How to Start a Successful Website

Website Planning tips
You know that you need a website and you’ve finally blocked out the time to make it happen. You bought your domain and setup your hosting; you are ready to start building! A headline here, picture there. You’ll just build it as you go, right? Well…

Maybe there is a better way.

Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase “a stitch in time saves nine”. In other words, time & effort spent doing the important things NOW is always worth it in the long run. This couldn’t be more true than in website design or any sort of marketing for that matter.

You may not realize how much the little things matter! The placement of every element matters. The colors you choose matter. The exact words and images you add are very important. And if you have anything more than a simple brochure website, the tools and connections you choose can make or break you.

If you are going to invest any amount of time and money into your business, you may as well make it worth it! This article is meant to help you build a website that will get you a greater return on that investment. I am going to let you in on some of my tips for ensuring your website is set up for success.

Building Your Own Website: Where to Start?

Successful websites start with lots of research and planning. But where do you even begin? There is no one “right” way to go about it, but I’ll share what has worked for me. Just be prepared to spend a fair amount of time in this stage. Trust me, it will be worth it.
  • 1. Do some market research: Start looking at other businesses in your industry that are similar to yours but maybe a step or two ahead. Find the companies who are crushing it and take notes! Look through their website, social media, and ads if they are running them. Make notes of the wordage they use, the colors and layouts, the order that they present themselves, what subjects they focus on. There is usually a rough standard that just “works” for different industries, and you want to understand what yours is. Keep these things in mind when planning your website. You don’t want to copy, but use it as inspiration.
 
  • 2. Know your tools: before you ever begin building, you should know exactly what tools and solutions you plan on using throughout your site. For example, if you have online scheduling, choose and setup the scheduling software you will use and ensure it will work seamlessly with your website. If you are taking payments on your site, will your current POS extend to online sales or do you need a connection between the two? Think through the whole process from the time someone lands on your website to every action they might need to take all the way to the end. Having a clear picture of this upfront is vital because it will influence everything else as you are building. You don’t want to get to the end of designing just to realize that your platform doesn’t even support the tools you needed.
 
  • 3. Create a style guide: Establish the colors, fonts, and general style and feel for your website and all your marketing. You want to keep it uniform. Inspiration for this often comes through the market research you did in step one. If you already have a logo, you can start with the colors and styles there. The colors you use should be purposeful for your industry or according to color psychology (link). Keep it to just a few colors and fonts. Feel free to include images or graphics that portray the style you are going for. You want everything to marry well and create a congruent overall feel and mood for the site. Here is an example of a basic style guide:
         company style guide and mood board for website  
  • 4. Decide on page structure: Write down all the pages you think you will need then expand into what sections or topics will be covered on those pages. Make sure each page has enough content to justify having it’s own page– otherwise, consider joining that section with another page. Typically the homepage will include a short introduction to the other main pages with a link to each. All important content on your website should be easily accessible within a couple of clicks.
 
  • 5. Build your layout: Get out a pencil and paper and start sketching the general layout for the main page. Look back at your “inspiration” sites for ideas. You don’t necessarily need to write out the content yet, but have a general idea of what you will talk about in each section, where you will have text, and where you need supporting images, buttons, or other elements. Don’t forget about planning how a design will look and work on mobile. Once you have a rough sketch for the main page, carry this same styling over to the supporting pages. Generally, you want to stick with the same style of header for each page.
 
website layout design

Start Creating Your Website

  • 6. Fill out the Content: Start typing up a rough draft for each section of text and choose what media will go in each section. This is a good time to decide on headlines, establish what your calls to action will be, and write up all your copy for the site. You can fine tune this later as you put it all together, but at least get the general text written. There is a lot of research behind copywriting do’s and don’ts, but we don’t have time to get into that. Here is a good article to get you started on writing copy that sells.
 
  • 7. Put it all together: now you can start building an actual web page! This is where all your hard work pays off. If you’ve done all previous steps, this should flow quite easily and quickly. You already know where everything goes but there are bound to be some adjustments. Refer often to your notes but don’t be so rigid to your plans that you can’t change things up where needed.

" The placement of every element matters. The colors you choose matter. The exact words and images you add are very important, and the tools and connections you choose can make or break you. "

  • 8. Review and Test: Go through your whole website as if you were a prospective visitor. Does everything make sense? The first glance at your home page should clearly show who you are and what you are offering as well as what you want the viewer to do next. The remainder of your home page should continue to sell and introduce other areas of your site. Have someone else go over it and give feedback. Also test all buttons and interactive features. Make sure you get your contact forms and that the call button works, etc. Now check if the display looks right on mobile.
 
  • 9. Optimize: I won’t go into detail right here of how to do all of this, but it’s important to consider how well your site is running. Is your site fast enough? If not, look into resizing your images, enabling caching, or setting up optimization tools. Is your site secure? Make sure you have an SSL certificate and firewalls and security measures are in place. Is google finding your site? Create a sitemap, submit your site to major search engines and use keywords in all the right place. This is often an overlooked step but perhaps one of the most important! What purpose is your site if it doesn’t work or get seen?
website help

Get Help Building Your Website

  • 10. If needed, ask an expert: Honestly, there is so much to know when it comes to websites! It is a full time job keeping up with the latest technology and trends. Yes, there are tools to help you build the site easy enough, but what about copywriting, SEO, marketing tactics, user experience, security, etc? How much time do you have to research and implement every piece? At some point in their entrepreneurial journey, every business will need a professional website that serves them and their customers well and stands up against the competition. When you are ready to take that leap and bring your business to the next level, give us a call! We have plans for every stage of your journey.

Meet the Author

Jessica Crisp

Website Designer & Developer, based in Spokane Valley

I’ve been building custom websites and helping businesses succeed since 2015. I love the process of getting to know each client’s needs and building creative solutions that transform their business. To me, helping others is a great privilege, so please feel free to ask for tips or ideas while working on your online presence! Contact me here.

Interested in a custom website for your business?