Theoretically speaking, building a website is a simple and straightforward process. The heavy albeit fun part of the job is writing the code responsible for the various functions of your site. Other than that, building a website is easy and everybody can do it. We’ve taken a general web design process and broken it into seven (7) steps to help you develop your first website without challenges.
In summary, we’ll cover:
- Planning your website
- Choosing your domain name
- Choosing the right web host
- Building your site
- Adding content and publishing
- Promoting your website, and
Enjoy and please don’t share this article with a friend – share it with all your friends :).
Planning Your Website
You can’t just wake up in the morning and start building a website. Well, you can but it’s not the best of routes to take. You need to prepare every detail of your website long before writing your first line of code. This applies to you whether you are looking to build a huge commercial site or a tiny personal blog. Planning allows you to define:
- The purpose of your website
- The resources you will need to build and maintain a successful website
- How you will monetize your website
- The type of website
- A practical web design style guide
If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail! – Benjamin Franklin
Planning involves sketching your designs as well, which – if you don’t know already – should be a vital aspect of every web design project you ever undertake. Plan your content as well. Create a content marketing plan and a distribution strategy that will work for your project. Neil Patel created a beautiful and detailed guide on everything you need to know about content marketing.
Choosing Your Domain Name
Personal preference, domain availability and purpose of the website are some of the factors that influence the domain you pick for your website. A great domain name is among other things, memorable. Keeping it short can make it easier for readers to remember your domain name long after they leave your website.
Obviously, it is impossible to choose a domain name that is already in use. If your domain name of choice (e.g. johndoe.com) is unavailable, you can simply choose a different domain extension (e.g. johndoe.net, johndoe.me, johndoe.us. johndoe.org etc) Domains (especially .com. .net and .org) are relatively cheap with some registrars offering domain names for as little as $10/year or less. As such, affordability should not be an issue here.
As you can choose any domain name you fancy, feel free to choose a domain name with your product name in it to zone in on your target audience. This is optional but advisable especially if you want to reach your niche easily. You can use Google Search or skip straight to a reputable domain registrar such as Namecheap.com (I buy my domains here) to check if your domain name is available. Get creative and come up with a catchy domain name – it is the online address of your business.
Choosing the Perfect Web host
Once you build your website, you will need to host it somewhere. With a plan, you already know your website needs and can therefore choose the best hosting for your website. Things to consider when choosing a web host include bandwidth, disk space, pricing, software and customer support among other things.
In terms of pricing, there are several packages available for your budget. I host my personal sites with Bluehost, a relatively cheap and effective web host. Hostmonster, GoDaddy, SiteGround, DreamHost and WPEngine (for WordPress users) are other great alternatives. Choose your web host well. If you choose a host that doesn’t meet your needs, you will lose business and generally have an unpleasant experience.
Building Your Site
On the other hand, if you’re just starting out, it will take time to build skills. At the same time, you can leverage the power of content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress, which you can customize with plugins and themes to build exactly what you need in no time.
There are many other content management systems available, with some built for specific purposes such as ecommerce. Even without trying, you are bound to find a CMS that will work for you. Available CMS include Joomla, OpeCart, CubeCart, Magento, VirtueMart and osCommerce just to mention a few.
Moreover, you can use web editors and page builders such as Adobe Dreamweaver, Bluevoda, Wix and others to simplify the design process. All in all, I’m an advocate for writing code manually because it is fun and you get to learn a lot in the process. Where can you learn web design at your own pace?
Add Content and Hit Publish
pAfter laying out the skeleton of your website, it is time to add some flesh. You need to convey your marketing message and get people engaging and dealing with you. The only way to do this is through your content.
Following your content marketing plan/web content style guide, go ahead and create relevant content for your website. You can do it yourself, outsource or let your client take care of it. A website without content ceases to perform its function, so don’t just upload a few pages and stop at that. Keep at it since Google rewards regularly updated websites.
Once your content is in place, test your website to ensure nothing is broken. Test the site on different browsers and devices to detect incompatibility issues. If you adopted responsive web design and adhered to strict web standards, your website should look amazing across multiple browsers and devices.
When you are confident everything is exactly where it belongs, transfer your site to your web server, disable your coming soon plugin if you built your site on a CMS or deactivate the under construction page if you had one.
Precious Gem: You can turn your under construction page into anything you want. For instance, you can collect emails or grow your social media community. You can create anticipation or ‘hype’ for the products long before they launch. You can offer early-bird trials. The options are unlimited – it’s all up to you, or rather your creativity. After all, all these options are better than a bone-dry under construction page that just sits there.
Publish your website and make a fanfare of it. Lights, camera, action. Pomp, color and the works. I’m getting carried away but pop a few bottles and celebrate the launch.
Is it possible that many freelance web designers don’t offer web promotion options to their clients? They’re leaving money on the table! If your work is done as soon as the client is in the possession of the finished website, you can also benefit greatly from learning a few things about web promotion. Some web design clients know nothing about web promotion, and if you leverage this opportunity, you can be of great service and value to your clients.
It doesn’t kill to learn a few things about online marketing. SEO, PPC and SMM among other terms should not make you cringe in horror at their slightest mention. Of course, you can always outsource web promotion and concentrate on the code. Keep the traffic flowing all the same, using all the tools available to you.
If you love your car, you will treat it well. Once in a while, you will take it for routine checkups – servicing. This, obviously, costs money and time but it’s worth it; you get top notch performance out of your car on a consistent basis.
Your website is no different. It is a machine too. It requires servicing – oil change, wheel balancing etc – on a regular basis to ensure top notch performance at all times. Maintenance involves basic things like ensuring contact forms and shopping carts work 24/7, installing plugins and checking email as well as complex task such as database-related tasks and adding/removing code without breaking the site.
Creating high quality, valuable and relevant content on a regular basis is also part of website maintenance. You should keep innovating and playing around with new ideas because maintenance is not exactly fun :).
Over to You…
Do you feel we left out something important? How well can you break down your web design process? Please share with us in the comments below!