Websites are essential in today’s digital marketing landscape. They can also be expensive and time consuming to build. For those without the budget to have a pro shop build a new website and for those who think they can do it themselves there are plenty of ways to get a new website off the ground in short order without major expenses or having a computer science degree. All it takes is WordPress, a good theme, some well-written good content, some research and a little confidence.
Purpose & Requirements
Before stating anything else you must define the purpose of the website. Why are people going to come here and what will they do? What does a successful conversion look like and how will you measure success? What functionality is important to achieve success? Write down the requirements of the site so everyone is on the same page. This exercise will really help you understand what you are building and why you are spending your time/money.
Whether you are starting a new website or dusting off that 10 year old eye sore start with a blank canvas. Don’t even open that old website, it won’t help you. Start writing down questions such as who are we, what do we do, how do we do it, why do we do it and so on. Then answer these questions with as many ideas as you can. Then pare down, pare some more and then pare till it hurts. Remember that the website is supposed to tell your story and cause users to do something [don’t forget to define these]. You want the content to do this with as much efficacy as possible while still effectively telling your story in type and imagery.
Start with content ASAP – content always always always is what takes the longest. Clients always underestimate this.
Tips on messaging
- Less is more
- Iterate. Write everything down. Edit. Make sure you got everything. Edit again. And again.
- Enforce character counts for efficacy
- Explain what you do or what your product does, why it’s imporant, and why you are the best
- Drive conversions
- Use top shelf photography
Increasingly, access to affordable or even free photos is becoming more easy. Here is a list of some great sites to find free photos. If all else fails, find some stock photos on one of the stock websites or take your own photography (make sure it’s high quality).
Graphics, infographics and more
These days it is difficult to get people to read content. Break it up a bit and make it visual by presenting content in infographics, charts, and other illustrations. This not only breaks up the content, but it makes it much more engaging for the user.
Tips on vetting imagery
- Is the photo relevant to your industry/story?
- Is it appropriate for your audience?
- What is the shelf life of the image (when will it look stale)?
While you can’t design and code something from scratch on a budget you can find a pre-built theme and customize it to your design, color scheme and style. The best way to get design done on a budget is to select a theme from a website like www.themeforest.com. Not only do they have up-to-date designs, but, typically everything is coded and is built to be responsive – meaning it automatically adjusts to work on mobile and tablets.
WordPress is the most widely used content management platform in the world. It is highly flexible, easy-to-use and supported by a large development community. Oh, and it’s free. It has good guides on getting started and you don’t have to be a programmer to do some pretty cool stuff.
Tips on using WordPress
- Read through security best practices
- Vet your plugins!!
- Use Yoast for SEO
- Use mailchimp for newsletters
- Make sure it is responsive!!!
Analytics & SEO
Use Google Analytics to track user data and adwords for SEM (Search Engine Marketing). Yoast for SEO will provide many tools for help making your site optimized for search. Remember, a lot of search engines really look at content these days, so make sure your content is solid.
There are some great WordPress hosting companies out there such as Bluehost. You will also need a URL and DNS that points to your server. URLs and DNS will often come with hosting packages or you can get them from the likes of www.godaddy.com or similar services.
Setup and Deployment
- Build local. You can build on your local machine using a system like MAMP on Mac or WAMP on Windows.
- Push to Dev. Make sure to have a dev. Server for both now and later, you will want it to make major updates down the road before you go live.
- Push to live – see article here
Select a baseline OS/Browser combo: for example Chrome on Mac. Do your functional testing – do all the links work, buttons, forms, dropdowns, etc… Then do any additional browser compatibility that you need – does it work in IE8, 9, 10, compatibility mode, Firefox, etc…
Test on a baseline mobile configuration: for example iOS8 on an iPhone 6 running Safari. Do all of your main testing, then run compatibility tests on other devices you think your users may have (if you have a current website, figure out what these are using your analytics).
Before you launch, create a checklist of everything you can think of (and ask the internets for website launch checklist ideas) and conduct a final checklist before and after you launch to make sure everything is complete.
A few ideas to get you started
- QA final and passed?
- All test data (including user accounts) removed?
- Is analytics reporting traffic?
- Is form data getting saved properly?
- Adwords pointing to live URL?
- Are emails sending properly?
Patience and Determination
As a first time experience this can seem quite daunting and like a lot of work. The key is to be patient, stick with it, get good at searching google, and break it down into manageable tasks to keep you going. There are libraries of content on the internets to help you on this journey for everything else there are consultants (like myself) and dev. shops to help knock down any questions or roadblocks.