The website is the headquarters of every ecommerce business. Not only is it often the first point of engagement between a business and its leads, but it also holds answers to all the questions visitors have about who you are, what you do, and what makes your business special. First impressions can be everything in marketing, so a good website is an essential ingredient for success.
But while web design has been made considerably more accessible in recent years, most of these developments involve circumventing the need to code your own website from scratch – meaning the bulk of the work in creating a good layout and engaging content is still left to do. That’s why we’ll be going over the six steps you need to create a business website you can be proud of.
But first, the age-old question: should you use a template for your website?
The answer is that it depends on the circumstances of your business. Using a template isn’t simply a cheap and easy way out for a difficult problem (although it definitely is cheaper and easier than building a website yourself), and just because you’re using a template doesn’t mean you won’t have the chance to add some personal flair to it later. Being realistic with your goals for making a website and how much you’re willing to invest is the right call.
You should consider using a website template if you meet any of the following criteria:
You have a strict deadline for when the website needs to be up by, and creating your own website in that time would be difficult.
You have a limited budget for how much you can invest into your website.
Your website has a simpler design, and you’re okay with a limited amount of possible updates in the future.
However, you might need to design the website yourself if you align more closely with these points instead:
You can handle a large upfront investment in resources.
You have some specific custom features that are important to use but potentially difficult to implement (e.g. search features, forms with multiple response methods).
You want to use market research/customer data to customise the website and tweak it over a long period of time.
On one hand, it’s clear that building the website yourself will boast a larger amount of creative freedom to shape your online presence as you want it and be a better representative of your business. But there’s no point in going to all that trouble if you’re not actually going to take full advantage of those benefits. The design of the website is just one part of it, and there are enough templates out there that finding the perfect fit isn’t as far-fetched as it seems. By far the most important thing is to be honest with your choice.
Step 1: Define your goals
Whether you’re using a template or not, creating a website is still a long process that rewards careful planning. The best way to go about starting is to outline everything you want to achieve with your website by splitting up your objectives into four main categories.
What does your business do?
What does it sell?
What about your business brings it unique value compared to your competitors?
What does your business look like? How does it speak?
What are the most common demographics of your visitors? What do they need/want from you?
Can you provide users with help at every stage of the buying process?
What call(s) to action do you give your audience?
How many people will be working on the website? Who is going to do what?
What’s the main purpose of the website?
How many different pages are you going to need?
What features do you want to include?
Do you have any former website content that can be reused?
Will you offer users any downloadable content?
Do you want to track certain data from the website?
Does the project have a budget?
Does the project have a deadline?
Will you have the means to update the website in the future?
How familiar are you with website design? Are you willing to learn?
Creating a website is like building a tower. It needs a good, solid foundation to ensure that everything holds up when things get more complicated. Try and rearrange the bottom as you’re nearing the end of the project and you might find that the entire thing comes crumbling down, so it’s best to clearly define your situation so you can highlight strengths and chip away at any weaknesses.
Step 2: Create the sitemap
A sitemap is a hierarchical diagram that decides the structure of your website by showing the ways in which different pages will be linked together. This lets you plan which pages users will be able to interact with in what order once you build the website, as well as deciding on the function of each page, which will ensure everything is structured in a logical and easy to understand way.
Generally the homepage is at the top of the diagram, as it’ll be the first place your user will land on your website the majority of the time. The pages that are linked from the homepage should be all your business essentials that users want to find quickly: contacts, about us, account management, services, your work, FAQ’s, call to action etc. Often a lot of these links will be included in the header or footer of your website, meaning the user will easily be able to find them no matter what part of your website they’re on.
After those are done, you can add the more specific pages of your website, linking them to the most relevant core page. Generally, you don’t want to have anything on your website that takes more than two clicks to find, as users are likely to find this very confusing to navigate. One way to avoid this maze-like structure is to use drop down menus, as they allow users to preview their options without actually having to commit to a click.
Step 3: Create the content
The content of your website should be finished before you start actually putting the website together. This is because it’s easier to design your website around your content rather than the other way around, and your content might suffer from the lack of creative freedom that comes with forcing it to fit a specific plan. The content is the meat on your website’s bones, and should be treated as such. Here are some tips to help your content shine.
1: Use the inverted pyramid method
The inverted pyramid method is a way of structuring a story that involves putting the most important information (the who, what, where, when etc.) of the story first, and then working backwards to establish background information later. This technique is used a lot in journalism as a way to grab a viewer’s attention and quickly summarise a story to gauge their interest on the topic, and it works with website content for those very same reasons. Many people visiting your website will be scanning your content to check if they’re in the right place for their needs before committing to anything, so building up your content in the traditional way simply isn’t as effective at retaining their interest. This style of presentation also mirrors the order of needs your audience has in the buying process; first they need to establish the problem they have, and only once that’s taken care of will they delve into the finer details.
2: Keep your copy short, simple, and concise
Even when you’ve covered the basics and are free to dive into the specifics of your industry, you should still be aiming to cover complex topics using commonly known language, using as few words as possible. This is because your website needs to be easy to skim read for users to find the information they’re looking for, and no matter what the demographics of your target audience are, you always need to be able to appeal to the lowest common denominator in terms of industry knowledge. That means defining terms wherever necessary, focusing on the essence of your business, and using a confident, active voice to speak to your audience.
3: Website content is made for your audience, not for your business
Tempting as it is to begin boasting about the business you’ve put so much work into, your content should be viewing the world through the eyes of the user. Empathise with their concerns, present them with the answers they’re looking for, and speak to them like a person in need rather than another potential customer. Obviously there will be time later where you need to big yourself up a little, but that’s after you’ve shown your users that you understand their position and have proven your help is worth paying for. Give your audience some credit – when you successfully demonstrate that you’re helpful and an expert in your field, they won’t need to be told to buy from you, they’ll do it themselves.
4: Remember to write/format for a website
Most professional websites are aware of the platform they use, and structure their content accordingly. Frequently segment your content into easily digestible chunks using short paragraphs, lists, and subheadings to separate everything. Try to avoid putting too much content on a single page, and instead be smarter with how you split up your website. And when talking to your audience, make sure to write using the second tense (using ‘you’ instead of ‘I’) to build up a personal connection with them.
5: Practise good SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
Good SEO is what helps users find your website organically from their own searches, which is exactly the time you want to be visible for raking in leads with the best conversion rate. But while everyone knows that SEO is important and improves brand visibility, not everyone knows what makes good SEO. Take keywords, for example. You might assume that repeating many keywords with a high search volume is the most successful strategy, but the real solution is a lot more nuanced than that. Search volume is important, but only when the keyword is also relevant enough to your business that you know you’re bringing the right people to your website. Sometimes it’s better to use a less popular keyword when it’ll lead to less total clicks, because the conversion rate of the users it does attract will boost sales in the long run.
Modern search engines also value sporadic use of a variety of keywords rather than repeating the same two or three keywords over and over again, as this can sometimes be seen as spam in an attempt to game the system. A large number of linked pages and consistently updated content also makes for great SEO.
6: Use a wide range of content
Copy is great, and it should be taking up the bulk of your website, but don’t forget to be generous with other types of content too. Graphics and videos (provided they aren’t too distracting or use autoplay) are perfect for adding some visual appeal, as well as invoking a greater emotional reaction compared to a wall of text. Want some ideas? Why not check out our blog, a comprehensive guide to content marketing?
Step 4: Create the wireframe
The wireframe takes the content and the sitemap created in steps two and three and puts them together to make the final plan of the website. Using either paper sketches or programs like photoshop, the wireframe takes each page of the website and makes a visual plan of what each page will look like, what links will be there, and where the content will go. If you’re deciding to use a website template, then you’ll need to focus on finding one that best accommodates your sitemap/content instead of building the pages from scratch.
Sticking with the idea of making the design fit the content from the last step, keep in mind that your wireframe should attempt to emphasise the most important content, as well as the goal of the page. This will usually be the most relevant page content, and the call to action of each page. Making good use of design elements like colour, graphics and typography is an easy and subtle way to draw the user’s attention to where you want it to be. Remember to include the header and footer in your designs as well.
Another important thing to check before moving on is that all the elements included in the wireframe will be realistic to implement. If you aren’t planning on coding the website yourself, make sure you present the finished wireframe to the people that will be building it, or you risk running into a nasty surprise later down the line.
Step 5: Develop the website
Now it’s time to turn the wireframe into a completed website. This will either mean getting down to coding and building everything up piece by piece, or adding your content to your website template. If you’re using a template, make sure to double and triple check that the website builder you’re using is the best one available for your needs, as it becomes nearly impossible to switch between them once you’ve committed to one.
Development will largely depend on the specifics of your situation. Frequent communication between teams is strongly recommended if there are multiple people building different parts of the website.
Once you think the website is complete, there’s one thing left to do. Test, test, and test again. Check that every text link works, the formatting and media on every page is consistent where it should be, and that the website functions properly on all kinds of different devices and browsers. Give your copy one last edit if you haven’t already as well.
Step 6: Launch the website
Congratulations! If you’ve made it this far, that means the bulk of the work is done. All that’s left to do is give your blood, sweat and tears a worthy sendoff, so do everything in your power to make sure the launch is a success. Create an advertising campaign on your social media channels to give the website an initial boost in traction, or plan some promotional offers that will draw visitors in like a moth to a flame.
Remember that the work doesn’t necessarily stop at launch. The longer your business runs for, the more time will need to be spent doing maintenance and fine tuning content as you take in more customer feedback and data, improving the site for the next user that comes along. But editing the website is so much easier than creating something from scratch, so don’t feel bad about taking a little time to celebrate your triumph.
And there you have it. Now you know how to create a website for your business in six steps. If there’s one thing you take from this blog, it should be that dutiful preparation will always be rewarded. Knowing exactly what you want to do and how is incredibly helpful in a large project like website development, and will ultimately save you a lot of hassle in the long run.
But if you’re stuck somewhere building your website, or just find the idea a bit overwhelming, don’t panic. Book a call with Loved Brands and we’ll help set you on the path to building a successful website for your business today!