You know you need a great website. You just aren’t sure how to go about getting one. If this sounds like you, this quick guide will help you get started—from initial idea to final implementation!
How to build a professional business website in 5 steps:
1. Know exactly what you want your site to do
Before you start building a site, you should know exactly what you want it to do for you. A well-designed site does not begin with a beautiful layout or catchy writing. It begins with a clarity of purpose, and an answer to this simple question: what do you want people to do once they get to your site?
Thinking a little bit about this up front will save you a lot of time and headache as you begin to build your site. It will influence your site’s design (for example, will a one-page site be sufficient, or do you need something more robust?) and its content (will you include simple sales copy and a call to action, or a more robust site with lots of resources for your readers?).
Some goals you might have in mind for website visitors could include…
- Sign up for your email list
- Purchase a product
- Make an appointment
- Learn more about you and your services
- Make a referral
A lot of people set out to build a site because they think they simply need an online presence, but that’s not reason enough for a considerable investment. Your site shouldn’t just sit there looking pretty—it should actively be working on your behalf.
2. Sketch out the content you want to include on your site
What content (writing, pictures, videos etc.) does your website need to have, at the minimum? Think about all the things you want to include, and be sure that they tie into your overall purpose (see #1 above). Here are some ideas:
- A tagline and brief bio that summarize who you are and what you do
- An explanation of your services / products
- Endorsements and reviews from past customers
- Reasons people should work with you / buy from you
- What sets you apart from similar businesses
- Your business hours, location, and other relevant details
- A blog that highlights your areas of expertise
- Videos demonstrating your product or service
- Resources like an ebook or educational videos and posts
- A strong call to action, like “Make your first appointment” or “Check out our online store”
Every business is different, so every website will be a little different, too. But be discerning in what you include on your site: just because you can put everything online doesn’t mean you should.
Be sure that every piece of content, every written word, every video or picture, serves your ultimate purpose. Ask yourself, “Will this lead people closer to action (like clicking “buy” or contacting me), or will it just overwhelm and confuse them?”
A website with 200 words and a single picture can be more powerful than a website with dozens of pages and several blog posts: what matters is how well your site serves your ultimate purpose, which is to move visitors along to the next step in the sales process—whatever you define that step to be.
3. Consider structure and design choices
Once you know what type of content you need on your site, you’ll have a better idea of what your site’s structure should be. For example, do you need a simple one-page site with a contact form, a multi-page site with several resources and its own blog, or something in-between?
Next, consider your site design. Poke around the internet and find examples of other websites you like. What do you notice about their design? Do they use interesting effects, like parallax scrolling? Do they employ a simple but colorful layout? Do they use a particular font style?
Note what you like and don’t like about these websites. Then, bookmark them for future reference, or take screenshots and save them to an inspiration folder on your desktop. It’s important to build up a few examples of what you like and don’t like, so you can make deliberate design choices once you start building your site.
4. Build your website
A lot of people start with this step first, which is a mistake. It can be tempting to just launch right in and start building something, but without following the steps above you risk wasting time fiddling with a website builder for days until you get something that sort of “looks” right, or having your designer or programmer create version after version of the site because you can’t articulate what it is you want.
So if you’ve completed steps 1-3 above, congratulations—you’re in a great position to actually start building a website! There are two options at this point: you can create and launch the site yourself with a simple DIY website builder, or you can hire freelancers or an agency to do it all for you.
Here’s what you need to know about each option:
Option 1: Do it yourself with a website builder
You can set up an attractive, functional website in a day, thanks to simple but polished DIY options from Weebly, SquareSpace, Duda, and Wix. These services come with pre-loaded templates you can customize to your business, plus editing tools that let you update your site without learning a single line of code.
With these website builders, you can:
- Register your domain. You can use a free domain name, like yoursite.weebly.com, or you can register your own official domain, like www.yoursite.com. This can all be done from the site builder itself, without any back-end set up required on your part.
- Pick a site template. These web services offer beautifully-designed templates that you can customize for your business. And most importantly, the templates are optimized for desktop, tablet, and mobile viewing. If you’re not sure which website builder to choose, try browsing their template library first to see which templates stand out. You can customize your chosen template with your own colors, company logo, page layouts, and more.
- Add all the extras. Once you have a basic layout picked out, you can add several elements to your site, including a blog, product listings, photo galleries, videos, contact forms, third-party widgets, Facebook like and Twitter Follow buttons, and more. Best of all, you can do it without a single line of code—just drag and drop the features you want to use right onto your page.
Option 2: Hire a freelancer to build your site for you
If DIY is not your thing, you can opt to sit back and let someone else build your online presence for you. Check out UpWork or LinkedIn’s Pro Finder for talented designers, web developers, and even copywriters who can pull your entire website together—from copy and design to back-end programming.
It’s also important to consider that if you hire freelancers to create your site, you will likely need to enlist their help in the future for site maintenance which can incur extra costs.
Keep in mind that while a designer can create your website’s overall “look,” you’ll still need a programmer to turn it into a functional site. Check if your chosen designer works with a programmer who can implement their design. You may also want to hire a copywriter to smooth out any text (or create it from scratch) and give your website a professional polish.
Just remember that the freelancers you work with are not mind-readers. You should put together a thorough creative brief that includes as much upfront information as possible to allow your freelancer(s) to do their job.
This is where steps 1-3, above, will serve you well. You’ll save headaches, time, and money if you can provide a clear brief, including:
- What you’d trying to accomplish with this site
- The site structure you have in mind (one page, multi-page, etc.)
- The content you expect to have on each page, from text to photos
- The design elements you do and do not want to incorporate (point your freelancer to the website examples you’ve collected, with clear notes on what you do and do not like)
Be sure to share any assets you already have with your freelance team: that includes high-resolution photos you want to include on the website, the copy you’ve already written for various sections, your logo, and any other elements you expect them to use in the final design.
5. Publish your website
With everything in place, you’re ready to go live! If you’ve used a website builder, publishing your website is as simple as clicking “publish” and watching your site go live.
However, if you’re not using a site builder that offers both hosting and domain name registration, you’ll need two things before you go live:
- First, you’ll have to register a domain name (Hover is a good option for this).
- Second, you’ll need to have a website hosting service (like WP Engine, for instance).
Some services offer a combination of hosting and domain name registration, and your programmer can recommend the right options for you and help you implement them.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this overview on building your own business website! Once your site is live, you can keep tweaking and improving it. For example, you can integrate PaySimple’s payment solutions, add BookSimple scheduling, optimize your site for local SEO, and make it the centerpiece of your content marketing efforts. For more marketing inspiration, be sure to check out the PaySimple Marketing Playbook (coming soon!).
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