I Need a Website – Where Do I Start?

You know you need a website, but you don’t know where to start. This is the situation we find many companies who come to us are in. Ask yourself… Who is my audience? Who am I trying to reach? What are the goals for my website? How do we achieve these goals? With the answers to these questions in mind, we typically recommend starting with a simple sitemap. A sitemap is a list of the pages that you will use as the structure to your website. You will need a Homepage and a Contact Us page where people can fill out a form to email you. You should also include an About Us page which describes your company, your mission, your approach, etc. If you are a service based company, you should have a Services page or a page for each service. If you manufacture products, you should have a page for each product (whether the site is eCommerce or not). Other pages to consider include: FAQ, Testimonials, Privacy Policy, Photo Gallery, Newsletters, Articles, Maps and Directions, Clients, etc.

Once you have your sitemap we recommend taking a look at some competitor websites to see what your up against. DO NOT COPY their text. Use what you see for ideas only. You may decide that you want to add pages to your site based upon what you see. You can also start brainstorming possible web design layouts, color schemes, font preferences, navigation preferences, and image ideas.

Your next step should be to meet with a web design company to discuss your options. Show them your sitemap and some of the sites that you like. Consider the website’s color scheme (you can pick a good one by visiting Kuler), the layout, the navigation, use of animation, position of conversion points, and the content. Tell them what you like about the sites that you show to them and why you like it. Showing them things that you do not like is also very important. This should facilitate a discussion about your new website. When we meet with new clients, we like to “whiteboard” or list ideas until everyone at the table feels we have the best concept for a site established. It is also a good idea to pick and register a domain name early in the process before yours gets registered by another party. We recommend that you own your domain name as opposed to having it owned by your web design company.

Website Design Company CT

Based upon the meeting with your design company, you should request a proposal for your website. If your not 100% confident in the company you meet with or not sure that they are giving you a fair price, you should request proposals of other web design companies. We recommend that you do not just pick the lowest price company as you often get what you pay for. Take a look at each vendor’s portfolio of work and consider if they can represent your company successfully through the website and can deliver it in a timely manner. These questions will help you decide which companies will provide a poor quality website and which companies that will take FOREVER to complete the site. Depending on the complexity, a small 1-10 page site should be complete in no more then one month. We also recommend that you consider if the site that they build for you will help you to achieve your goals. Most of our clients want to receive a lot of visits which means that the site will need to rank highly in the search engines. If the company building the site doesn’t also specialize in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) you may want to look elsewhere, otherwise you may receive a site that looks nice but doesn’t achieve your goal of driving traffic to your site.

Once you have selected a web design company to build your site you will likely have a kickoff meeting to get the design team started on the initial mockup of the site. This is where you will discuss the details of the site with them and how you would like the site to look. After this initial meeting they will present ideas to you based upon your prior conversation and research that they have done about your brand and the competitive landscape of your industry. Your account representative should tell you what content you need to develop and should present a schedule with everyone’s tasks to be completed (yours and the designers). You may also need to pick some stock images (designers may also pick them for you) or schedule a photoshoot.

If you’re having the site optimized for the search engines (and you should), you will provide the SEO Specialist with a list of keyword phrases which you think the site should rank highly for. This list will be used to plant a keyword research project where all keywords that can be targeted will be collected along with data about each keyword phrase including the competitiveness of the phrase and the number of monthly searches. Together with the SEO Specialist, you will pick the phrases that you would like to target. The best phrases to target will likely be ones that have a limited amount of competition, a high number of monthly searches, and most importantly, phrases that are highly relevant to exactly what you do. It is best to pick very specific phrases that target your niche in the market rather then targeting broad terms. Having the target keyword phrases defined at this early stage in the process will give you the ability to work them into the text for the website as you write it. See the text optimization article for more tips on incorporating the keywords into your website text.

The SEO Specialist SHOULD write custom meta tags that target the keyword phrases which have been agreed upon from the keyword research. The SEO Specialist should also review your text and make recommendations for you to incorporate additional keywords if the frequency of keywords within the visible text is not high enough.

The design team will present you with a mockup or mockups of your site and ask for your changes. This is the best time to make changes to the way that the site will look as changes made later will be much more time consuming. Make sure that you are 100% happy with the design before approving it and moving to the next step.

Once you have delivered all of your finalized content to the designers (text and images), and your design is approved, it is time to “build-out” the site. The web designers and developers will build each individual page, create the navigation and build any other features such as site search, XML sitemaps, social media link buttons, custom 404 pages, etc. The custom META tags will be inserted into the website and the SEO Specialist will ensure that all other SEO best practices have been adhered to including adding header h1/h2/h3 tags, alt tags, cross links, etc. The site will then get uploaded to the server (not live to the public yet) for testing. Email addresses will get set up and forms will be tested.

Once the testing is complete, you should review the site very thoroughly to ensure that it is perfect before it goes live. The web design company will have done this also, but there may be nuances about the text that you wrote that only you will notice. This last round of changes will ensure that everything is correct when your customers first view your site. You should already have a domain name purchased. If you don’t you can buy one at Godaddy or any of the thousands of other domain name registrars. The website design company will need access to your domain name to make the site live.

YAY! Your site is live!! You can just sit back and wait for the leads to pour in, right? No, sorry it’s not that easy or that quick. Natural SEO can take some time so you need to promote the site in other ways. We typically recommend a Google pay-per-click campaign to help launch the site. We also recommend link building to help your natural search rankings. We recommend email marketing especially if you have a sizable opt-in email list. Social media is another great way to promote your site. You will need Google Analytics to track and measure the effectiveness of your website marketing efforts. We really could go on and on about how to market your website, but that is for another article (or many).

We hope you found this article enjoyable and informative. If you have any recommendations pleas email us to tell us what you liked or did not like, or what you think was missing. Your input is appreciated.