, but this is something your web designer might have a preference for so hold off until you've completed a brief with them.
4. Create your technical specifications.
You can go one of two ways with this. If you have web development experience yourself and you're competent enough to create your own website, then now's the time to go forth and create!
If, however, you don't know your CSS files from your elbow, and you want to engage with a web designer to make your online web magic, this is where you get down to business.
You'll need to have a clear understanding in your mind of how you'll want the website to work from a technical point of view.
So many people go to a web designer and say; ‘I want that one' without having a real understanding of what's involved in the process. If this is you, it's in your interests to at least have a basic understanding of some of the functionality that might be required.
Some things to consider.
- Do you want an online shop?
- Do you want sign-up forms?
- Do you want integration with social media accounts?
- Do you want a chat forum?
- Do you want a members-only area?
Do your research, and make sure you're armed with as much technical understanding as possible before meeting with a designer so they can provide you with an accurate quote based on what's involved.
5. Create your design specifications.
How your website looks is just as important as how it functions. For it to stand out and achieve results, your website must be easy to use and visually appealing.
Some things to consider:
- Do you have a colour scheme you'd like to use?
- Do you have an existing brand you need to stay in line with?
- Do you have specific images you want to use?
You might not have any idea about these elements and will leave it to the expertise of the designer, and that's OK.
Because next comes the most important step…
The briefing process is one of the most integral cogs in the web creating machine and it's essential that you put the time into making your brief as detailed and thorough as possible. One of the biggest reasons that web development can become a stressful process for a lot of people is because the client (you!) isn't thorough from the outset on what they want and need.
Of course, as a client, you expect your designer to provide you with a product you're happy with but for this to happen, you must have a certain amount of input. Web designers, creative as they are, aren't mind readers. If you're both on totally different (web) pages about how you want your finished product to look it can start to get tricky.
Use the briefing process to offer concise thoughts and ideas on how you expect your website to look and function. With a thorough brief, whatever happens during the process you'll always have that information to refer to and you'll end up with a website you'll love with no crossed wires.
Once your website is ready, it's time to launch it to the public! This is where you'll need to have a sophisticated SEO and content marketing strategy in place to make sure that now you have the website of your dreams, people can find it and it'll do what it's supposed to!
If you have a great idea for a website, there are a multitude of resources available to help you create a site that's useful, functional, appealing to look at, easy to use and, most importantly, will help you reach your goals. Having a clear understanding of the process will undoubtedly make it as enjoyable as it is productive!