Essential 9-Step Checklist to Use Before Creating Your First Website

It may seem like a daunting task to create a website especially for those who are unfamiliar with web development or never been through the process before.  However the design and development process can be made easier once the individual understand the basics of web design and the general process of setting up a website.

If you are new to website creation and facing this challenge right now, then a bit of extra planning and effort now can save you trouble later on down the road.  Once you acquire a general understanding of web design and how websites work, setting up a basic website can be relatively easy. Fortunately, you can acquire the basic knowledge you need right here. We’ve put together this short guide to make the website design process easier, so let’s get started!

 

  1. Consider and Register the Domain Name

Before setting up a website, you need to register a domain name first. There are many domain name service provider that allow you to register a brand new domain for a small fee. For respectable and common website address, it’s advisable to pick .com and .org domains.

If you are building a website for your own company, it’s important to choose a domain name that fits your company’s brand and style.  The shorter the domain name, the easier you can remember! In some cases, the domain name you wish to register might have been taken. If that’s the case, you try adding geo-location to the domain name. For example, if  SpaHouse.com is taken, you may try SpaHouseKL.com, SpaHouseKlang.com or SpaHouseAsia.com and check  if any of these is available for registration.

In order to organize your work and simplify things, it is highly advisable to sign up both domain name and hosting by engaging the same provider. ServerFreak Technologies makes it easy for companies to register a domain name and setting up hosting account with a single account registration.

 

  1. Understand Your Goals

Before you start making a fully functional website, you need to ask yourself first why you are creating your website at the first place. The answer may seem obvious. But for different individuals, the answers may vary.  For some, especially those people or companies looking to launch their own website, their answers could be “Building awareness”, “Increasing Sales”, and “Providing Information”.

Most websites, however, are driven by multiple goals, and micro-goals that are part of these larger goals. Therefore it is crucial to understand and outline micro-goals before you begin developing your website because once you have identified your goals, you can start to research on how to achieve them.

If you have scoured the web before, you will notice some websites are properly designed and well organized while a small number of them are poorly designed.  Examples of poorly designed sites include restaurant websites that do not bother listing contact information, menus, or hours. Sales websites that lacks calls-to-action (CTA), or educational sites that are bombarded with CTAs and sales text. These websites were not designed with the proper goals in mind. As a result, they will underperform.

If you are capable of outlining specific and detailed goals, you are already able to minimize the risk of building a website that won’t meet your requirements.

 

  1. Know Your Audience

Understanding your audience is the key to building a lively and engaging website.  You need to perform research on your targeted audience as detailed as possible, which includes demographics, such as age, sex, income, location, education, and all the rest. Deeper level of understanding is important too. For instance, what are they looking for? what are their wants, needs, and pains?

Once you have identified who your customers are, you need to think how you can engage with them. For example, selling products or services to highly-educated adults, such as doctors or engineers, differs greatly from marketing to teenagers. Well-educated professionals are going to be more detailed in their research, will use a higher vocabulary, and are often less distracted by strong CTAs.

In addition, you need to constantly think of things from your audience’s point of view. If you create a great website with all the bells & whistles, but are speaking to the wrong audience, it is highly unlikely you will reach your goals. Creating buyer personas can help you understand more about your potential customers and how you can make yourself appeal to them.

 

  1. Consider Advanced Features That You Might Need

Once you have clearly identified your goals and your audience’s requirements, the next thing you need to consider is “Advanced Features”. So, what is an “Advanced Feature”?

First, let’s talk about basic features. These are static content, such as images, links, and text.

We can define “Advanced Features” as non-static features that allow users to interact with your website. For instance, if you are going to run an ecommerce site, you’re going to need product listings, product review submission box, secure payment processing, and other features ready. If you are going to allow users to comment, or to sign up for newsletters (to collect leads), you are looking at “advanced” features.

Lastly, do not get intimidated by the term “advance.” It is not complicated and does not always require technical coding or know-how, or spending huge sum of money. These “advanced features” can be setup quickly and easily with the use of “plugins”. By knowing what advanced features you require, and then doing careful research before you initiate the development process, you can keep your overall costs down.

 

  1. Understand the Basic Principles of Web Design

Web designing can be described as a combination of both science and art. To substantiate this claim, you just need to take a look at top web developers. The best web developers spend a lot of time crafting their skills and at the same time never stop educating themselves on changing codes, design principles, technology and user experience best practices. This article is not going to go over web design principles in details, but we do need to focus on some basics.

First, every website needs to be optimized for mobile use. Many websites are built to be mobile responsive which indicates that all websites will automatically change to be mobile friendly. Nowadays, both smartphones and tablet devices make up a majority of website browsing activity, defeating desktop use. Hence if your website is not optimized for these devices, the search engines will punish you, and visits will be brief.

 

Here are some “basic” web designing principles that you need to consider:

  • Incorporate more images and videos on your website. Avoid auto-play function in your video.
  • No Flash or distracting effects. The use of Flash will slow down the website itself.
  • Navigation friendly- Ensure menus are accessible on every device, and that the page layout makes it easy to access content.
  • Reader friendly. Avoiding huge blocks of text and content overload. Content should be well-written, typo free, and easy to read.

 

  1. Understand/Study Your Competitors

Competition among online businesses is getting fierce nowadays.  Competing online means you have to study who your competitors are and most importantly at least you want to own a website that is as good as your main competitors. In fact, having a better website than your competitors will always give you an added advantage therefore performing competitive research before you even start developing your website is imperative.

Once you know what you want your website to do, and have planned for a basic web design, you need to check out the competition. If you’re running an online business, you should find the leading websites in your niche. Or, if you want to launch a fashion blog, check out other fashion blogs. Always ask yourself the following questions when you visit their website: What do you like? What don’t you like?

Just like brick-and-mortar business, the competition should always set the bar for you. Always strive to be better than your competitors. If your competitors are setting a low bar, you need to find a higher one. Let’s say you run a match-making agency in your local town. The local match-making agencies all have old, dated websites. This doesn’t give you a free pass to build an outdated website. Instead, find the thought leaders in your business segment. If you run a match-making agency in a small town and the other local businesses have sub-par websites, search for the best match-making websites elsewhere.

 

  1. Ensure Communication Made Easy

Always make sure you are considering communication methods right from the beginning. It is highly recommended to place your contact information or email address at places where it can be accessed easily i.e. at Contact Us section.  For professional reason, you can always consider setting up your own custom email address that represents your company such as yourname@yourcompany.com

Many hosting companies, like ServerFreak Web Hosting offer the ability to create email addresses that match your domain. This makes you appearing professional and credible than using an email from free services such as Gmail or YahooMail. Once you create the email, you need to get into the habit of using it – checking your email at least once per day and strive to replying all inquiries within 24 hours.

 

  1. Identify Web Hosting Service Options

By now, you should have a good idea of what goes into developing a website. As you have seen, a lot of planning is involved in order to build a successful website. There are many factors to consider. While you are working on your website, you should also consider web hosting options. There are many different website hosting server options in the marketplace right now, and you need to select the one that matches your needs based on affordability, availability, and scalability.

ServerFreak currently offers a range of web hosting plans for small businesses. In addition, we also offer website builder hosting plan that makes it easy for non-website developers to build their own website.

 

  1. Start Planning Ahead: Marketing Beyond the Website

Launching your website is just the beginning. For an effective digital marketing campaign, you should continue to update content and even the website itself. Ask for feedback from friends and family, and tell them not to hold back. If something doesn’t work, or they don’t like a feature on your website, you need to know. Once you have feedback in hand, adjust.

Always build a good rapport with your customers by using email marketing. Email marketing campaign is a good way to stay in touch with your customers and make them aware of your new content and special offers. This can be a great engagement tool and is relatively inexpensive.

Ensure your content is optimized for the search engine is also critical. Always dedicate some time to read up about the latest Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tips which will help you understand what terms your customers are searching for and create the content to help you appear at the top of the search results. You should keep yourself updated with the latest search engine algorithm change too because this will influence your website ranking for your targeted keywords.

If you plan on running ad campaigns, it’s important to allocate sufficient ad budget and set your end goals. If you want to see results for your efforts, targeting the right audience is crucial. However, handling paid ads can get tricky if you are inexperienced, so you may want to engage professional marketing agencies that specialize in Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads to manage the campaigns for you.

Remember constant improvement will bring you ever closer to perfection. By referring to the tips listed in this article, we hope that your website will be on its way to achieve huge success!

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