How to prepare before the website design process.
So you're ready to take the leap and have a website built for your business or blog - amazing! If you're creating your website yourself you may be overwhelmed about where to start, and if you're hiring a designer you may not realise there are things to prepare beforehand.
I'm used to working with clients who usually have no idea where to start with creating a website, so I'm happy to take them through the process. However, for a smoother and quicker start to the project, it might be a good idea to prepare the following things before reaching out to a designer (these things may also help you gather your thoughts if you are DIY-ing too!):
1. Be clear on the purpose of your website
What do you want people to do when they arrive on your website? What is your main 'call to action'? Below are some examples of website purposes & CTAs:
- To display a portfolio and get people to hire you
- To sell products and get people to purchase
- To provide information and get people to sign up to a mailing list
- To post great articles and get people to follow your blog
- To create intrigue and get people talking about you on social media
These are just a few examples, so what's yours?
The purpose of JoAnn's website was to get people to hire her for her acting coaching services, so we made sure to include plenty of Call to Actions around the site.
2. Decide on a platform that suits your needs
There are many different website building platforms out there, and some of the most popular include WordPress, Squarespace, Wix and Shopify. I usually recommend the small businesses and start-ups I work with to use Squarespace, due to the ease of maintenance for them after the project is over.
However, things like membership websites, large directories, or hotel booking systems for example, will require a more technically sophisticated platform like WordPress.
I've written a comprehensive comparison post about the differences between Squarespace and WordPress, so have a look for yourself!
3. Choose (and purchase) a domain name
If you're using Squarespace, you can actually start designing and create a whole website without even needing to purchase a domain name (you just can't publish it so others can see it). For this reason, it's important to make sure the domain name you want is actually available before you start designing, in case you need to do a spontaneous business name change!
To find out more about domain names and where to purchase them, check out my 'Domains Explained' blog post.
4. Know your target audience
As with any branding or design project in your business, you need to have done your homework about who your customers are. Without knowing specifically who you want your website audience to be, how can you design and write your content to appeal to them?
Try a Customer Profiling exercise to get to grips with who you should be targeting, then consider which websites they like visiting and see what style of design appeals to them.
For the Cove Cafe website, we knew that the main audience would be families, so we included a large banner image of children playing at the beach.
5. Get inspiration for design
This is super helpful for you and your designer! Have a trawl around the internet and pay attention to the websites you're visiting - ask yourself these questions and make notes:
- What do I like about the design of this website?
- What do I dislike about the design of this website?
- Is this something my customers would enjoy using?
- Are there any special/quirky features they are using that I like?
- How have they used imagery and branding in this website?
- What elements would I add to this website to make it better?
6. Decide how many pages you need
In order to fulfil the purpose of your website, what pages do you need to have? If you plan on hiring a website designer, it's definitely important that you know this beforehand in order for them to give you an accurate quote on how much the project will cost. Some examples of pages (other than a Home page!) you might want could be:
- About Us
- Work with us
I've written a more in depth article about creating a great user experience for your website visitors, which includes details on choosing what pages to have in your website.
7. Start writing content & gathering images
Depending on how quickly your designer can start work (some have a long wait list!) you can do this part before or after booking your project.
Start planning what to write on each of your pages and gathering photos and images to use throughout your website. Your designer may be able to help you find stock photography if you're struggling with this, and they may also be able to offer copywriting help too!